Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of the most polarizing players in fantasy football. On the one hand, the former MVP is perhaps the most dangerous open-field runner in the game and has the potential to absolutely break fantasy football. On the other, he’s also a streaky passer and didn’t quite live up to expectations last year. Armed with a new array of weapons, will Jackson get back to his record-setting ways in 2021?
2021 Fantasy Football Outlook: Lamar Jackson
At this point last year, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes were the consensus top two quarterbacks in fantasy football. Coming off his fantastic MVP season, the fantasy football community largely agreed that Jackson’s passing efficiency would probably drop a little bit, but his rushing would easily make up for the rest.
Through the first half of the season, that didn’t happen. Touchdown regression was inevitable, but nobody expected the precipitous drop in passing. Through the first 11 weeks of the season (10 games), Jackson was the QB10 with 20.34 fantasy points per game. However, something clicked in the back half of the year, as Jackson went on a tear down the stretch. After spending Week 12 in the COVID-19 protocol, Jackson finished the season as the QB2 from Weeks 13-16.
What’s interesting about this stretch is that Jackson’s passing yardage actually decreased. Jackson averaged more passing yards per game from Weeks 1 to 12 (194.8) than he did from Weeks 13 to 16 (174), albeit his yards per attempt jumped from 7.05 to 8.49. The biggest reason for Jackson’s improved fantasy performance came from his rushing, as he improved from 7.55 to 14.33 rushing points per game down the stretch while averaging an unsustainable 7.4 yards-per-carry.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 8, 2021
Jackson isn’t going to average 7.4 yards-per-carry in 2021, but he can finish in the high-six range. Based on his 2019 and late 2020 trends, it’s clear to see that Jackson’s rushing numbers take a massive leap when he can efficiently throw the football. Jackson is always going to be a run-first quarterback, but he’s nearly impossible to stop when defenses have to worry about the pass. Jackson’s rushing ability sets the floor as a top-10 quarterback, but his ability to throw sets the ceiling.
Throughout the offseason, Baltimore has done everything in their power to add to their passing arsenal. Marquise Brown is a great deep threat and Mark Andrews is one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league, but the rest of the depth chart left a lot to be desired. However, over the past few months, the team has added Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Tylan Wallace into the mix.
On their own, none of these players move the needle all that much. However, collectively, these moves give Baltimore plenty of depth at receiver, along with a much-needed chain-mover in Bateman. Jackson probably won’t match his 2019 passing efficiency, but he should be able to average 7.5 yards-per-attempt with a respectable touchdown rate. This alone should be enough to open up rushing lanes and make Jackson the NFL’s most dangerous threat on the ground.
— Nic Mason (@British_Raven19) June 12, 2021
Lamar Jackson Fantasy Football Average Draft Position
As of this posting, FantasyData has Lamar Jackson as the fifth quarterback off the board with an average draft position of 51.4. This puts him clearly behind the top trio of Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen and right in the same range as guys like Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert.
Frankly, this feels too low for the former league MVP. Personally, I think that the 2020 season was Lamar Jackson’s floor moving forward. Jackson was a top-10 fantasy quarterback even when he struggled to throw the ball, and he went absolutely crazy down the stretch. Now with improved weapons, Jackson’s unique skill set gives him a very real shot to finish as the QB1.
Patrick Mahomes deserves to be the QB1, but you can make a case for taking Jackson ahead of Allen, Murray, and Prescott. Allen is likely to take an efficiency dive in 2021 like Jackson took in 2020, Kyler Murray struggled down the stretch and said he won’t run as much this season, and Prescott’s 2020 numbers were artificially inflated by five games of shootouts. Right now, Lamar Jackson is my QB2 on the season and represents one of the best values in fantasy, especially in superflex leagues.
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