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No Longer Just an Understudy, Lamar Jackson is Locked in as a Fantasy Football Starter

A changing of the guard in Baltimore has Lamar Jackson locked in as a fantasy starter.

Joe Flacco, who has missed Baltimore’s last four games with a hip injury, will be active in Week 15. When he does suit up, he will do so as a backup for the first time in his career. Lamar Jackson will remain the Ravens’ starter, signaling an official changing of the guard with the team right on the doorstep of the playoffs. What's more, it guarantees Jackson's fantasy value for the rest of the season.

Jackson has started the last four games, during which the Ravens have gone 3-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Chiefs in overtime last week. He has thrown for 600 yards, 6.74 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and three picks, but has supported that by being one of the most dangerous runners at the quarterback position we’ve seen in years. In his four starts, Jackson has 336 rushing yards and two scores on the ground, running for at least 71 yards in every game. He’s the first quarterback to rush for at least 70 yards in four straight games in NFL history. Add it all up, and Jackson has put up 19.65 points per game in standard-scoring leagues as a starter. That average would have him ranked 12th in points per game over the full season, just ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson.

Jackson has already proved his efficacy to produce wins as a fantasy starter over the last month, even if he’s done most of it with his legs. Yet it is worth noting that he has been better as a passer in his last two games, during which he hasn’t thrown an interception and has posted his first multi-touchdown game through the air. Still, it’s what he does on the ground that takes him from the ranks of streamer to a regular fantasy starter, and that’s where he sits heading into Week 15, the playoff semifinals in most fantasy leagues.

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Fantasy owners will want Jackson in their lineups in Week 15 when he and the Ravens host the Buccaneers. Mitchell Trubisky ran for 53 yards on three attempts against the Buccaneers back in Week 4, and likely would’ve done more with his legs had the Bears not wrapped that game up by halftime. Cam Newton picked up 66 yards on 17 carries in his two games with the Buccaneers this season, and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, especially for Newton, he and Jackson are different brands of runners at this stage of their respective careers.

According to Pro Football Focus, a whopping 418 of Jackson’s 469 rushing yards this season have come on designed runs. By contrast, Josh Allen has 490 rushing yards on the year, but just 89 of them have come on designed runs. Jackson has picked up those 418 yards on 88 designed runs, which comes out to 4.75 yards per carry. Isolating for just his four starts, he has 281 yards on 61 designed runs, good for averages of 15.25 carries and 70.25 yards per game, and 4.61 yards. The Ravens are building their offensive scheme around Jackson’s strengths, and he’s making the most of the opportunities. So is the team, evidenced by its 3-1 record with Jackson at the helm.

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Jackson and the Ravens will get a much tougher test in Week 16 when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers, a defense with the team speed necessary to have a chance of counteracting a quarterback like the rookie out of Louisville. That’s a fantasy bridge we’ll cross when we get to it, though. For this week, Jackson is a slam-dunk starter.