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Lamar Jackson: MVP in Reality and Fantasy?


The NFL MVP talk is generating a lot of buzz right now as two QBs, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson, are the clear frontrunners. The honor almost always goes to a signal-caller, and the fact that two dual-threat types are the top candidates shows how the position has clearly evolved.

Quarterback is still the most essential position in the NFL, as finding a stable franchise player at the position seems to be a very challenging and often-elusive pursuit for some teams. In standard fantasy football leagues, the quarterback is less emphasized, since only 10 or 12 teams need a quality starter out of the roughly 32 starting-caliber options. Of course, two QB leagues give us a better appreciation for what real NFL teams have to deal with when seeking a quality solution.

After 13 weeks, Jackson is the second-highest scoring player in fantasy football and tops at the QB position. We also have to consider that the rising Baltimore superstar could be both the real and fantasy MVP this season.

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The NFL MVP Race

Jackson is obviously the most dynamic player in the game right now, and we have truly never seen a dual-threat like him before. He conjures up visions of Michael Vick as a runner but already looks like he can ultimately be a smoother and better passer than Vick ever was. The Ravens are the best team in the league right now, and Jackson is clearly the biggest reason why.

He gets my vote over Wilson right now because Jackson has knocked off top-quality teams like the Patriots and Seahawks, edged out the 49ers, and destroyed the Texans and Rams. Wilson threw a decisive pick-six in the loss to Baltimore, his only glaring mistake in an otherwise impressive season, but it’s enough to help give Jackson the edge, in addition to the outstanding five victories mentioned. While he struggled at times as a passer against San Francisco, he was still a distinctive difference-maker as a runner and led the drive that set up the winning field goal.

Wilson has more proven success as a pro, so he could be the guy you would want to lean on more in the playoffs. Only a couple of years removed from being considered a complementary piece to Marshawn Lynch and a shutdown defense, Wilson has become a standout axis of a team that seems to get better as the season progresses. But savvy NFL fans realized his value to the franchise long before now. The year before Wilson was drafted (2011), the Seahawks had Lynch and the Legion of Boom secondary in place and won just seven games.

Though many might bet on Wilson to lead a deep postseason run based on his previous experience, the NFL MVP is a regular-season award. In that regard, no one has been quite as outstanding as Jackson. Here is how my personal NFL MVP voting card would look like right now:

  1. Lamar Jackson – The most unstoppable force in the game and has five impressive wins over top teams to his credit
  2. Russell Wilson – A better passer than Jackson and maybe the best overall QB in the NFL with outstanding leadership abilities.
  3. Dalvin Cook – Clearly was the missing element to Minnesota becoming a true contender.
  4. Michael Thomas – A WR is not going to win it, but he is the best player at his position and the biggest standout on one of the NFC's best teams
  5. Patrick MahomesNo way you cannot mention him, but he did miss a bit of time

You'll notice an absence of 49ers because no single player has jumped out, which is a testament to their terrific play as a team. Aaron Rodgers has not consistently played at a high level as in the past. The Bills deserve a lot of respect, but Josh Allen is just not playing at an MVP level.

As for Christian McCaffrey, I don’t endorse MVP candidates on non-playoff teams in any sport. Of course, he can easily win the Offensive Player of the Year award, which he truly deserves. But with or without McCaffrey, the Panthers are not going to make the playoffs in 2019.  Stephon Gilmore deserves a mention as the best player on a defense that has been the reason for most of New England's success. Aaron Rodgers has not played at a high level all year, and the loss to San Francisco was definitely a significant minus.

 

The Fantasy MVP Race

When deciding the real-life MVP, it's important to consider where a team would be without that player and how essential he is to that team being one of the best in the league. In fantasy football, though, the parameters are different. Draft value becomes a huge factor.

If based only on a player's overall performance, McCaffrey would easily be the frontrunner for fantasy football MVP honors. He plays at what is considered the most top-heavy position in fantasy football and has outproduced his competition with ease.

McCaffrey was the second player drafted overall in the Fantasy Football Players Championship (FFPC) and third in most other platforms. Jackson was taken 90th overall in the FFPC and as low as 115th elsewhere. On draft day, he was considered a high-end fantasy QB2 (at best) by many owners.

Quarterback is certainly deeper for fantasy purposes than running back, making it tougher to vault a QB ahead of an RB in this conversation. But when you consider Jackson is a top-10 rusher in the NFL, he deserves the top spot over McCaffrey. You are getting top tier RB numbers at the QB position on top of his passing totals.

My Fantasy Football MVP Card looks like this:

  1. Lamar Jackson – A QB/RB hybrid who is the most unique fantasy player at any position.
  2. Christian McCaffrey – Will be the crux of many championship squads. The Fantasy MVP should include playoff considerations.
  3. Dalvin Cook – Some passed on him because of injury concerns and have spent every day since regretting it.
  4. Michael Thomas – Completely matchup-proof and a weekly superstar.
  5. Derrick Henry - Outplaying several RBs drafted ahead of him in his best year ever.

Others I considered for votes include Chris GodwinAustin Ekeler and John Brown. If Austin Hooper had stayed healthy he would have been fourth.

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