It’s been a precipitous fall for Steven Jackson.

Two years ago the Oregon State alum was ranked fifth in fantasy value. He occupied a spot in the top five for four consecutive years. Last year, 19th. This year, 24th.

It’s clear where we’re heading with this. After struggling with his health, Jackson is in danger of being supplanted as the featured back by rookie Daryl Richardson. The Rams selected two running backs in the ’12 draft including Richardson and second rounder Isaiah Pead.

On Sunday Richardson ran for 76 yards on 11 carries. Jackson – deemed 100% fit – totaled 52 yards on 10 carries. Before the Rams win against Arizona on Thursday night football, rumors of Jackson hitting free agency emerged.

Richardson offers speed Jackson no longer has. Via Rotoworld, Richardson is averaging 5.64 yards per touch compared to Jackson’s 4.03 through the first six weeks of the season.

During his daily chat – one that featured several Rams fans asking if the Cardinals success would rub off on them, man – Rams beat writer Jim Thomas indicated he felt Jeff Fisher would split the carries between Richardson and Jackson:

“The Miami game was interesting to me in terms of seeing what would happen, because Jackson was the healthiest he’s been since the groin injury. But the workload was still split. And that’s the way it may be throughout the season. So far Jackson is handling it well. But if the division of labor stays this way it could influence Jackson to look elsewhere.”

I see no reason why this ‘division of labor’ will stop. As a seventh round pick Richardson commands a fraction of Jackson’s salary. For a team that has shown glimpses of a bright future, allocating funds wisely is crucial.

In terms of this season Jackson should be used as a flex option only. The world ain’t kind to aging running backs.