by Alex Kurpeski
Regression is not necessarily a bad word when it comes to Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore QB, of course, is coming off of a season that saw him break the record for fantasy football points scored by a QB. As electric as the reigning NFL MVP is, the fact of the matter is that he will almost certainly be facing defenses that will have a better idea of how to slow him down than they did last season. While I do believe that Jackson’s pace from 2019 is unsustainable — he averaged an astonishing 28.11 points per-game — I do see the Ravens signal-caller putting up numbers that will keep him in contention for the QB1 overall spot.
I would like to reiterate that while I see Jackson’s numbers taking a slight hit, I am not advising anyone to avoid him in drafts even at his current price tag, rather I am simply giving warning that he may not be the top QB in fantasy by as wide of a margin as he was last season (when he scored 72.9 points more than Dak Prescott).
We saw that Jackson is in fact human during the AFC Divisional Playoff Round, when the staunch defense of the Tennessee Titans forced him to turnover the ball thrice en route to an upset victory. By taking away Jackson’s running ability (to a degree) using various spies and disguised blitzes, Tennessee also took away many of the easy reads that Jackson capitalized upon all season long, most of which were opened up by the threat of Jackson rushing ability. I could see many defenses using similar tactics to throw the young signal-caller off of his game this season, although I do have confidence that the Ravens coaching staff will be able to adapt some new looks to counter the defensive adjustments.
What concerns me most about Jackson fantasy upside is the fact that the player himself has revealed that he envisions running the ball fewer times this year. Last season Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards and 7 touchdowns, which equates to roughly 162.2 fantasy points, approximately 38.5% of the QB’s total points. While I don’t see the team cutting Jackson rushing attempts down too much (his abilities as a runner are his easily greatest strength), a decrease of 25% or more in his touch share could create a huge dent in his numbers. The addition of rookie running back J.K Dobbins suggests that the team may look to feed the backfield even more this season, so should anyone lose touches to make room for Dobbins it would most certainly be Jackson.
Perhaps the most concerning matter in regards to Jackson’s fantasy outlook is the fact that the Ravens did not do much to get better on offense (at least on paper), losing longtime offensive guard Marshal Yanda and doing little to improve their already lackluster receiving core. The latter is an element that I do find a bit hubristic, as Baltimore was clearly lacking in receiving talent (outside of TE Mark Andrews and 2019 first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown) prior to this offseason. Instead of moving on a proven commodity like Emmanuel Sanders or Randall Cobb to improve the team’s passing attack, GM Eric DeCosta elected to trade 2018 first-round pick Hayden Hurst and use a pair of mid-round picks to take slot specialists Devin Duvernay and James Proche. If Brown and Andrews fail to live up to their billing this season, Jackson could find himself in a very rough spot.
With my grievances having been aired out, let’s take a look at my projections for Jackson fantasy totals this season:
- 3,304 passing yards (+177 from 2019)
- 33 passing TDs (-4 from 2019)
- 8 INTs (+2 from 2019)
- 927 rushing yards
- 137 ATT
- 8 rushing TDs
- 355.7 fantasy points ~QB2 (-1 spot from 2019)
As I said, Jackson will still be an elite fantasy QB, just not on the same scale as he was last season.