I am not one for hot takes, knee-jerk reactions or recency bias. I do take a stand on different players and do not play both sides of the fence. With that said, I am going to tell you why you should NOT draft Lamar Jackson in 2020 Fantasy Football Drafts.
I’ll go ahead and post my Twitter (@Tomlin3) ahead of time on this one because I’m sure some of you already want to yell at me and throw some stats or emojis my way. I will take them all.
But I think I will get through to some of you. My goal at least is to get you to not draft Lamar Jackson. That goal coincides with me wanting you to win your Fantasy Football league this season (except if you are in one of my leagues… in that case I’m reverse-jinxing you on this one).
2020 Fantasy Football: Do Not Draft Lamar Jackson
People use the term regression without really knowing what it means. Some people just think it means someone will have more or less production of an output (Fantasy production) the next test (season). By definition, regression analysis is about estimating the affiliation between a dependent and independent variable.
In a simpler format: regression is the relationship between an outlier statistic and the mean or average. If a student scores between 90 and 95 on his first eight tests, then scores a 72 on his ninth test, what is most likely to happen on the tenth test? He should regress back or move closer to his normal or mean score.
So let’s put Lamar Jackson’s 2019 into the regression spin cycle. Does 36 touchdown passes sound like an average Lamar Jackson can maintain? Only Peyton Manning has ever averaged more than 30 touchdowns per season over a career, and nowhere near 36.
Can Lamar run for 1,206 yards per season? Jackson’s rushing total from 2019 was over 16 percent higher than any quarterback in the history of the league. There have been just 11 quarterback rushing seasons of more than 700 yards in the history of the NFL. Only Michael Vick crossed the 800-yard barrier more than once and it was just twice. Even if Jackson is without a doubt the clear, best running quarterback ever, I would put his average at 800 rushing yards.
Then there’s his passing touchdown percentage. Actually…
Unrepeatable Passing Touchdown Percentage
I know the regression talk can be beating a dead horse but this visual might help some understand why Lamar Jackson will have a tough time repeating what he did through the air last year (9.0% TD rate).
Yearly TD rates (min 200 att) for every QB with a career TD rate over 5.5% pic.twitter.com/hy7S13ejTH
— TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez) July 3, 2020
Jackson’s 9.0% passing touchdown percentage was the third-best in the Super Bowl Era. Only Peyton Manning’s 49 touchdowns and 9.9% in 2004 and Ken Stabler’s 27 touchdowns on 9.3% in 1976 were better over a full season.
I know that that number seems arbitrary, so let’s lower it to 7.0%. There have been just 35 seasons of a quarterback throwing for 25 touchdowns at a 7% clip or higher. Only Aaron Rodgers has done it three times. Lamar’s 2019 season was almost a THIRD higher than that number that only Rodgers can come close to replicating.
So even if you think Lamar Jackson is on the same level as Aaron Rodgers as far as efficiently throwing touchdown passes, you can’t tell me that he will have higher than a 7.0 number (Rodgers’ career percentage is 6.0%).
I wrote all about how I think the Titans showed the blueprint for stopping Jackson. I’ll summarize it here.
I know that he had his best career passing and second-best rushing day in that loss. It was also the only time his team has been dominated in a year and a half of starting. Doesn’t that seem like a red flag to you?
Basically, the Titans showed that if you control the middle-third depth of the field you can force Lamar into adversity. If he is forced to throw the ball downfield or take short runs, he can’t handle going long drives without mistakes.
If that’s the case (that he will throw downfield much less), Lamar’s biggest two Fantasy days in 2019 wins were his two highest ADOT (average depth of target). They accounted for 17% of his Fantasy Football production.
So if the Ravens are throwing the ball shorter/less downfield and Lamar Jackson is running the ball less, then there are two more red flags for his overall production this season.
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I do not like to try and project or predict health or injury concerns. There are certain instances where it is just too obvious (see Conner, James in 2019).
The types of hits quarterbacks take when they run the ball are just different than other players. There’s a higher likelihood for a blind-shot because the defenders are usually surrounded in coverage. The defenders bring a bigger punch with their hit because it’s the quarterback.
Every quarterback that has multiple seasons with 100+ rushing attempts has dealt with serious injuries except Russell Wilson. (Wilson also hasn’t crossed 118 attempts) Cam Newton, Robert Griffin, Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, Colin Kaepernick, Steve McNair. All of them had serious injuries that forced them to miss almost entire seasons.
Lamar is running more (already the top two rushing attempt seasons in quarterback history) and is much more slender/smaller than some of these other guys. He has taken over 400 hits in just a year and a half of starting. Even if we have a running back handling the ball that many times we scream injury risk.
Alright so let’s project Lamar Jackson’s numbers if we agree that there will be regression. (If you believe that he will consistently replicate the passing touchdowns/rushing yards then I have an ocean-front property in Arizona to sell you.)
I’ll even err on the high side of what I truly think. So let’s give him a 6.5% on touchdown passes. If we give him the same number of pass attempts as last season (which I think will actually decrease) then that puts Jackson at 26 touchdown passes.
We talked about Jackson’s intended air yards per attempt being lowered. It was 8.8 last year, ninth in the league. Let’s take that down to league average at 8.0. That lowers his passing yardage total down a couple hundred yards, but let’s round up to 3,000 yards.
Quarterback rush attempts can be tough to predict overall, but I think we can say that 800 yards rushing is a safe average. I would still take the under if forced to bet at that number, but I can definitely see a season with that much. Since we are lowering his rushing attempts/yards but about 33%, I think it’s safe to take him from seven to five rushing touchdowns.
Lamar had just fifteen total turnovers in his first full season as a starter. I doubt he gets better in that department, so let’s just leave it at a turnover per game.
That’s a final line of 3,000 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 800 rushing yards, five touchdowns with 16 turnovers. In most scoring formats, that is just over 300 Fantasy Points. That’s just eight points higher than QB9 last season.
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I would argue that those stats are not even his floor but closer to his average. They could drop even lower than that. The Ravens have bigger plans than making Lamar Jackson the QB1 in Fantasy again.
With as good as their defense and running game is, if I were John Harbaugh then Lamar would be a decoy more often than not. He is the one irreplaceable piece on the team.
This is where the perspective comes in for why I am telling you to not draft Lamar Jackson. He is currently going fourteenth overall on both ESPN and Yahoo. So you are using a top-of-the-second-round pick on a guy that might be closer to the back half of the starting quarterback tier in 12-team leagues.
More importantly, you are taking a massive injury risk at the very top of your draft. As the saying goes, “You can’t win the league at the beginning of your draft but you can lose it.”
The price is just too high for Lamar Jackson, especially this season when the second tier of quarterbacks is so strong and much cheaper.