Lamar Jackson became the full time starter for the Ravens in week 11 last season for the Baltimore Ravens pushing Joe Flacco out the door to Denver via traded earlier in the offseason. With Flacco gone the team has put their full trust into their first rounder and will now let him lead the way for the foreseeable future. While the team will be one of the run heaviest in the league, Jackson is a very intriguing fantasy prospect in 2019. He had a massive rushing total in 2019 and while the team has stated they would like him to stay in the pocket more often this year, Jackson will still have a great chance at being the top rushing QB in 2019. His rookie season as a pass showed that he needs a lot of improvement, but heading into year 2 Jackson has sneaky upside as a potential breakout for fantasy based on his propensity to rush the ball alone. Lets dive into his rookie season stats and see if we can predict what his range of outcomes will be in 2019. (All stats are based on 4 point per passing Touchdown scoring.)
Jackson was active every game for Ravens last season and had opportunity for playing time in all but 1 game. He was brought in as a situational runner until he took over as the starter in week 11 after their bye. He finished with a total stat line of 99 completions on 170 pass attempts at a 58.2 completion percentage for 1201 pass yards throwing for 6 Touchdowns and 3 Interceptions. He would add a massive 147 rush attempts for 697 yards at 4.7 yards per carry for 5 Touchdowns. This was through 7 starts and a slew of games where he ran the ball a handful of times. This leaves his per game average numbers a bit skewed so to get the true feel of how Jackson was under center we are only going to use his starting numbers for his per game average numbers as a starter. With that said, his per game averages were 13.14 completions per game on 22.57 pass attempts for 159.1 pass yards at 7.1 yards per attempt and 12.1 yards per completion for .7 passing Touchdowns and .42 Interceptions. He would go on to add 17 rush attempts for 79.71 yards at 4.7 yards per attempts for .57 rushing Touchdowns. The fact that he averaged 17 rushing attempts a game is astounding eclipsing any other QB in terms of rushing expectancy. This kept his baseline for scoring high and while he did not have any massive performances in 2019 he never really bottomed out when he was the starter. His fantasy finish by the end of the season was as the QB28 overall with 157 total fantasy points averaging 9.9 points per game. The points per game average is skewed however, as this adds in the 9 games that he was used sparingly and not as a starter. As a starter, Jackson scored 130.16 total fantasy points giving him a per game average of 18.59 points which would have made him the QB13 in terms of consistent scoring. When Jackson was given the reigns to start he was a solid fantasy contributor and great waiver wire grab as a streaming option. In terms of his per game average finishes, using his starting number averages, Jackson finished 41st in completions per game, 42nd in pass attempts, 40th in completion percentage, 38th in passing yards, 26th in yards per attempts, and he finished 11th in yards per completion. To put it bluntly, he was not a great passer. However, even in only 7 total starts he was the leader in total rushing attempts and rushing yards while finishing 3rd in rushing Touchdowns.
Jackson struggled as a passer in his rookie season and while he did not have a plethora of targets to throw to last season, they can not hold all the blame for his poor performances. Jackson was criticized coming out of the draft as an inaccurate passer that would need work to improve to an NFL level, but as we saw last season, Jackson’s true talent is tucking the ball and running when under pressure. To put things into perspective, if you were to take away the 28 rush attempts and 137 rush yards that he had while not starting, he still would have led the league in both categories over just a 7 game stretch. He was impressive to say the least as a rusher and he had 0 bust games in fantasy when starting for Baltimore. The rushing truly masked his inefficiency’s as a passer for fantasy and those who had to use him as a streamer were surely pleased with his performances. While he may not have won you the week off of his scoring alone, he did go over 15 points in 6 of the 7 starts with 2 games over 20 points in weeks 12 and 17. Taking a look at his 16 game pace as a starter will need to be taken with a grain of salt, but lets see exactly how he was projected with the nearly half a season sample that we have. On a 16 game pace Jackson’s final stat line would have been 210.26 completions on 361 pass attempts for 2545 pass yards throwing for 11.3 Touchdowns and 6.78 Interceptions. He would go on to add 272 rush attempts for 1275.3 rush yards and 9.13 rushing Touchdowns. This would give him 297.5 total fantasy points for a fantasy finish as the QB10 overall. Again, take these numbers with a grain of salt as it is very hard to imagine a QB running the ball as much as some of the top RB’s in the league, but it should help show you that Jackson’s fantasy value is as a potential QB1 going forward. What this also shows us is that Jackson really needed to improve as a passer last season to have the ability to give you an elite level game. The bottom line is this. Jackson was an ineffective passer that was a safe fantasy play based purely on his massive amount of rushing alone as it masked his struggles as a passer in terms of his fantasy production.
Jackson will be heading into year 2 as the full time starter for the Ravens and will no longer have Joe Flacco behind him any longer. The team his hoping that he will improve as a pass moving forward and want to keep him in the pocket more in the 2019 season. Even if this happens, Jackson has a great shot at rushing the most out of any QB in the NFL possibly by a large margin. He will hopefully take a step forward as a passer as well during his second offseason and this will hopefully improve his accuracy after finishing as one of the most inaccurate QB’s in the league last year. All he needs to do is improve slightly as a passer to remain relevant in fantasy if he brings his abnormally high rush attempt averages down this year. Thankfully for him, the Ravens are bringing back the number 10 ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus to protect him once again this season. This should help with the amount of time he has in the pocket to hopefully make good decisions while passing to a relatively light receiving core once again in 2019. While the team invested heavily in the WR position in the draft taking Marquis Brown in the first round and Mile Boykin later on, the team is still pretty light on reliable targets for Jackson to throw too. Both rookies are recovering form injuries currently and it seems that they will have limited time to work with Jackson in the offseason so things could be rough to start the season with his new weapons. He will be getting back slot WR Willie Snead and the pair of TE’s Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst who should see a large amount of snaps as the team is likely to use 2 TE sets often while they look to control the game with their rushing attack. Speaking of, he has a slew of talented and capable RB’s behind him that will help open things up for him as he runs the ball. Another factor to note here is that the Ravens lost quite a few starters on the defensive side of the ball this season and may need to call upon Jackson to throw the ball more if they fall behind to tough opponents. Whether this will result in good fantasy production remains to be seen. With all this taken into account, Jackson seems to be a bit of a risky QB with a pretty below average receiving core. He needs to take a step forward with his passing ability to keep him safe if his carries take a hit, but the fact is that rushing QB’s have major value for fantasy and Jackson looks to be the best shot at leading the NFL in the category by seasons end. This should keep his floor relatively safe, but you may not get the massive fantasy performances unless he can be better as a passer. He has QB1 potential and is going as the QB19 in the middle of the 12th round so if you want to wait on a QB like Jackson thankfully he will not cost you much to take the shot on his potential.
Jackson baffled me when looking at his stats in the rushing category. The guy was able to lead the league in attempts and yards with only 7 starts and while he may not have led in endzone trips, it is easy to see him breaking all sorts of rushing records at the position in the future. I do believe he will improve at least slightly as a pass and while the team stating that they want him to run the ball less may concern some of you, if the team is winning with him using his legs they will not hold him back. While I don’t see him as an elite fantasy QB, he could definitely be a QB1 by seasons end and is a solid late round grab if you want to wait on the QB position. Just be aware of his heightened injury risk due to his increased amount of hits taken.
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By Ryan Larrison, Contributor, Fantasy Football for the People