Ah… the curious case of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Named the starter ahead of his team’s Week 11 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson was a trendy fantasy pickup in most leagues by the time he made his second start. How high will he be on draft boards in 2019, though? How high should he be?
One very popular truism is that running quarterbacks carry an immense amount of fantasy value. Just because it’s cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true. Jackson was certainly more valuable as a runner than he was as a passer in 2018.
Since taking over as the starter, Jackson scored 58.6 fantasy points when he threw the ball. In that same timeframe he scored 71.6 fantasy points on the ground. To put that in better perspective, his point totals were almost identical to Marcus Mariota [QB26] as a thrower (remember Mariota missed Week 17) and Jordan Howard [RB12] as a runner. Combine those, and you’ve got the No. 8 QB in fantasy over the final seven weeks of the season.
The million-dollar question is whether or not Jackson can sustain his running success in his sophomore season. The answer became even more blurry given his postseason performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card round.
What isn’t in question is the Ravens’ commitment to the No. 32 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. They elected to let him fight through his massive struggles in his first and only playoff game in lieu of benching him for the more seasoned Joe Flacco. It shows that Jackson will be given the keys to the car right away in 2019 with a full training camp as the unquestioned starter. It also pushes the threshold further away for any potential midseason hook.
Now that we can establish that his job is safe, are his rushing totals?
Jackson was by far the best running QB in the league this year. He ran for 556 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 games as a starter. Only one QB rushed for more total yards for the entire season, Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen with 631 yards in 12 games.
Last season, only two quarterbacks ran for more than 500 yards: Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Both fell short of that threshold in 2019. The former would’ve been over that total if he played the final two games of the season. The latter didn’t even reach 400 yards in a full season. Going back to 2016, only one QB rushed for more than 500 yards: Tyrod Taylor. He came close to duplicating that in 2017, but he didn’t quite reach the mark and was only a starting QB for a couple weeks in 2018.
Essentially, there’s not a ton of precedent for a QB to make the kind of impact Jackson made in 2018 for multiple seasons back-to-back. Russell Wilson did it from 2013 to 2015, Colin Kaepernick did it in 2013 and 2014, Michael Vick did it in 2010 and 2011, and Cam Newton has done it almost his entire career. That’s four players in the past dozen years. Is Jackson No. 5? Sure, injuries play a role in the difficulty of duplicating success. But that is a factor for Jackson too.
The argument against history is that the Ravens offense is built in a way that focuses on the run like no other. It almost has the old Miami Dolphins Wildcat feel to it — a unit built to win that’s counterculture to the rest of the league. However, one has to wonder if the playoff game — the first time a team saw Jackson for a second time — is an indicator that the league is adjusting to what the Ravens are running. Will this iteration of Baltimore’s offense flame out as quickly as the Wildcat did?
Injuries, lack of precedent and the league figuring out a counter to the Ravens’ offense are all risk factors heading into 2019. Jackson improving as a passer in Year 2 and getting a full training camp as a starter are a pair of positives for 2019. So where does that leave us?
TD Fantasy’s full set of rankings will be out in a few months, but as of this writing I’d have Jackson as my No. 16 QB. That puts him right around where Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was drafted this year, between picks 110-120 in the 10th round.