Few things in fantasy are more disgusting than falling in love with a player- especially a sleeper, under-the-radar-type- only to see his landing spot completely tank his value and all your hopes and dreams. As was the case last year with Eastern Michigan standout running back Darius Jackson. Prior to the draft, many people had him on their list of players to watch on draft day and many (myself included) fantasized about him landing somewhere where he might even get a shot at the starting job. Then, along came the draft and all our hopes and dreams for Jackson were smashed into little, itty-bitty, teeny-weeny pieces. Those pieces were then set on fire, and the ashes were placed in the trunk of an old Buick which was subsequently loaded with TNT and blown up. Then all those parts were swept up and mashed back together in a car compactor at the local junk yard and encased in concrete – and that block of concrete was dropped off a bridge somewhere into deep, deep waters with a dangerous current so it could never be found again. I might be exaggerating a little bit, but not by much.
Jackson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys with the 216th overall pick in the 6th round of the 2016 draft. On paper Dallas was an ideal landing spot for any young running back; however, Dallas also spent their 1st round draft pick, the 4th pick overall, on some guy you may or may not have heard of… Ezekiel Elliot. Who I guess went on to do okay for the team in his rookie year; I wasn’t paying too much attention. Not only did they draft Elliot in the same draft, but they also invested in free agent running back Alfred Morris (who I was also very high on prior to the draft) heading into last year. Not only was Jackson already behind both on the depth chart, but Dallas also still had Darren McFadden on the roster too. And given Jerry Jones’ constant public love-fest with the undeserving McFadden one can only assume they are either deeply, spiritually tied together by their Arkansas roots or McFadden has compromising nude photos of everyone in the Jones family. As of this writing, I’m assuming it’s the latter. Regardless, the important thing for us here is that Jackson was drafted into a less than ideal situation. The Cowboys liked Jackson enough to place him on their 53-man roster to keep him away from other teams, although he was officially inactive for each of the 14 games he was part of while on the team. When Darren McFadden eventually returned from injury, the Cowboys waived Jackson. (Why hold him for 14 weeks just to waive him for McFadden who was then only given 24 carries for 87 yards in the final 3-games of the season? Nude photos, that’s why.)
So, Jackson was finally free from the bottom of the depth chart hell he was placed in, although at the time it was reported the Cowboys had hoped he would clear waivers so they could re-sign him to their practice squad. The world was his oyster, so what juggernaut of a team was ready to sign him and add him to their already great team and slowly ease him in and eventually reveal the greatest running back sleeper in fantasy football history? The Cleveland Browns. Oof. Going from the NFC’s top team to the NFL’s biggest laughing-stock must be rough, no matter how much money you’re making (in this case a 2.4-million-dollar deal through the end of the 2019 season). Not only is he now on the Browns, but he’s also buried on the depth chart again. According to ESPN and Ourlads, he’s a distant 4th behind Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and George Atkinson III. Can’t this guy end up in Tampa or Jacksonville or with the Giants or someplace where he might actually get used? C’mon you dream crushers, this isn’t right!
Alright, alright, I’ve digressed here a bit ranting and raving about the terrible Browns and nude photos of the Jones family, so let’s get back on track a bit. Why all the love for some guy named Darius Jackson, who, aside from his parents and deeply disturbed degenerate dynasty fantasy football league owners, few people have even heard of? Here’s why – athleticism. Jackson was not invited to the NFL scouting combine last year, but put on quite a display at his pro day; running a 4.40 40-yard-dash, displaying a 41” vertical and a 133” broad jump, completing the 3-cone drill in 6.87 seconds and topping it off with 20-reps on the bench press. How good are those numbers? At the combine, his 40-time would have been good enough for 2nd place in each of the last 2 years. His vertical and broad jumps would have been 1st this year and 2nd last year. His 3-cone drill time would have been 4th best last year and 3rd best this year and his bench would have been top- 10 both years (excluding fullbacks because they’re monsters and don’t count). He did all of that at 6-feet tall and 222 pounds. On paper, he is basically everything people imagine Dalvin Cook to be except he tested way better and went to a small school and has no off-the-field issues and no injury history. Yes, his game film isn’t as good as Cook’s, but really the only thing Cook is better at is, well, actually playing football I guess, and I suppose that is kind of important if you’re trying to be a professional football player.
Where does all this leave Darius Jackson for fantasy purposes? Well, in a perfect world, on your taxi squad. He’s a tough player to own because he eats up a roster spot and has yet to play a down in the NFL. If you’re in a deeper dynasty league with a huge bench, there are worse players you could stash away. Who knows when or if he’ll get a chance to crack the Browns running back rotation., For the time being, the best bet is that the Browns showcase him in the preseason, another team sustains a significant injury at running back and they trade for Jackson. As we all know, everybody the Browns get rid of ends up doing well on other teams, (I believe 4-former Browns were in the most recent Superbowl), so it’s reasonable to assume that if the Browns do move on from Jackson at some point, we can expect to see him wearing a gold jacket in Canton, Ohio one day. In the meantime, he’ll need to work on his craft and hopefully make enough of a name for himself that we can see him sign somewhere as a free agent in 2020… Either that or he needs to get a hold of McFadden’s nude photos of the Jones family. If you have a taxi squad that you can hold non-rookie players on, he is worth a stash, otherwise it’s tough to roster a guy who has not yet seen an NFL field – unless your bench is super deep. Keep an eye on any Browns news over the off-season, that might give you a leg-up on the competition… but when I think of a leg-up and fantasy relevant Browns news, I just imagine a dog peeing on the sports page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.