I have a confession.
We have been discussing overarching themes to the 2019 fantasy football season and how that may affect the 2020 season. During this time, I’ve been beating around the bush. We all know the biggest story of 2019, and what the biggest question of 2020 will be: To Lamar, or not to Lamar? I’ve avoided the question for the past month. Why? Because, my answer is going to be on the very unpopular side of the aisle. Lamar Jackson is going to be worth a 1st round pick in 2020.
Lamar Jackson has broken out through week 14 to the tune of 1000 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 2500 passing yards, and 28 passing touchdowns. He is on pace for 410 fantasy points in 15 games (removing week 17). This would beat Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 and Peyton Manning’s 2013. In all of the other years comprising the past decade this would beat the highest scoring fantasy quarterback by 50-100 fantasy points. It has been an incredible year.
I can close my eyes and see the articles from January through August now: “This is unsustainable.” “The value is sucked out.” “He will undoubtably get hurt.”
I’m here to tell you as of today, and I don’t expect to be held to this (It’s 9 months away people!), that I will be willing to draft Jackson as a 1st round pick in 2020. Why? He is simply a different player than we have seen in the fantasy football world… ever.
There will be many comparisons to Cam Newton’s drop off from QB1 in 2015 to his lackluster 2016, but there are some major differences. Newton relied on touchdowns primarily for his rushing fantasy point output. He had 19 rushes inside of the 10-yard line on the season, and although Jackson has 14 already this year the major difference in the Newton-Jackson comparison is that Jackson is relying on rushing yardage. He will likely finish with approximately double the rushing yardage of Newton’s 2015 (at least 50 extra FP). There will be comparisons to Mike Vick, but in the only season Vick broke the 1000-yard rushing mark he had 6 rushing attempts inside of the 10-yard line. There is a rushing balance by Jackson that the other two common comparisons will not have. Jackson will also come off a 30+ passing touchdown season at higher than a 65% completion percentage. Vick never threw for more than 21 passing touchdowns. He had a career 56% completion rate. Newton has thrown for 30+ touchdowns once but has a career 59.6% completion rate. Jackson is significantly more efficient and is backed by a +1.4% over expected completion rate in 2019. My favorite component of Jackson is that the argument of defenses will adjust in the offseason doesn’t seem to apply. In his 2018 starts Jackson averaged 18.5 FPPG. He threw 22 passes per contest and ran 17 times per game. In his 2019 starts, Jackson is throwing 27 times per game, and running only 11. The defenses have already made an adjustment. It didn’t help. He is averaging 7 more fantasy points per game, because he has become a better passer and a more efficient runner. Jackson returns his entire offensive line, and all the primary skill position players in 2020. We can discuss this in more detail in the off-season because the concepts of value, opportunity cost, league context, and where Lamar is being drafted will all apply. However, I can envision a scenario in which you can draft at the turn in 2020 and start your drafts with Leonard Fournette/Lamar Jackson/Kenny Golladay/Devin Singletary. I’d be more than happy with that.
Here’s what I’ve dug up for week 15:
Los Angeles Rams Struggles Vs. Pressure (Source: SportsInfoSolutions)
Much has been written in the past two weeks about the Los Angeles Rams formation adjustments and subsequent victories in games against the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Apparently, they have fixed all of their problems. I don’t believe it. The Seahawks and the Cardinals are #13 and #32 respectively in defensive pressure rate. Against top 12 pressure rate defenses the Rams are 2-4. One of the wins occurred against the Saints with a mid-game Drew Brees exit. I’ll hold my belief that the Rams are fixed until after they beat the Cowboys (#2 in pressure rate) as road favorites. If you can’t tell by my tone, I don’t think that will be happening.
The Bears Season Ends Sunday (Source: SportsInfoSolutions and FootballOutsiders)
As a Bears fan it pains me to say, but the Chicago Bears simply do not match up well with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers greatest weakness is on the ground. They are dead last in defensive adjusted line yards. The Bears are bottom five in creating yards for David Montgomery offensively. This leaves the game in Mitchell Trubisky’s hands for the Bears, and while the Packers secondary is quite overrated, I’ll take the Packers advantage on the ground over Mitchell in Lambeau. The Bears are in the bottom half of the league against the run and the Packers are elite at creating running lanes. This is the advantage within the game and will allow the Packers offense to build to an explosive passing day for Aaron Rodgers.
Kenyan Drake’s Bounce Back (Source: SharpFootballStats)
The Cleveland Browns have quietly been one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run this season. It has only gotten worse since Myles Garrett attempted to murder Mason Rudolph. They have given up 100 rushing yards to the Steelers and 150 to Joe Mixon and the hapless Bengals. The Browns are #29 in explosive rush rate allowed, while the Cardinals are #3 in the league at producing explosive runs. Kenyan Drake is one of the most explosive backs in the NFL, and I expect him to finish the week as an RB1.