Can Lamar Jackson Be a Dominant Fantasy Football QB with His Rushing Ability?
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Lamar Jackson
We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2019 season; this is part of that series.
The Ravens managed to snag the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner with the final first-round pick of the 2018 draft.
Lamar Jackson didn’t get a chance to start until Week 11, but he helped Baltimore win six of its final seven games en route to capturing the AFC North. Jackson’s limitations as a passer were then exposed in the Ravens’ Wild Card loss to the Chargers.
The future is now for Jackson and the Ravens after Joe Flacco was shipped to Denver this offseason. Let’s take a look at how 2019 is shaping up for the second-year quarterback as both a real-life and fantasy football asset.
Lamar Jackson Is Mike Vick-esque As A Runner
The Ravens’ dual-threat quarterback has been making defenders look silly his entire career.
Lamar Jackson doesn't get enough credit for scoring the swaggiest touchdown in the history of high school football pic.twitter.com/9bKi4VS3U1
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 2, 2019
Jackson totaled 4,132 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns on the ground in 38 career games at Louisville and proved to be just as lethal of a threat as a rookie at the next level.
- Rush attempts: 147 (first among all quarterbacks)
- Rush yards: 695 (first)
- Rush TDs: 5 (tied for third)
Jackson’s 43.4 rush yards per game trailed only Josh Allen (52.6) for the highest mark in the league, but that figure is misleading. The Ravens utilized Jackson in sub-packages for a few snaps every week while Flacco was starting, so Jackson’s real average rushing yards per game as a starter actually placed him along elite company at the running back position in 2018.
Most rushing yards per game in 2018:
1. Ezekiel Elliott (96)
2. Todd Gurley (89)
3. Joe Mixon (83)
4. Chris Carson (82)
5. Saquon Barkley (82)
6. Lamar Jackson (79 – only counting his 7 starts)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 2, 2019
Vick averaged at least 50 rushing yards per game in five seasons throughout his 13-year career, but his best season was “just” 64.9 rushing yards per game (in 2006). Jackson has the ability and willingness to rewrite the record books when it comes to rushing yards at the quarterback position.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the 2019 edition of the Ravens offense will continue to lean on Jackson so heavily as a runner because…
Jackson Didn’t Make a Habit of Passing in 2018
The only problem with Jackson’s run-first style is the incredible beating that he’ll be forced to take over an entire season. Vick’s career-high mark for rushing attempts in a season was 123 in 2006 — a mark Jackson managed to clear by 24 carries … in nine fewer starts.
Jackson is an extreme dual-threat quarterback, the likes of which the league has never seen before. His 147 carries were the most in a single season at the quarterback position in the history of the NFL, while his 170 pass attempts were the fourth-fewest among 644 instances of a quarterback starting seven games in a season since 2000.
The Ravens didn’t ask Jackson to attempt more than 25 passes in a game until he set a season-high mark with 29 during their playoff loss to the Chargers. This reality accordingly tanked the performance of pretty much anyone even moderately associated with the Ravens’ passing game.
Ravens WRs with Joe Flacco in Weeks 1-9 last season …
John Brown: PPR WR22
Michael Crabtree: WR31
Willie Snead: WR33
And Weeks 11-17 with Lamar Jackson …
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 12, 2019
Still, this was OK for anyone who invested fantasy football resources in Jackson.
Rushing QBs Are at Least Good in Fantasy Football
There have been 20 instances of a quarterback racking up at least 100 rush attempts in a season since 2000.
Of that group…
- 19-of-20 (95%) finished as a top-17 scorer
- 13-of-20 (65%) finished as a top-six fantasy scorer
- 10-of-20 (50%) finished as a top-three scorer
The only quarterback who didn’t finish the season with a fantasy score among the league’s top-17 quarterbacks was Jackson. Still, he worked as the QB8 from Weeks 11-17 as the starter, behind only Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger.
If you didn’t get this by now: Jackson is as good of a rusher as the quarterback position has ever seen.
60 seconds of Lamar Jackson looking like the best athlete on the field pic.twitter.com/o8gnHeP3f6
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 25, 2019
It remains to be seen if Jackson will develop into even an average NFL passer, but it might not matter if he ever does for fantasy purposes — assuming he continues to work as a rushing anomaly at the position. A lack of passing upside certainly doesn’t help when selecting a fantasy quarterback, although there’s also something to be said for a quarterback with a strong fantasy floor.
- Week 11: Jackson finished as the week’s QB13 in fantasy points
- Week 12: QB15
- Week 13: QB11
- Week 14: QB14
- Week 15: QB9
- Week 16: QB17
- Week 17: QB5
Jackson isn’t exactly small at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, but he does have a thin frame and probably shouldn’t be relied on for 150-plus carries per season into perpetuity. Still, he seems destined to be a run-first quarterback, which has historically been positively spectacular for people who like fantasy points.
The Ravens’ franchise quarterback is the QB23 in average draft position as of writing. Recent and long-term history tells us that Jackson is fully capable of providing immense and consistent value at that price point.