On the heels of an extraordinary MVP season by Lamar Jackson, the Ravens’ quarterback predictably regressed a bit last year. He still finished as the QB9 in fantasy, though, with a bit more inconsistency than we’ve grown accustomed to from the elite talent. Baltimore responded by improving this team’s pass-catching corps over the offseason with the draft pick of Rashod Bateman and the free agency signing of Sammy Watkins. NFL veteran Kevin Zeitler will also help Jackson quite a bit after he looked worse for the wear last season without former All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda following his retirement. Last year, Jackson did become the first quarterback in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons, and that rushing production is still an enticing part of a high-upside fantasy player.
Top-6 QBs in fantasy points per dropback (includes rushing) last year:
1. Lamar Jackson
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Ryan Tannehill
4. Josh Allen
5. Kyler Murray
6. Jalen Hurts
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) June 1, 2021
|PASS YDS||PASS TDS||INTS||RUSH YDS||RUSH TDS||FPTS||FPPG|
The regression was coming. We knew Jackson would decline a bit last season after throwing for 36 touchdowns on just 401 attempts in 2019, an absurd 8.9% touchdown rate. However, what wasn’t as expected was his decline in passing yards – he dropped from 3,127 to 2,757 – as well as an increase in interceptions – up from 6 to 9. Jackson still ran for over 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns for the second consecutive season, buoying his fantasy value in a difficult passing season, but he had six finishes under 20 fantasy points after just one the year prior.
|PASS YDS||PASS TDS||INTS||RUSH YDS||RUSH TDS||FPTS||FPPG|
The easy part of this projection is Lamar Jackson’s rushing – I have him down for over 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns yet again for the third straight season. In a 17-game slate, I have Jackson down for a career-high in passing yards of 3,395. Between the improvements in the pass-catching corps and the new 17-game season (Jackson has only played 15 games the past two years), I see Jackson capitalizing with some career-best numbers. His touchdown rate should stabilize somewhere between the highs and lows of the last two years, and he’s back to a top 5 QB in my book this season.
ADP & Auction Value
ADP: 51, Round 5, QB4
Auction Value: $17
After his stellar MVP campaign, Lamar Jackson’s fantasy ADP skyrocketed to the 2nd round in many leagues. He was the consensus second quarterback off the board behind only Patrick Mahomes. His fantasy production didn’t live up to that insane hype, but that just means he’s available at a much more palatable draft price. Jackson is going several rounds later than Patrick Mahomes this year, and he arguably has just as good of a chance as finishing as the QB1 overall. I love this draft cost for Jackson, and while I don’t typically advocate the early-round quarterback strategy, Jackson in the seventh round may be too good to pass up.
Most rush attempts by a QB in a single season in NFL history:
1. 2019 Lamar Jackson (176)
2. 2020 Jackson (159)
3. 2018 Jackson (147)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 29, 2021
It’s hard to imagine Jackson finishing outside the top 10 or 12 at quarterback in fantasy football, barring any kind of a significant injury. He has run for over 78 yards per game so far in his career, and that rushing production gives him a phenomenal baseline – that’s 7.8 fantasy points per game right off the bat. Jackson’s floor is likely somewhere around what we saw last season. He had four top-five QB weekly finishes and eight top-ten finishes, so he had some week-winning type of performances for fantasy football even in a down year. Jackson has never thrown for more than 3,200 yards in a season, but that is likely to change this year with a 17-game slate.
One season after an eye-popping 8.9% touchdown rate, Jackson fell off a bit down to a 6.9% touchdown rate. It’s debatable whether or not he’ll ever be able to get back to that MVP level of production, but the additions in the pass-catching corps should help the red-zone passing offense. Jackson isn’t likely to ever throw for more than 3,500 yards given his reliance on rushing, but is it crazy to think he could reach 1,500 rushing yards in a 17-game slate? I don’t think so, and I believe Jackson has the upside to be the QB1 overall this season.
Baltimore Ravens Offense
With Lamar Jackson at the helm, the Ravens offense has been phenomenal. Last season, they scored 29.3 points per game, the seventh-most in the NFL. J.K. Dobbins is now the heartbeat of the offense, especially after the departure of Mark Ingram, and Dobbins should be good for over 1,200 yards from scrimmage at least this season. Marquise Brown led the team with 100 targets last season, and he caught 58 balls for 769 yards and 8 touchdowns. Mark Andrews also had 58 catches, and he had 701 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games. The offense should be improved with the introduction of rookie wideout Rashod Bateman. The Minnesota product caught 36 balls for 472 yards and 2 touchdowns in 5 games last year, but the year prior, he caught 60 balls for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. The passing volume isn’t elite in this offense, but Bateman will make an impact right away if these glowing camp reports are any indication. Sammy Watkins is arguably a bit of an upgrade over Willie Snead, as well. The offensive line is going through some transition as Ronnie Stanley returns from his ankle injury following starting just 6 games last year. Orlando Brown was traded to the Chiefs over the offseason, and D.J. Fluker will likely start at right tackle. Veteran Kevin Zeitler was a great under-the-radar pickup, and he’s played in at least 773 snaps in every season of his career. This offense should be among the league’s best once again.
Lamar Jackson to Sammy Watkins.
— Nic Mason (@British_Raven19) June 2, 2021
Strength of Schedule
Per FantasyPros, the Ravens face the 10th-toughest schedule for fantasy quarterbacks this season. However, keep in mind that the typical strength of schedule metrics applies less to Lamar Jackson due to his elite rushing production. The AFC North presents some interesting matchup. The Steelers allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season, and their defense should still be elite. Jackson torched the Browns, and they allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to QBs, but their defense should be much-improved following a smart offseason. The Bengals ranked middle-of-the-pack in quarterback defense, and Jackson has repeatedly torched them. The Ravens play the AFC West this season, a division with four teams who ranked in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed the QBs – however, the Broncos’ defense should be much improved. The NFC North features some stellar defense in the Packers and Bears, who ranked top six in QB fantasy defense, as well as the Vikings, who should be much-improved. Finally, the Ravens do have to play the Rams this year which allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season. All that said, I’m not overly concerned about this schedule for Jackson.
There aren’t any other quarterbacks in the NFL who offer Lamar Jackson’s level of rushing upside – 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns really isn’t outside of the realm of possibilities this season. The Ravens’ offense should be improved, and Jackson could be set for career-high passing volume numbers. With his consistent rushing production, Jackson also offers a strong floor as a top-ten guy on most weeks. Being drafted in the seventh round this year, Jackson is a great value at the quarterback position.
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