Who is Deon Jackson and Why He Could Be a 2023 Fantasy Sleeper in the Colts’ Backfield

There's a chance that Deon Jackson takes over the Colts backfield.

Indianapolis Colts fans likely thought the worst thing owner Jim Irsay could do was hire Jeff Saturday as an interim head coach.

Now, Irsay — and the Colts — have granted All-Pro, 24-year-old starting running back Jonathan Taylor permission to seek a trade.

Taylor is currently on the NFL’s Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with what Indianapolis calls an ankle injury. Taylor’s ankle did sideline him for six games last season, including an end-of-season injured reserve mark that ultimately ended it.

Should Taylor remain with Indianapolis and on the PUP to begin the season, he would be required to miss the first four games, per NFL rule.

Should Taylor remain on the Colts and miss four games, the team would, in theory, turn to backup pounder Zack Moss, who is entering his first full season as a Colt after an in-season trade that brought him from the Buffalo Bills last offseason. However, Moss broke his arm in late July, which immediately sent him into surgery on the first day of August.

The Colts say they’re keeping the window open for Moss to be ready for their Week 1 home opener against division rival Jacksonville, but with a minimum recovery window of six weeks, he’d have to play before that timetable is up.

Enter Deon Jackson.

You may remember Jackson becoming a top waiver priority after his Week 6 performance last season. The second-year back out of Duke University caught all 10 of his targets for 79 yards and added 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 12 carries in Taylor’s injury absence.

But, Jackson would go on to let fantasy managers down.

He only rushed for more than 42 yards one more time during the season (Week 14) and only caught more than 70 yards once more, too (Week 18).

So, why does Jackson have fantasy relevancy?

Aside from the fact that he has a good chance to be a solo starting running back to begin the year, and at the least in a committee throughout the season, Jackson really hasn’t been given the opportunity to be used consistently.

The last time Jackson was used consistently was his senior year at Duke where he averaged 4.2 yards per carry — 0.1 off his college career mark.

He nearly had 700 yards that season, too, with a university better known for its basketball and lacrosse programs and not football.

Additionally, only 10 NFL teams (less than one-third) feature a solo running back. If you play in a 10-team league, odds are you get one of them. Play anything bigger? You may be stuck with all committees…not ideal.

Jackson could join the short list of James Conner (Arizona), Tony Pollard (Dallas), Saquon Barkley (New York), Joe Mixon (Cincinnati), Nick Chubb (Cleveland), Dameon Pierce (Houston), Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles), Najee Harris (Pittsburgh), Derrick Henry (Tennessee) and Kenneth Walker (Seattle) as a sole back.

He also faces Jacksonville in Week 1…the same team he had his 10-catch game against last season.

There is no realistic timetable for Moss’ return from his broken arm. There is no realistic approach to how the handling of Taylor will go. NFL teams always say “next man up”. Well, that “man” is Jackson, and when a new potential starting running back presents himself, you’re foolish to turn a blind eye.


  • Kayla has been a professional sports journalist since 2019. She started her career as a sports editor outside Fargo, North Dakota, covered the Miami Dolphins for three years, and most recently, covered the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers. Most importantly, she has a cross-eyed cat named Chloe.


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