Way back in March when the Falcons agreed to terms with Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, the move was widely acclaimed as a saavy one.
Atlanta had moved on from longtime workhorse Michael Turner, whose production kind of, you know, nosedived. They replaced the aging veteran with... another veteran. But Jackson's body, surprisingly, has much less wear and tear than a running back with his type of experience.
Right? Well, this time the eye test and the stats seem to say so.
Of the 42 running backs to log at least 100 carries last season, Jackson was among the league's top tier, ranking 10th in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and 11th in DVOA at +5.3%. Turner, well, his -78 DYAR was third-worst of all qualifying backs, and his DVOA of -16.5% was hardly any better.
Turner's "overrated" status was further confirmed by PFF's Performance-based Value rankings, which had No. 33 as the second-most overvalued Falcons player in 2012 (behind Brent Grimes, who played in one game). A $7M cap hit, combined with a pedestrian rushing performance and little to no help in the passing game, pretty much tells you everything you need to know about how he won that title.
And sure, Jackson was top three on the Rams' list, but his Falcons cap hit in 2013 (far less than his $10.8M cap hit last year) combined with his unparalleled ability to catch passes out of the backfield earned him a +6.6 rating from PFF (11th among running backs).
Oh, and let's not forget Jackson's 94.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency was third among all qualifying backs. He is the definition of a feature back, whereas Turner's use was in rapid decline.
And when you consider that Jacquizz Rodgers ranked as the second-most undervalued player on Atlanta's roster last year, plus the versatility of backups Jason Snelling and Antone Smith, it's not a stretch to say that the Falcons will be loaded at running back in 2013.
I hear they have a pretty good passing game, too.