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Lamar Jackson: Fantasy Football League Winner In 2019

Lamar Jackson: Fantasy Football League Winner In 2019
Davis Mattek August 13, 2019 11:18AM EDT

Lamar Jackson: Fantasy Football League Winner In 2019

When drafting a quarterback in fantasy football, absolutely nothing matters but upside. This general dictum holds true in 99% of fantasy football leagues. There are some examples (16+ team leagues or massive Superflex leagues) where this is not the case but chances are, in your league, you just want to draft for upside. It doesn’t matter if your quarterback gets injured or benched or traded because there is likely a waiver wire replacement readily available. Lamar Jackson is the perfect example of this dictum.

In 2018, 21 quarterbacks averaged 17 or more fantasy points per game in a standard league. 41 players attempted 100 or more passes and 49 quarterbacks started games. In 2017, the gap in fantasy points scored between the 12th QB and the 20th QB was 45 total fantasy points. Of all the positions in fantasy football, quarterback is most replaceable. There are several reasons for this. First, every team has one quarterback and they play the same amount of time. The same is not true for RB/WR/TE where teams deploy all of those positions differently across the league. The second is that passing in the NFL is up league-wide so you are more likely on average to find a similar opportunity in terms of attempts between the fifth-ranked and the 25th ranked players at the QB position. 14 quarterbacks averaged between 230 and 280 passing yards in 2018.

All of this is a long way of saying what you already know: rushing is the single most important aspect of evaluating fantasy football upside for quarterbacks. Quarterbacks who run get an almost unfair advantage in quarterback scoring. In 2017, five of the top 12 quarterbacks added at least 299 rushing yards to their tally. In 2018, five of the top 12 quarterbacks added at least 269 rushing yards to their fantasy point-scoring.

Since 2000, there have been 70 seasons where a quarterback has rushed the ball more than 65 times. The median outcome of those seasons is 17.3 fantasy points per game. That season would have finished as QB15 last year. The sample, of course, includes several dud seasons by the likes of Quincy Carter, Geno Smith, Deshone Kizer, and David Carr. When the cutoff is changed to a minimum of 100 rushing attempts, the median outcome on 20 seasons since 2000 is 18.9 fantasy points per game.

All of this is an incredibly long-winded way of saying that there is perhaps no quarterback with as much fantasy football upside as Lamar Jackson in 2019.

Jackson ran for an NFL record 147 times in 2019. That is more times than Michael Vick’s magical 2006 season when he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards and 21 more times than Cam Newton’s rookie season where he scored 14 rushing touchdowns. The Ravens coaching staff knows that the right way to utilize Lamar Jackson is to let him use his talents as a rusher. Jackson’s rushing stats alone last year would have made him equal to what Leonard Fournette did in eight games, more fantasy points than Royce Freeman and just a hair less than Kerryon Johnson.

From CBS Sports, during an appearance on the NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live, head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Jackson won’t be on much of a “pitch count” this year. Former Ravens coach Brian Billick brought up when Cam Newton rushed 139 times in 2017, and without hesitation, Harbaugh said, “I’d bet the over on that one.” To prepare for the heavy rushing workload that he is about to endure, Jackson reportedly added 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason.

The Ravens specifically hired Greg Roman because of his success with rushing quarterbacks in the past. In 2016, he produced a top 12 fantasy season out of Tyrod Taylor with 95 rushing attempts, 580 yards, 6 touchdowns and 7.1 adjusted yards per attempt throwing the ball. In 2015 with Roman, Tyrod averaged 8.3 adjusted yards per attempt and ran the ball 104 times. From 2012 to 2014, Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers. Kap ran the ball 63 (in seven games), 92 and 104 times in his three seasons under Roman. He also averaged 8.3, 7.8 and 6.9 adjusted yards per attempt in those seasons. The Baltimore organization was aware of Roman’s history of success with rushing quarterbacks and that is why they chose to bring him in. If you were going to handpick a coordinator to make Lamar Jackson a fantasy football success, it would be Greg Roman.

Jackson recorded seasons of 163, 260 and 232 rushing attempts at Louisville while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He missed zero games with injury and posted a winning season in every year that he was the starting quarterback. If you are the sort of person who responds to all of this data with the idea that Jackson is not a “real NFL QB” or that you think Jackson will get injured or benched or just flat out suck, you are missing the point. Tim Tebow was not a good NFL QB; he averaged 19.11 fantasy points per game in his sole season as a starter. If Lamar Jackson is in fact so bad that the Ravens choose not to start him, you are allowed to cut him and pick up Matt Stafford/Andy Dalton/Marcus Mariota/Derek Carr/Ryan Fitzpatrick or whoever else is on your waiver wire that week.

Draft Lamar Jackson To Win Your Fantasy Football League

What we do know is that there is a 0% chance that backend quarterbacks who are pass-only like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers or Andy Dalton cannot win you your fantasy football league. Not while Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, DeShaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers are still calling signals for their teams. The way to level the playing field as the truly elite offenses separate themselves from the pack is to find quarterbacks who run. Kyler Murray, Cam Newton, and Dak Prescott are all analogs for Lamar Jackson. Though they project as better passers than Jackson, none of them have the sheer rushing upside that he does.

In the perfect scenario for Jackson, he develops better than expected as a passer and is able to steadily move the chains while occasionally taking deep shots to Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. Our median projection for Lamar Jackson has him at 159 rushing attempts; his ceiling projection could blow by 200 carries (and coach Harbaugh has already suggested that is a real possibility). The Ravens lead the NFL in total plays run last year by a significant margin while throwing the 16th most passes. If they are able to be a league-average offense in terms of yards per play, the sky is really the limit for what Lamar Jackson can do you for your fantasy football team.

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