I grew up in Dallas in the 1980s, and during the time south of Nolan Ryan’s arrival, the Texas Rangers were usually just north of horrid. One of our most noteworthy players back then was Pete Incaviglia. After playing with an independent club in 1985, he signed with the Rangers, and having never played a minor league game, he debuted in The Show in ’86. Incaviglia hit 30 home runs as a rookie, but his .320 OBA and league-leading 185 strikeouts were downright awful. In fact, over 12 seasons and seven stops, Incaviglia hit a respectable 206 HRs but also had 1,277 strikeouts on his way to becoming a mere footnote in baseball history.
Playing at that same time, Wade Boggs began his Hall of Fame track with Boston in 1982. A career .328 hitter, Boggs was a five-time batting champion, a six-time leader in on-base percentage, a two-time Golden Glover, and twice led the majors in walks. Meanwhile, over an 18-year career that prompted ESPN to name him the 56th-greatest MLB player in history, he averaged a paltry 6.56 home runs per season.
Now, you tell me. Rangers’ fan notwithstanding, which player meant more to an eight-year-old boy who took pride in winning arm wrestling matches against kids in the neighborhood three years older, who had seen Rocky III enough to quote every Clubber Lang line with full inflection, and who had pencils with wrestlers on them? It was a no-brainer to me because, at the end of the day, who cares how many times you can get to Ball-Four when you can do this?
Homers are more fun and can run the slider on a team’s destiny from apparent defeat to miraculous victory in one flick. And whether it’s buying the winning lottery ticket, scoring a knockout while you are out on your feet, or dropping a few thousand bucks on Apple stock circa 1980, when a certain decision is made — a single firing of a particular synapse at a specific moment in time and everything changes? That’s the good stuff.
Fantasy football is no different. You can take your opponents down with death by a thousand paper cuts; in many ways, you probably should. But in 2022, when you were the only one with a fourth-round valuation on Josh Jacobs, and your pencil had to fend off mockery on its way to the page to cross his name off your draft list, guess what? You knocked it out of the park. When you were staring at the list of available QBs in Round 15 on September 1, 2018, and you said the name Patrick Mahomes (don’t think about the fact that you said it aloud like a question)? You cleared the bases. That same summer, when you took the upside on Christian McCaffrey in the second-round? You Kirk Gibsoned that thing, my friend.
When we’re playing fantasy football, almost nothing is more fun than getting that player who can win us the whole game on one fortuitous selection — one guy who can go all John Wick on the entire league. Do you want a shot at clobbering everyone with one swing of the bat in 2023? You’ll want to pick up these guys before they’re going, going, gone.
By now, Lamar Jackson’s epic 2019 is growing smaller in our rearview, and we forget how incredibly high his upside can be. Over the past two seasons, he has experienced unfortunate injuries. We should avoid speculating about his future injury history and instead take the opportunity to invest in a top producer with a vast ceiling.
During Greg Roman’s tenure as Baltimore’s OC, the Ravens ran the second-fewest passing plays, and they were the third slowest to the line, owning the most run-centric run/pass splits in the NFL during that span.
As OC in Tampa Bay from 2016 to 2018, new OC Todd Monken’s teams snapped the ball much faster, and his pass rates remained high throughout his tenure there as well as his subsequent one year layover in Cleveland. Fresh off of back-to-back National Championships at Georgia, Monken returns to the NFL seemingly commissioned with updating Baltimore’s passing game, a case supported by the Ravens’ lofty investments in passing game weapons Odell Beckham, Jr. and Zay Flowers.
Jackson’s passing efficiency was higher in his epic 2019 than any other season of his career. However, this was also a case of opportunity and performance converging perfectly as Jackson ranked fifth in Expected Points (paEP) and first in Fantasy Points Over Expectation (paFPOE). In addition to incredible rate stats across the board, Jackson dropped back to pass a career-high 463 times in 2019, setting career highs in attempts, yards, and passing TDs.
One concern immediately is this: If Jackson throws more passes, isn’t he running less? In short, no. At least that wasn’t the case in 2019, where Jackson also posted career highs in rush attempts and rushing yards. One argument in favor of Jackson dropping back more often is that he averages more Yards Per Carry (YPC) on scrambles, exemplified best in that same 2019 season when he averaged 11.0 YPC on scrambles alone as opposed to 5.7 YPC on planned rushing attempts or RPOs. His scrambles comprised a whopping 429 of his 1,206 rushing yards on those 39 carries alone. Said another way, he manufactured around 36% of his total rushing output on scrambles, which represented just 22% of his ground attempts. We love Lamar to run, but we love Lamar to run on broken-down passing plays even more.
His career totals in these same statistics bear out a similar pattern.