Is Jackson a fantasy asset?

After his 2019 performance, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson could be called an extraterrestrial. Jackson rushed for an incredible 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns and passed for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was the highest scoring fantasy player in the league.

But if you’re reading this column, you probably already know that. The question you’re asking is whether Jackson, last year’s NFL MVP, is worth a first-round pick in your fantasy draft in a few months? Dr. Roto (don’t know his real name) with Sports Illustrated say the answer is yes.

At this point, Jackson’s ADP is 18. When you prepare to draft a seasonal fantasy team, whether it’s football, or baseball, it’s important to know the average draft position. ADP is nothing more than just an aggregated mark that lets us know where a player is being drafted on the average.

Jackson, a second-year player in 2019, went undrafted in some leagues before he compiled 421.7 PPR points. In my home league, he was drafted by my brother-in-law, who also drafted Patrick Mahomes. Jack later traded Jackson to my son, Nathan, who then rode the QB to the finals.

Does this mean you should draft Jackson in the first or second round of your fantasy draft? No. I doubt Jackson will gives you a good return on your investment if you pay with a second-round pick for him. There are three reasons – regression risk, opportunity cost and replacement cost.

The textbook definition of regression is a measure of the relation between the mean value of one variable and corresponding values of other variables. I like analyst Todd Zola’s definition from a fantasy statistical perspective. Todd says regression occurs on elements out of a player’s control.

Jackson set a record for QB rushing yards in 2019. He’s not likely to repeat that because defenses will make adjustments. Mahomes was the Jackson of 2018, scoring 417 fantasy points. The key regression stat for Mahomes was 50 touchdown passes. In 2019, he had half that many.

Now, let’s talk about opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as a benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. Since every resource can be put to alternative uses (e.g. time), every action, choice, or decision has an opportunity cost.

In a fantasy draft, if you select Jackson in the second round, you will be passing up some other players that could be more valuable. Derick Henry was 13th in total fantasy points last year, and Aaron Jones was 15th best. Both of these players will be available in the second round in 2020.

This lead me to the third reason why I wouldn’t draft Jackson in the 2nd round (or any early round) of the draft – replacement cost. Look at the top fantasy players in 2019, based on points.  Sixteen of the top 20 were quarterbacks. In fantasy football, prolific quarterbacks are plentiful.

What if I drafted one of the four top 20 fantasy players from 2019 that weren’t quarterbacks and lost him before the first game was played? There certainly wouldn’t be anyone on the waiver wire that would replace that player in terms of value, so the alternative would be to make a trade.

Something similar to this happened to me in 2017 and 2018 when I lost my first-round picks. In 2018, I lost David Johnson in the first quarter of the first game. In 2018, I drafted Le’Veon Bell with the first pick, and he refused to report to training camp and then sat out for the season.

When I lost Johnson in 2017, I didn’t trade for another running back but opted to play the hand that was dealt. I hit the waiver wire and had the good fortune to pick up a rookie named Alvin Kamara in the fourth week of the season. To make a long story short, I won the championship.

In 2018, I went a different direction and it cost me dearly. On the Wednesday before week one, I made the decision to pick up James Conner, Bell’s backup. He was available on the waiver wire, and I added him. I only wish I could go back in time and stop there. If only I had known.

What I didn’t know was that Bell’s handcuff was going to play like an elite running back until he was injured later in the season. As it turned out, much of Bell’s success in Pittsburgh was a result of the system and a great offensive line. But I didn’t know that, so I decided to make a trade.

The trader on the other end of the deal was my own flesh and blood. Nathan, who knows me pretty well, probably sensed that my emotions had gotten the best of me after Bell failed to report to camp. He knew his father, the defending league champion, was on tilt. So, he fleeced me.

Nathan told me he would trade his RB1 for Bell. But he I owned a rapidly depreciating asset, and he wasn’t going to pay top dollar. Nathan offered me Christian McCaffrey and two middle-round draft picks for Bell, but I had to throw in Conner and Devante Adams, my second-round pick.

In retrospect, I can justify trading Bell and Conner for McCaffrey. The 2018 season was the year, McCaffrey broke out. And unlike most breakout players, he didn’t regress in 2019. He got better. In an ironic twist, a two weeks of subpar games, I foolishly traded McCaffrey for David Johnson.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from this sad story, but I digress. Let’s go back to the main reason why I wouldn’t draft Jackson in the early rounds of the draft. The replacement cost is low. I can pick up a quarterback off the waiver wire that might finish in the top 20 fantasy scorers.

There is a rule that the fantasy pros never take their quarterback early. In fact, if you follow their drafts, it resembles end up a game of chicken, with 10 or 12 people waiting to the last possible minute to draft their QB. I agree with this approach, and you would be well-advised to adopt it.


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