Want the top fantasy football quarterback this year and thinking about drafting Lamar Jackson? He had a great season, but was it really THAT amazing?
Answer: Lamar Jackson’s 2019 season was very good. But… probably not the the outlier you think it was.
Lamar Jackson. Top fantasy football quarterback in 2019.
First, the highlights:
- Jackson scored at least one TD (passing or rushing) in every game. He had three games with five TDs, and ended the season with 43 in total.
- He acted like another running back for the Ravens, with stats that many RBs would envy. He had five games with more than 100 yds rushing, and he finished the year with over 1200 yds.
- He averaged 30* points per game. This was 25% higher than the next best player (Jameis Winston… let’s save that discussion for another time). That’s a boost of about 6 points a game – about what you’d see from an extra (pedestrian) tight end or a kicker.
Beyond the statistics, Jackson was electrifying to watch. He had 11 rushes of 20 yards or greater. His 47-yard rush for a touchdown against the (admittedly terrible) Bengals led many to question whether he was the fastest man in the NFL.
Owners were pleased, opponents were exasperated. No one had ever seen a performance like it! It was a once-in-a-lifetime fantasy bonanza!
Except, it wasn’t.
The Historical Trends
Fantasy seasons like Jackson’s have become increasingly common as offense-friendly rule changes reward aggressive playmaking and protect defenseless players. Granted. Jackson’s offensive fireworks have aesthetic appeal. But his 400+ point season is one among five in the past ten years (Brees and Rogers in 2011; Peyton Manning in 2013; Mahommes in 2018). The difference between Jackson and the next best (Winston, again, I can’t believe I’m saying this) isn’t unheard of either. Manning and Mahommes showed similar dominance over their runners-up (Brees and Rotheslberger, respectively).
Here’s a look at the distribution of QB performances since 2000 (for a lesson on boxplots, here’s a link).
But 2019 Jackson was Better than 2018 Mahomes!
Maybe. It depends on how you think of variability.
There was only a one point difference in their season total. Jackson didn’t score more than 40 points in any game – Mahomes did so twice. His two spectacular games were a 330 yd, 4 TD blockbuster in Week 2 and a 480 yard, 5 TD SUPERNOVA in Week 11.
Jackson fantasy owners, however, benefited in the final stretch. Jackson finished strong, with some of his best games, while Mahomes had some of his worst. He bottomed-out in critical week 15, the semi-finals for most playoffs. His performances in Weeks 14 and 16 were also uninspiring. Many teams that had dominated the regular season with Mahomes crashed in the play-offs, while Jackson owners cruised to victory.
Now, Back to My Hunch
In the early 2000s, you could expect to see at most three QBs with more than 300 points in a season, In 2018, there were ELEVEN. Yes, there are the obviously elite QBs like Rogers, Brees, and Brady consistently in the mix, but even more “pedestrian” Wilson, Cousins, Newton, and Prescott are consistently in the mix. Said another way, these QBs outscored the 2000-2009 giants like Farve, Vick, and Culpepper/Manning in all but their best years.
Given the way these lines are trending, I would not be surprised to see a player break the 450-point barrier this year and to have fifteen players above 300. We dig into who the next elite QBs will be in another article. The key point here is that, despite his performance, Jackson shouldn’t be at the top of your board.
*Points calculated on Weeks 1-16 only