Lamar Jackson Fantasy: Is He Worth Drafting This Season?

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Getty Lamar Jackson makes his NFL debut in the Hall of Fame Game.

Can you believe some people wanted Lamar Jackson to change positions in the NFL?

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson was one of, if not the most polarizing name in this year’s draft class. The Ravens took Jackson with the final pick of the first round, and he’s been working at quarterback and nowhere else.

Jackson was drafted out of Louisville, where he was one of the best producers in college football history. He finished his college career with 119 total touchdowns, 50 of them coming via rushing. His completion percentage improved in each of his three years as Louisville starter.

But none of that matters anymore. Jackson is in the NFL now, where players with his similar skill set have had short-lived careers filled with highlights. One of them, Robert Griffin III, is competing with Jackson on the Ravens’ depth chart.

Unlike some of the other quarterbacks selected in this year’s draft, Jackson is with an organization that, for now at least, already has a franchise quarterback. Joe Flacco is on the end of a massive contract, and is getting ready for his 11th season as Baltimore’s starter. In March of 2016, the Ravens gave Flacco a three-year extension worth over $66 million. As Bleacher Report’s Doug Farrar notes, Flacco has been one of the league’s worst quarterbacks since that extension.

It’s a conundrum for the Ravens, and slightly less-so for fantasy owners. The writing is on the wall for Flacco, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s out as the starter.

So the question remains: what do we do with Jackson?

The situation is not unlike how the Texans handled DeShaun Watson last season. Watson was the highly-touted rookie, but head coach Bill O’Brien insisted that Tom Savage was the team’s starter entering the season. It’s not an exact comparison because Tom Savage wasn’t exactly the incumbent, but it helps to look at from a fantasy perspective.

Basically, with Watson out of the picture, it was hard to project where he would go in drafts. In your average 10 or 12 team league, it’s safe to assume that Jackson won’t be drafted. Unless there’s an injury to Flacco in the preseason, there’s no point wasting a roster spot on a quarterback that won’t start right away. Just prepare for the waiver bid of your life if he ever gets his shot.

In deeper leagues, or leagues that require two starting quarterbacks, the situation becomes a lot more messy. In my division in the Scott Fish Bowl, a 12-team Superflex league that includes various writers and fantasy analysts, Jackson went in the 10th round. It was a similar situation in the other leagues in my division, with Jackson going no lower than 12.10. On average, Jackson was around QB29 in those drafts.

If he does get on the field, his ceiling is as high as any quarterback prospect ever. There’s no hyperbole there. Jackson has an arm, can read coverage, and can make gamebreaking plays with his legs. If he’s on the field, he instantly becomes one of the top 15 quarterbacks on rushing numbers alone.

In a league with more than 12 teams, look for Jackson once every team has drafted a quarterback. In leagues that require multiple quarterbacks, be sure to stash Jackson somewhere in the middle rounds.

Verdict: Potential to win your league, but don’t risk unnecessary draft capital.