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Is Lamar Jackson a Pro Bowl QB?

| Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Lamar Jackson might be one of the most exciting QBs in the NFL. In just his second year, the young phenom won MVP, taking the league by storm with his rushing performance.

Now, Jackson is entering his fifth year in the league and is negotiating his next contract on his own. Currently, he is guaranteed to make 23 million this season, which is a very team-friendly deal.

However, today I would rather focus on something else about Lamar (though I plan to look at a possible contract for him later). Instead, I want to see if Jackson should have made the Pro Bowl. Initially, Jackson made the AFC Pro Bowl Team with Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes. Jackson would go on to be the only one of the three to opt to not play.

The first place many people end up going to is a QB’s record, which for Lamar is 7-5. However, a good mantra to follow in life is wins are not a QB stat. Just ask Bills QB Josh Allen after he played the Chiefs in the playoffs.

Instead of wins, you could look at Jacksons’ raw stats. Through his 12 games played, Lamar attempted 382 passes, completing 246 of them (64.4%) for 2,882 yards, 16 TDs and 13 interceptions. And while raw stats are a decently good indicator of the quality of a QBs performance, context matters. Jim McMahon had 15 TDs and 11 INTs, but the 1985 Bears are still considered one of the most feared Super Bowl teams.

When examining a QB, my favorite statistic is the adjusted passing metric from ProFootballReference. The stat looks at a few statistics for a QB and compares them to the performances of other QBs: A 100 is considered average, above a 100 is above average and below a 100 is below average.

For example, in 2019 (Lamar’s MVP season), Lamar had a TD%+ of 143, the best in the league. However, in 2021, Lamar had a drastically worse adjusted passing.

Jackson was below average in most of the various categories measured such as adjusted yards per attempt, adjusted net yards per attempt and completion percentage. In his INT%+, he was dramatically below average (75), and his sack%+ was equally bad (77). Although, he did perform above average in his yards per attempt index (108) and net yards per attempt index (102).

That results in an overall adjusted passing average of 93.2, meaning that Lamar had an overall below average performance this past season. That typically should not get you in the Pro Bowl.

If only there were a list of people who could have gone in place of Lamar. Oh wait, that list does exist. Since Lamar did not play in the Pro Bowl, the NFL made replacement selections to have three QBs per team. In place of Lamar, Josh Allen and Mac Jones were selected.

First, Allen had a much better season than Lamar from a raw stats perspective: he completed 63.3% of his passes for a total of 36 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and over 4,400 yards.

Mac had a less impressive season than Allen, but still a better season than Lamar. Mac had just over 3,800 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs. He had a higher completion percentage (67.6%), but also had a smaller completed air-yards per completion of 5.8 to Allen’s 6.5.

However, as I said earlier, context matters; looking at Allen’s and Macs’ adjusted passing average (APA), Allen had an average of 101 and Mac 101.556.

So while Mac and Allen were both ever so slightly above average, they still were dramatically better than Lamar’s 93.2.

And looking at my projection model (ZLO), Allen was the eighth best passer in the NFL, and Jones was the 15th. Lamar Jackson ranked 35. That stat is not working against Lamar for his lack of games; my model works on a per-game basis. If Lamar had played more games and played at roughly the same level, that would put him at a similar spot in the pure passer rankings.

However, one place that APA is lacking (as is my pure passing stat) and Lamar is certainly not lacking is rushing stats.

Despite playing only 12 games, Lamar rushed for 767 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. That figure is insane, ranking Lamar 35th in my rushing projections but second among QBs (only Jalen Hurts was higher, 26th).

Josh Allen ranked 43rd with 763 yards and six touchdowns but spread across 17 games.

Mac Jones ranks 347th with 129 rushing yards but no rushing touchdowns.

Are Lamar’s rushing stats enough to overcome his deficiency as a passer?

My answer: yes and no. That is not me coping out. I think that Lamar’s rushing ability makes him better than Mac Jones, who is a liability when not in the pocket. However, I think Josh Allen is a genuine threat outside of the pocket and that his rushing ability, while not the same as Lamar’s, is enough to cancel it out.

When combining my projection model’s pure passer and rushing stats, Lamar is overall a 154.77 (83.97 as a passer, 71.80 as a rusher).

Lamar is undoubtedly better than Mac who has a 137.73 passer, but a negative rushing value of -13.53 (124.20). However, Allen is incredibly more valuable: He is a 180.14 passer, and as a rusher, he is valued at 59.44 points (239.58).

And remember, my projections model takes the collective stats of players, converts them to the universal measurement metric and divides them by the total games played. ZLO is NOT punishing Lamar for a lack of games played.

The answer is clear; Lamar should not have made the Pro Bowl. Instead, Josh Allen should have taken his place.

This is not to say that Lamar Jackson is a poor QB by any means. On my show, ”The Touchdown Rundown,“ I have repeatedly said that Lamar can be a better QB when he has better weapons, and I stand by that. Mark Andrews is ZLO’s highest-graded tight end. Except for Andrews, the Ravens do not have a pass-catcher rated inside the top-40.

Should the Ravens bolster their interior offensive line and improve their wide receiver corps, Lamar would be able to make strides as a passer. In his career, when Lamar has 2.5+ seconds in the pocket, he has a passer rating of 106.6. When it is less than, it drops to a rating of 94.

That would be my draft advice to the Ravens. Take a lineman in the first round, and then try to acquire a wide receiver.

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About Thomas Zwiller

Thomas is a sophomore currently in attendance at Holy Cross College, studying Business and Theology He is from Saint Joseph MI, and went to high school at Saint Joe SB, playing both varsity football and hockey. Feel free to contact him about all things NFL and NBA.

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