I always like to judge players on the era in which they play. It’s difficult to compare Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning, for example, because offenses, rules and circumstances are different for players in each era.
With that criteria established, I think it’s pretty easy to say that Steven Jackson is one of the two best big backs (230+ pounds) of the decade.
Since coming into the league in 2004, Jackson has averaged 78.9 yards per game, 4.4 per attempt, and is on his way to his fifth consecutive 1,000 yard season. Of the other big time big backs from this decade, only Jamal Lewis has been appreciably better.
Lewis has averaged 81.7 per game and 4.2 per attempt, similar numbers. However, Lewis does have that 2,000 yard season, he’s been over 1,300 yards three other times, and he carried his Ravens team to a Super Bowl win in his rookie year. It’s hard to argue against Lewis.
The others? Jerome Bettis…who was better in the 1990’s, had only one 1,000 yard season in this decade. Eddie George had some good years for the Titans this decade, but didn’t have a single season in which he averaged more yards per game or per attempt.
Ricky Williams had some great years at the beginning of the decade, but those years lost to the wacky tobaccy cost him. Over the course of the decade, Jackson was better. Stephen Davis had a couple of outstanding 1,400 yard seasons in Carolina, but those were the only 1.000 yard seasons he had in the decade. His last really good year was 2003, and he ended with a whimper here in St. Louis.
Deuce McCallister had some fabulous times in New Orleans, but he hasn’t been as consistent as SJ39. Jackson has averaged sixteen more yards per game in the decade than Deuce did.
Larry Johnson had those two trancendent years in Kansas City, but it appears that he was a shooting star.
Jackson’s combination if size, speed, desire and power make him the second best big RUNNER of the decade. Want to throw in receiving ability? Then we can put him at #1.