NFL Betting: Will Lamar Jackson Take a Step Forward as a Passer?
Last season, Lamar Jackson gave us one of the greatest dual-threat seasons by a quarterback ever, and in return he was rewarded with league MVP honors. Months removed from a 13-2 regular season and 43 total touchdowns, Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens return in 2020 as the runner-up behind the AFC-favorite Kansas City Chiefs.
FanDuel Sportsbook sets Jackson's odds for 3,199.5 passing yards at -112 and 26.5 touchdown tosses also at -112 odds. That would be a slight drop off from Jackson's 2020 season, so the question is, will one of the league's brightest stars regress after winning MVP?
How Does He Do It?
Jackson finished 2019 ranked 40th overall among quarterbacks with 26.6 passing attempts per game. Some of the quarterbacks that finished ahead of Jackson were: Mitchell Trubisky (34.4), Drew Lock (31), Josh Allen (28.8), and Mason Rudolph (28.3). Considering his output last year, it's simply amazing that Jackson threw fewer passes per game than every other starter and even a few backups and spot starters.
On the season, there were 26 quarterbacks that threw 400 pass attempts, and Jackson was the 26th with 401. He's one of the greats at avoiding sacks, as you can imagine, finishing T-26th in the league with 27 sacks taken. You can see in the chart below where Jackson finished his 2019 campaign among quarterbacks, and you''ll notice how efficient he was with the ball, finishing top-10 in categories ranging from accuracy to true completion percentage, per Player Profiler. Jackson, on the surface, has the numbers of an elite signal-caller despite the limited attempts.
|True Passer Rating||Accuracy Rating||True Completion %||Passing TDs||QBR||Sacks||Rush Attempts|
|112.5 (2nd)||7.4 (6th)||70.9% (12th)||36 (1st)||113.3 (3rd)||27 (T-26th)||176 (1st)|
It's not easy to contain or force Jackson into making throws to beat you, but as he showed last season, he can and will beat you with his arm.
In 2019, Jackson took the AFC North by storm, and a lot of the success from these numbers you see formulated from competition versus division opponents, specifically the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Jackson abused the Bengals in two games, recording 5 total touchdowns (3 pass, 2 rush) and 676 total yards (459 pass, 217 rush). Against the Cleveland Browns it wasn't much different, with 6 passing touchdowns for 485 yards and 169 yards on the ground.
Jackson is a natural playmaker and has proved that in his first 24 career games (19-5) including playoffs, and all that is left for him to improve is his arm. Specifically, his completion percentage with pressure.
In 2020, teams are going to be more prepared for "Action" Jackson's rushing antics, forcing him and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to likely call more passing plays. The Ravens finished last among all teams in called pass plays per game (29.3), and Jackson had a night and day difference between pressured throws and clean pocket tosses. His pressure completion percentage ranks just 19th, compared to 8th with a clean pocket, per Player Profiler.
The good news is while longtime Ravens legend Marshal Yanda retired, the offensive line returns four of five starters. Baltimore's offensive line was ranked the third-best protection rate, per Player Profiler, and they were the second-best graded line according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Baltimore could target an offensive lineman at No. 28 in this month's NFL Draft to replace Yanda or use it on another talented wide receiver to pair with last year's No. 25 overall pick, Marquise Brown.
Coming into year two as Jackson's No. 1 receiver, "Hollywood" Brown was one of the few breakout receivers of last year's rookie class despite missing two games. Along with Brown, Mark Ingram and Mark Andrews will be Jackson's primary assets in year three under center. In two full seasons, he's 19-3 as a starter with 54 total touchdowns in his 22 regular season games. Winning has come often with Jackson's style of play and explosiveness, but we've yet to see the passing ability to carry Jackson years down the road once defenses figure him out. Could this be the year?
The Ravens face six teams in 2020 that ranked 16th or worse in passing yards allowed per game and seven teams that ranked in the bottom-16 in touchdown passes allowed. Jackson would have to average a very manageable 200 passing yards and 1.68 passing touchdowns per game to surpass 3,199.5 passing yards and 26.5 passing touchdowns set by FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Ravens have the league's easiest strength of schedule (0.438) this year after finishing 14-2 with the league's T-12th easiest strength of schedule (0.496) in 2019. Jackson recorded six games with under 200 passing yards in 2019, and four of those opponents were ranked in the top four for passing yards allowed per game in the league. He had nine multi-touchdown passing games, compared to three games without a touchdown toss.
Our JJ Zachariason's projections have Jackson recording 3,205 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes on 427 attempts, putting him right around his totals on FanDuel. His model also predicts Jackson to record consecutive seasons of 1,000 rushing yards, becoming the first quarterback to do so.
I have to back the reigning MVP to exceed 200 passing yards and 1.68 passing touchdowns per game over a 16-game season, hitting both overs. He played 15 last season and surpassed these marks, and 2020 should be no different for the league's most exciting player.