Lamar Jackson: Fantasy Football Outlook For The 2021 NFL Season With Ravens
Having dealt with doubters all throughout his collegiate and professional playing careers, quarterback Lamar Jackson has taken the NFL by storm, running all over the field and earning a League MVP award in the process. Even with the Baltimore Ravens struggling to find postseason success, and with Jackson being continuously compared to other QBs in the league (like Josh Allen), the Louisville product will head into the 2021 season with the likes of JK Dobbins and Rashod Bateman alongside him, heading into battle.
Jackson is a run-oriented QB that has shown his willingness and ability to trust his arm to get out of situations, even with the kind of athlete he is and how he can magically make things happen on the run. As the Ravens ride the wave that Jackson is surfing, there certainly are concerns that come with him leading this team, focused around his injuries.
The fact that Jackson puts his body on the line each and every play showcase his kind of appreciation and love for the game, but it also lends itself to injury concerns, ultimately leading to parts of an argument focused on how he is not the right kind of athlete to be a QB. By consistently using his legs, more than he needs to be to some onlookers, Jackson breaks the mold of what a prototypical QB should look like, falling into the mold of what Michael Vick set over 10 years ago.
Regardless of how much you may or may not like Jackson, it is hard to argue with the kind of stats he has put up so far during his NFL career. While these stats certainly put him at or near the top of the league, alongside the likes of Allen, Mahomes, Kyler Murray, and others, it also helps create a solid floor when it comes to fantasy football.
2020 Fantasy Statistics
When a QB produces a top-10 fantasy performance, usually that means that they exceeded expectations and made their fantasy teams very happy – but coming off of his MVP season, the expectations for Jackson were astronomically high, to the point where his finish as the QB10 was a disappointment.
The Ravens were a difficult team to pin down last year, as their inconsistent offensive play ultimately pushed more responsibility onto their defense, leading to costly breakdowns and an earlier-than-expected ouster from the playoffs.
Jackson threw for around 300 fewer yards, 10 fewer TDs, and threw 3 more interceptions last season when compared to 2019, and his rushing efficiency declined as well, putting up 200 fewer rushing yards on almost 20 fewer carries.
While situating himself as a proven entity in only his third year in the league for Baltimore, Jackson’s performance last season was devoid of that type of explosiveness that we all saw on full display the year prior. The ongoing COVID situation may have played a role in it, but there were some faults exposed last year, making some fantasy teams a bit wary of rostering him.
2021 Fantasy Projections
Moving forward into the ‘21 season, the outlook for Baltimore and Jackson remains the same – utilizing his legs and his speed will not only help optimize his impact, but the addition of Bateman, a rookie wideout from Minnesota, and the established role of Dobbins as this team’s RB starter will help get Jackson back into his ‘19 levels of production.
An important facet of Jackson’s fantasy stock this season relies on his average draft position (ADP), an element that flew up the board after his breakout MVP campaign two seasons ago. Coming off of a solid but unspectacular year very likely will drive down his draft position, presenting a big-time value for selecting him as your starting QB this year.
Currently, Jackson’s value represents that of an absolute steal, as his QB4 average ranking produces an ADP just south of 40th overall in standard formats – being able to add a dual-threat option like Jackson at the going rate of the back-end of the fourth round in a 10-team format is absurd. Jackson likely will be faded a bit coming into draft season, as his ‘slacking’ numbers from last year will help form a recency bias and make his ADP lose its bottom, presenting you with a stout value selection.
His value will be higher in Superflex and 2-QB formats, but the fact remains that the type of value that Jackson will present this year is going to be a strong buy in all areas. Even if he replicates his QB10 production this season, being able to select that type of value around two rounds later than last season will make drafting him a better value overall.
Assuming Jackson exceeds his stats from last year is much more likely than him returning to his MVP level from ’19 – the Ravens have a better roster surrounding him and they understand how to mitigate Jackson’s injury risks to help improve this unit’s efficiency. Penciling him in as a top-5 option, with the potential to secure the QB1 role, is exactly what smart drafters do, especially at the value that he will present.
Rank at Position
As previously discussed, the ranking of Jackson amongst his QB peers will depend on his weapons around him, namely Bateman and Dobbins.
For the receiving core, Bateman was brought in via this year’s first round of the draft, and pairing his field-stretching abilities with that of Hollywood Brown’s can make this offense highly efficient through the air. A consistent knock on Jackson has been the usage and accuracy of his arm, and these two players, along with tight end Mark Andrews, will help steady the ship and make Jackson a threat through the air yet again, while potentially unlocking Bateman.
Dobbins is in an uneven timeshare for the Ravens with Gus Edwards in this backfield, a role that Dobbins should command more of but Edwards will likely vulture from. As Dobbins grows more comfortable as the lead dog and the coaching staff loosens the leash, being able to stop this offense will get harder, and presenting another rushing threat like Dobbins to a defense only presents another tough object to corral.
Ranking Jackson behind Mahomes and Allen is the safe bet, but the likes of Murray, Dak Prescott, and even Russell Wilson can even make a case to be at or just below the same level as Jackson. However, Jackson’s upside bests everyone (except Murray’s), so having him close Tier 1 of QBs is a fair slot to put him in as he leads the Ravens again.