Offenses led by mobile quarterbacks aren’t nearly as beneficial to skill position fantasy output as many drafters assume. Simply put, the rushing production of a mobile quarterback comes at the expense of other players in the offense.
Therein lies the problem for multiple parts of the Baltimore Ravens’ offense: No team has been more run-heavy (50% run rate) since Lamar Jackson took over the starting job in 2019.
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Jackson's exceptional rushing prowess is no reason to entirely fade the Baltimore offense, but it's important to be price-sensitive to this group of skill players outside the quarterback position.
2021 TEAM PREVIEW
As the engine of the Baltimore offense, Jackson is one of the few elite quarterbacks whose fantasy ceiling is well worth a Round 5 ADP. The duel-threat talent averaged 27.5 fantasy points per game (second) and ranked third in big-time throw rate (8.6%) and eighth in PFF passing grade (82.4) after returning from the COVID-19 list in Weeks 13-17.
He also went full-on operation ground and pound, averaging seven carries and a whopping 86 rushing yards per game.
The late-season hot streak was a return to form for the 2019 NFL MVP after an “underwhelming” start to the season when he ranked as the QB9 — a far cry from his draft day ADP as the QB1 or QB2.
Drafters should prepare for a superb start in 2021 as well, considering Jackson has averaged over 30 points per game in Week 1 over the past two seasons. He’s primed to continue his streak of high-end fantasy production with the Las Vegas Raiders welcoming him to the Black Hole on Monday Night Football.
After Week 1, Jackson gets matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. The Chiefs have given Jackson issues in the past, limiting him to a modest 18.8 fantasy points per game, but a high-scoring environment will unlock the potential for heavy pass volume.
No team allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Lions’ D in 2020. Jackson might be leading the MVP discussion three weeks into the 2021 season. He's set up for immediate success operating behind PFF’s 12th-ranked offensive line with the return of starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
Jackson is being routinely selected as the QB3 behind Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. He is emerging as a great value target with a chance to set career-highs this season in several passing categories. There will be growth in the Ravens’ aerial attack based on everything the team has said and done this offseason.
Baltimore is an analytically driven organization that understands the value of the pass over the run. They've added a plethora of receiving targets, including first-rounder Rashod Bateman, fourth-rounder Tylan Wallace and veteran Sammy Watkins. Adding a receiver in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is notable — teams that invest such coveted draft capital at the position tend to pass more.
Last season among teams that drafted a first-round wide receiver, only the Philadelphia Eagles failed to increase their passing attempts. And that’s because they were already passing at one of the highest rates in the NFL. They also switched to a rushing quarterback as their starter during the last month of the year.
The Ravens are going to throw more in 2021, presuming their wide receivers eventually get healthy, and there might be no better indicator of the offensive philosophy change than the team’s run/pass ratio in the first preseason game. On first and second down, Baltimore passed at a 57% clip (11th). Last season, that mark was 47% (31st). It’s a small sample size but a positive sign for those investing in Baltimore pass-catchers in season-long leagues.
The systematic change from run to pass benefits nobody more than the team’s pseudo-No. 1 receiver, tight end Mark Andrews.
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