NFL Betting: Don’t Expect Another Historic Rushing Season From Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson took the football world by storm last season, winning MVP after shattering just about every single-season NFL rushing record for a quarterback. Jackson is the most exciting and dangerous quarterback of the past decade, competing with only Michael Vick and Cam Newton for the best rushing seasons of all-time by a quarterback.
The Baltimore Ravens' franchise weapon has his 2020 prop total set at 919.5 rushing yards (-112) on FanDuel Sportsbook, a significant drop from his record-breaking 1,206 yards last season. He became only the second quarterback in NFL history, behind Vick, to record 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. Baltimore broke the league record with 3,296 rushing yards, and Jackson was the focal point and leading rusher for the team.
The Ravens have the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL this season (by 2019 win-loss numbers), which is the best news possible for Baltimore coming off a franchise-record 14-2 regular season.
Can Jackson become the only quarterback to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and hit the over on his prop? Or will his passing game be more of a focal point this season?
A Record-Breaking Campaign
Jackson's ability was evident as a rookie in 2018, but once he opened the 2019 NFL season, he set the tone right away. Jackson threw for five touchdowns in Week 1, then rushed for 120 yards in Week 2 with two passing scores. He became unstoppable week in and week out, as he recorded nine games of 60 rushing yards or more and five games of 100-plus yards on the ground.
The former Heisman winner broke the NFL record for a quarterback with 176 carries, and he was explosive in more than half. Jackson rushed for 10 or more yards on 47 carries last season and hit a speed of 15 MPH on over 52.8% of those runs. The next closest rusher to that was Dalvin Cook with 20 fewer, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Jackson excelled at gaining yardage before contact with his speed and elusiveness. He averaged 4.9 yards before contact and recorded 867 total yards before contact out of his 1,206, per Pro Football Reference.
Jackson also finished second in the league among signal-callers with seven rushing scores, trailing only Josh Allen's nine. Maybe the most impressive part of Jackson's record-breaking season wasn't just his 43 total touchdowns (36 pass, 7 rush), but it was him running that much and staying healthy as he sat out just one game, Week 17, and that was because the Ravens had already lockup up the top seed.
I wrote about Jackson's passing yards prop in April and picked him to hit over 3,199.5 passing yards (-112), and his rushing prop appears to be even juicier -- but don't let looks fool you.
Jackson's Rushing Odds
Assuming Jackson plays 16 games this season, he'd have to record 57.5 rushing yards per game to hit the over. That sounds easy considering how he played last season, but 920 rushing yards would be the fifth-highest of all-time for a quarterback. In both his two seasons, he's recorded the most rushing attempts of all-time for a quarterback -- 147 and 167 -- so it isn't a lock to expect that many carries for a third consecutive season.
Only Cam Newton and Vick had made the top-10 single-season all-time rushing yards list multiple times, with Vick doing so three times (2002, 2004, 2006) and Newton twice (2012, 2017).
Not shown on the chart below, Jackson's rookie season (2018) of 147 carries broke the then-NFL quarterback record for rushing attempts, passing the Bears' Bobby Douglas' 1972 record of 141 carries, before Jackson re-broke the record in 2019.
|Player||Year||Team||Rushing Yds||Rushing Att|
|Robert Griffin III||2012||Redskins||815||120|
Quarterbacks have collectively exceeded 920 yards just four times, and it's already clear that Jackson is an extraordinary outlier. But chatter out of Ravens camp this offseason has been about cutting down his rushing volume.
It makes perfect sense. You have to conserve the franchise quarterback's body long-term. After posting the two highest ever single-season rushing attempts for a quarterback in his first two years, it may be time to for the Ravens to ease up on the called quarterback runs.
In fact, even entering last year, Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, said Jackson would run less in 2019. "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised that Lamar is not going to be running 20 times a game," Bisciotti said. Sure enough, despite Jackson's historic season on the ground last season, he did in fact drop his rushing attempts on a per-start basis from 17.0 in 2018 (seven starts) to 11.7 last season.
And Jackson himself has already made comments about reducing his rushing usage in the 2020 season. "I doubt if I'm going to be carrying the ball a lot going on in the future," Jackson said. "We've got dynamic running backs. We're going to have even more receivers. We've got Hollywood (Marquise Brown), Mark Andrews, Nick (Boyle), Willie Snead, Miles (Boykin). We're going to be pretty good. I don't think I'll be running a lot."
It's the smart long-term move for the Ravens, and he's correct when he says they have some dynamic running backs. Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins will be a terrific one-two punch, taking the pressure off Jackson's running game a season after Baltimore broke the league's single-season rushing record. We could see a lot more read-pass options setting up the play-action and passing game in 2020 from the Ravens.
numberFire's model projects Jackson to record 170.63 rushing attempts, 859.8 rushing yards, and 7.37 rushing touchdowns in his third season. That would be 5.03 yards per carry and 10.6 carries per game, which would be a drop-off from 2019 -- not to mention hitting the under. And that's not a surprising projection given that any projection model will treat an outlier like Jackson conservatively.
While defenses will undoubtedly try to find different ways to stop Jackson, the Ravens' rushing attack was so deadly in 2019 that it's hard to pick against Jackson rushing below 57.5 yards per game. But it's the right choice given how much the Ravens have talked about limiting called quarterback runs.
Baltimore has the talent, offensive line, supporting cast, and strength of schedule to continue the same type of rushing success in 2020, and they can do it without featuring as much Jackson. And he knows it.
Lock in the under on his 919.5 (-112) rushing yards prop, and enjoy watching the new direction this Ravens offense is headed.