Lamar Jackson was great in 2019. Period.
His extensive list of accomplishments—the first player to throw 30 touchdowns and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, the first player to rush for 1,000-plus yards and pass for 3,000-plus yards in a single season, the first player with four touchdown passes and at least 50 yards rushing in consecutive games, etc.—was capped off by the second-ever unanimous NFL MVP award.
Baltimore’s rushing attack was boosted with Mark Ingram II and his 1,018 yards, but Jackson topped him with a history-making 1,206. It was the most rushing yards by any quarterback and led the league with 6.9 yards per carry; Jackson also had seven rushing touchdowns.
There was almost nothing Jackson couldn’t do as he helped engineer one of the most potent offenses in 2019. The Ravens’ campaign ended with a divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans where Jackson had one of his more balanced performances (365 passing yards and 143 rushing yards).
What can Jackson accomplish on the ground in 2020? MyBookie.ag has his total rushing yards prop set at 919.5 (over -120; under -120).
The Ravens bolstered their rushing attack by adding 2020 second-round pick J.K. Dobbins after already leading the NFL with 206 rushing yards per game last season. Jackson’s production will likely decrease if Dobbins can translate his talent to the NFL.
Dobbins is an almost perfect fit in Baltimore’s RPO-heavy scheme, which is where a bulk of his college carries (57%) came from. He excels running out of shotgun and pistol formations; Dobbins rushed for the second-most yards (1,755) out of the shotgun in 2019, according to Sports Info Solutions' tracking data, so we can assume Jackson’s 11.7 rushes per game will diminish.
Jackson doesn’t even think he’ll be running as much in 2020, and this was before Dobbins’ addition.
“I doubt that I am going to be carrying the ball a lot going further into the future, because we have dynamic running backs and even more receivers,” Jackson said leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. “We are going to be pretty good, and I don’t think I’ll be running a lot.”
If we’re going off this assumption, Jackson’s yards per carry will obviously be less. If both numbers decrease by a quarter to 5.2 yards per carry and 8.8 carries per game, a full season will put him just over 730 yards—a number closer to his 2018 campaign (695) where he played the full season but only logged seven starts.
While we’re looking at Jackson the rusher—although it’s hard to ignore his passing numbers with 3,127 yards and a league-best 36 touchdowns on 265 completions—it’s fun to note that his yards on the ground ranked sixth among all running backs. Jackson’s 1,206 rushing yards bested stars like Leonard Fournette (1,152), Dalvin Cook (1,135), Aaron Jones (1,084), and Saquon Barkley (1,003). The only other quarterback to come close to Jackson was the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, who totaled 544 rushing yards in his rookie season.
Jackson’s success isn’t incumbent on his total rushing yards. For years he’s had to hear that he won’t be considered an elite quarterback if he can’t pass, and he’s done more than prove what most sound-minded people already knew. The dual-threat he brings has helped shape a new era of quarterbacks. While unpopular for fantasy football fans and oddsmakers, trying to put Jackson in a box or hold him to any number considering his recent success is doing him a disservice.
However, forced to go one way or the other, I’m not betting against Jackson going over 919.5 rushing yards (-120) or in general. Historically, it can happen; Michael Vick, the only other quarterback to have a 1,000-plus rushing season, also rushed for more than 900 yards in a season. He totaled 902 in 2004, two seasons before becoming the first quarterback to break the 1,000-yard barrier. Vick never topped 700 yards after 2006 but he did lead the NFL in yards per attempt (6.8) in 2010. This was well into Vick’s career; Jackson has yet to start and play an entire 16-game season.
So what can Jackson accomplish on the ground in 2020? Anything he damn well chooses and we should be tuned in every week to see what magic he can conjure.
- May 25, 2022
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