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Even as the number has plummeted, the UNDER for Lamar Jackson's rushing prop is still the right play

You know the offseason is hitting a quiet patch when we’re already talking about player stat props. Last month, we learned that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson opened with a 999.5-yard rushing yardage prop.  

My initial response to this number was “UNDER” — and I was not alone.  Caesars later dropped its number down to 949.5, and then 935.5 (-110 to the over and under). This number is a lot more interesting to me. Our fantasy projections currently have the third-year quarterback out of Louisville projected at 969.2 yards. This number would be the highest mark on the Ravens, ahead of veteran Mark Ingram’s 827.0 yards, rookie J.K. Dobbins’ 414.4 yards and Justice Hill‘s 311.8.  

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The real rub when it comes to projecting quarterback rushing stats is that QBs have two kinds of carries: scrambles (which are really passing plays) and designed runs (which are relatively infrequent for teams other than the Ravens and the Panthers the last few years). During last year’s regular season, Jackson turned 491 dropbacks (including plays with a penalty) into 42 scrambles. Forty-one of those dropbacks counted, for a total of 430 yards, while another 24 of his dropbacks were sacks (23 counted).

When the Ravens were ahead in games, he was able to generate the majority of his scramble yards (314 to 116), while sacks taken were basically even (10 when tied or behind, 13 when ahead). The majority of his scrambles (28 to 13) occurred when the Ravens were ahead, and he was more efficient on plays when ahead (11.2 yards per scramble when ahead versus 8.9 yards per scramble when tied or behind).

This means 139 of his carries (134 that counted) were on designed runs. He gained 776 yards on them, with 358 yards after contact. Seventy-six of those designed runs came when the Ravens were leading, but he averaged more yards per designed rush (7.1 versus 4.8) when tied or behind than when ahead on the scoreboard.  

Lamar Jackson Rushing Yards 2019
Designed QB Runs: 776 yards (5.8 per carry)
Scrambles: 430 yards (10.5 per carry)
Lamar Jackson on Scrambles
When leading: 314 yards (11.2 yards per carry)
When tied or trailing: 116 yards (8.9 yards per carry)

So what do we glean from this data? First, it probably starts with our hypothesis of how the 2020 season will go for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.  A 14-2 record is tough to repeat, and while they were very much that good fundamentally (unlike Green Bay) — outscoring their opponents by more than two touchdowns per game — regression is likely in order. Their schedule includes an improved AFC North, games against Houston, Kansas City and Tennessee out of the AFC playoffs, as well as Dallas and Philadelphia out of the top of the NFC East. 

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