Forward Thinking: Lamar Jackson

I’m not here to tell you anything revolutionary, or even influence your draft strategy for this upcoming season in any material way. Outside of formats with absurdist scoring, Lamar Jackson will be the number one pick across the board – and with good reason – he was far and away the most prolific producer in fantasy college football last season. Owning Jackson from day one of 2016 effectively guaranteed you a ticket to your league’s playoffs. However, as the season wore on, we saw Jackson’s fantasy output come back from the stratosphere.

Breakdown of scoring (.1 pts/rush yard, .04 pts/pass yard, 4 pts/passing TD, 6 pts/rushing TD):

First 9 games: 47.22 fantasy points per game

Last 4 games: 20.5 fantasy points per game

There’s a lot to unpack there, and arguments could probably be made to explain away this ‘arbitrary’ split of games, but I’m of the opinion that this stark differential in performance is directly affected by Jackson’s style of play – and that we should expect his season to follow a similar trajectory in 2017.

No one is going to argue that Jackson is discerning when it comes to protecting his body. In fact, maximizing the usage of his athleticism through designed runs and rollouts is a big part of Louisville’s gameplan. Jackson averaged 20 carries per game in 2016 – resulting in a staggering 260 totes over the course of the season. That’s a number that would be considerable for a running back, much less a quarterback whose body isn’t built to take such a pounding at a lanky 6’3” 200 pounds.

That workload undoubtedly had a real impact on Jackson’s health, and by association his performance, as the season dragged on – Even if he wasn’t listed on injury reports with a specific malady.

The reason that this is worth talking to, and being cognizant of, is that you can get out in front of what should be a similar arc to his 2017 season. My proposal is that if you are faced with the first pick in your 2017 draft, that you do use it on Lamar Jackson (much like you would have even if you had not read this article) but that you additionally add a calendar reminder to trade Jackson in advance of your league’s trade deadline.

With Louisville having high aspirations going into what most are concluding to be Jackson’s final collegiate season, you can expect that the teams will run their quarterback as often as they need to in order to not only win a game, but to do so decisively enough to impress voters and committeemen. In fact, the frequency with which Jackson carries the ball may be even greater this season, as he’s losing three of his top receiving threats in James Quick, Jamari Staples, and Cole Hikutini.

If this season goes as anticipated, the only real threat that stands in between Louisville marching into Tallahassee in week eight with a 7-0 record is a date with the national champs in week three. That week feels like the right time to trade Jackson, as he’ll encounter what is expected to be a tough Seminole defense, followed by a trip to Wake Forest, and a bye week.

Assuming Jackson performs in line with expectations, the trade market will be robust, and you’ll be able to effectively name your price, and border line ensure that you won’t come out regretting this deal – as the value that you will be able to extract from a trade partner should be substantial.

So mark your calendar, and enjoy Lamar Jackson’s dominance in the interim – but don’t be lulled asleep by those sweet, sweet performances of the season’s start – the nightmares that potentially wait later in the season can be avoided if you set an alarm to wake up.