Lamar Jackson Ultimate High Risk High Reward for Fantasy Football

Lamar Jackson
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Quarterback play has been exciting and rewarding for fantasy football this season. From the aging greats breaking records in the twilight of their careers to the new young guns scribbling their names in record books as well. It’s been a truly great season thus far for quarterback play. 

Among the 2018 rookie class of quarterbacks, none has more potential upside than Baltimore Ravens first-round pick, Lamar Jackson. He’s also the last of the first-round rookies to get the starting nod.

Lamar Jackson Ultimate High-Risk High-Reward for Fantasy Football

We’re all familiar with the old adage, save the best for last. While no one is suggesting that Lamar Jackson is the by-the-metrics best quarterback, talent wise, in this rookie class he does represent the highest potential upside for fantasy. It was also a common expectation that the Baltimore Ravens would take a similar approach as the Kansas City Chiefs did last season with Patrick Mahomes. Let him sit and learn from a grizzled veteran with plans to unleash him next season. Joe Flacco‘s recent health concerns have paved the way for Jackson to get his shot

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The Downside

In a word, passing. It’s exceedingly difficult to rave about a quarterback who doesn’t necessarily throw the football well. It’s a fundamental requirement inherent to the position. Understood. It was also understood by the Ravens when they traded up to get him with the last pick of the first round. They knew what they were getting in the former Louisville star. Jackson is a developmental passer that will make mistakes along the way but should grow with proper coaching.

In his two games as the starter, he’s attempted 44 passes, netting 328 yards, one touchdown, and three picks. While the stat line isn’t great, what is encouraging is that the pass attempts went up from his first game to his second. With it already being announced that he will start week 13 against a porous Atlanta Falcons defense, expect the attempts continue to rise.

The biggest fantasy downside to Jackson as a passer is not even related to his value, it’s the value of his pass-catchers. With Jackson under center, it’s difficult to trust John Brown, who relies on deeper targets for his fantasy production. The short to intermediate route runners may still get targets, but not nearly as many as with Flacco at the helm.

The Upside

Lamar Jackson is a gifted athlete capable of putting up solid RB2 type numbers with his legs alone. He’s not just a good, evasive scrambling style of running quarterback. He’s fully capable of taking a designed run play and gaining chunk yardage. In two games as the starter, he’s gouged out long runs of 21 and 39 yards respectively. He’s had 32 carries for 188 yards and one touchdown. In that same span, David Johnson has had 42 rushing attempts for 200 yards and zero touchdowns. It’s not apples to apples, but it serves to show the discernible talent Jackson presents as a runner.

Jackson also bolsters the fantasy value of the run game for the Ravens. Gus Edwards out-of-nowhere success is directly tied to Jackson and how defenses approach him. Edwards is a no-nonsense north/south runner that wants to operate between the tackles. When the opposing defense is scheming to keep a spy on Jackson, Edwards punishes them with up-the-gut runs for solid yardage.

However, Jackson has yet to translate into solid production for the pass-catching backs in Javorius Allen and Ty Montgomery. We may see their roles increase with dump-offs and screens as the Ravens coaching staff figures out how best to utilize the offense around Jacksons skill-set.

High-Risk High-Reward

At the time of writing, Jackson has already been named the starter for week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s another cupcake matchup, this time against the Atlanta Falcons that are allowing the third most fantasy points to the position. He will have another week of practice reps with the starters under his belt.

It’s no secret that Jackson is week-to-week as far as being the starter. However, after the Ravens winning two straight games with him under center, it’s worth hoping they maintain this approach.

No one is expecting a 300-yard, three-passing touchdown game from Jackson. While he works on refining his ability as a passer, he’s going to remain interception prone. But, he could easily throw for one touchdown and rush for two more.

Lamar Jackson should be owned and aggressively sought after in dynasty formats. He should be owned and targeted in any league format that starts two quarterbacks. And he should be a top streamer in single quarterback leagues for anyone who’s chasing the highest potential upside.

At this point, I think we’ve seen his floor, but nowhere near his ceiling.

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