Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is coming off yet another year that saw him suffer a season-ending injury down the stretch. With a new offensive coordinator and an improved supporting cast, what is Jackson’s 2023 fantasy football projection?
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Lamar Jackson’s 2023 Fantasy Projection
Fantasy managers are a fickle group. Burn them once due to injury, and you can be labeled “injury-prone.” Twice? Excommunicated! That’s where we are with Jackson.
The 26-year-old quarterback is now four years removed from his overall QB1 MVP campaign. He’s three years removed from his last healthy season. In both 2021 and 2022, Jackson was injured in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively, costing him the remainder of the year. When fantasy managers needed Jackson the most, he was nowhere to be found.
Allow me to dissuade any notion that Jackson is injury-prone or that mobile quarterbacks are any more likely to get hurt. If Jackson were reckless, sure, that would be the case. But both of his injuries occurred in the pocket. They were just random occurrences — kind of like Christian McCaffrey’s 2020 and 2021 injury issues.
In 2021, Jackson was still producing well prior to getting hurt. He averaged 21.1 fantasy points per game. 2022 was a bit of a different story, though.
Although Jackson’s overall QB6 finish was still solid, he hardly resembled the elite QB1 we all thought we were getting for quite some time when he went down.
Jackson may have averaged 20.3 ppg, but it was extremely frontloaded. In Weeks 2 and 3, Jackson scored 42.6 and 40.4 fantasy points. So, in Weeks 2 and 3, he won your matchup by himself. For the rest of the weeks, he averaged 17.6 ppg (excluding Week 13, the game in which he got hurt). 17.6 ppg would have put him at QB14 on the season.
With that said, the spike weeks do matter. The fact remains that in four years as a starter, Jackson has never finished lower than QB8. He’s never averaged fewer than 20.3 ppg. We can also absolve Jackson of much of the blame for his disappointing season.
The Ravens’ offense under former offensive coordinator Greg Roman was very pedestrian. It was simple and uncreative. New OC Todd Monken will craft this offense not only to the strengths of Jackson but also to his supporting cast.
There’s also the matter of injuries to the Ravens’ bottom-of-the-barrel wide receiver corps. Entering the season, Baltimore deployed the likes of Devin Duvernay and Demarcus Robinson behind WR1 Rashod Bateman. When Bateman went down, Jackson didn’t have much of a chance.
At various points, the Ravens were also without Mark Andrews and Duvernay. They were deploying the worst group of pass catchers in the NFL. Jackson may be a wizard with his legs, but he can only do so much when his receivers pose no real threat.
This year, the Ravens made it a point to address their pass-catching situation. Andrews and Bateman will be back healthy and resume their roles as Jackson’s top two targets. Behind them, the Ravens are much stronger now than they have been at any point during Jackson’s tenure as the starter.
The Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr., who should serve as the WR2. Even at 30 years old, Beckham should still have enough gas left in the tank to be a reliable option. He’s certainly way better than what the Ravens had last year.
They also spent a first-round pick on Zay Flowers, who projects as a prototypical slot receiver. The Ravens don’t run a ton of 11 personnel, but when they do, Flowers will be the presumptive WR3.
The team also signed Nelson Agholor, who will be the WR4. Normally, I wouldn’t bother mentioning him, but Agholor provides this team with real injury insurance should one of the starters go down. After all, if he was on this team last year, he would’ve been the clear WR1 after Bateman went down.
I understand if you want to give the award to Michael Vick, but for my money, Jackson is the best rushing quarterback in NFL history. And he’s still in his prime.
Now that Jackson has gotten paid, there should be no more concerns over him potentially running less to protect himself (not that he would do that anyway). While the Ravens certainly need to be careful with their franchise quarterback, Jackson is so effective running the read option that I can’t imagine Monken not making it a staple of their offense.
At worst, Jackson will bolster his fantasy output with his rushing alone. It’s just so much easier for a quarterback like Jackson to reach his floor any given week due to his rushing prowess.
A game as basic as 150 passing yards and one touchdown — an abject disaster for a pocket passer — is already 16 fantasy points if Jackson rushes for 60 yards. And we already know Jackson possesses a ceiling as high as anyone.
Should You Draft Lamar Jackson This Year?
We are going to see a shift in fantasy football draft strategy this season, the likes of which we haven’t really seen since 2012. Elite quarterbacks are going to go, on average, earlier than they have at any point in the past decade. In most leagues, you won’t see Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Jalen Hurts make it out of the third round. In some, they may start to go in the second.
Having an elite quarterback is more important now than it has been in a long time, possibly ever. The year-to-year consistency of the top guys staying at the top, combined with their weekly upside, makes them worth the early picks.
For each of the past three seasons, Jackson would’ve been considered in that group. 2023 is the first time he’s going to be drafted a clear tier below them.
If I don’t take one of the big three quarterbacks, I am definitely looking at Jackson as a target in that next group of him, Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, and Justin Herbert. Out of all those guys, Jackson has the highest proven ceiling. And if not for phantom injury concerns, he would have the highest floor as well.
You can get Jackson as high as QB4, which, in light of Burrow’s calf strain, I currently have him at. With an ADP of QB5, No. 36 overall, given my shift in approach to place a higher priority on drafting a quarterback I know I can trust, Jackson is very much worth drafting this season.