Fantasy football 2022: Is Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence a viable quarterback this season?

If you’re pondering drafting Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence onto your fantasy football roster, you’re probably in desperation mode. I get that completely.

Many managers probably felt the same way when they drafted Joe Burrow leading up to the 2021 season. And no, I’m not saying Lawrence will guide the Jaguars to the Super Bowl like Burrow pulled off in his second season with the Bengals.

What I am saying is that Lawrence could be primed for a sharp increase in production in Year 2 considering the additional pieces and the rough circumstances surrounding him during this rookie campaign.

Despite their struggles last season, the Jaguars ranked 18th in rushing DVOA (defense adjusted value over average, via TruMedia) and early-down rushing success rate (37.9 percent of their early-down runs were successful, based on down and distance). Not great, but not especially dire.

Making matters worse was the fact Jacksonville’s defense was rotten as well, ranking 31st in DVOA. Sixteen of Lawrence’s 17 interceptions occurred while the Jaguars trailed.

When tied or ahead, Lawrence threw 10-plus yards downfield (air yards) on 24.8 percent of his attempts — last among 31 qualified quarterbacks. When trailing by at least a touchdown, 35.4 percent of his attempts were 10-plus air yards — the ninth-highest rate among 31 qualified passers. This could be an indicator that he was being riskier when the situation necessitated it, thus the picks.

“That was my first time really dealing with checking in and out of things, getting us in the right play — good matchup, route, whatever it was,” Lawrence said in June. “Last year it was tough to think about all of those things, to have all those options, to figure out what was best.

“Now that I’ve had that experience… it helps a lot. I have a few things. You can’t do everything, so you have a checklist in your mind: ‘These are some things I want to get to. If we get the right look, get to them. If not, do the best with what you’ve got and do the next-best thing.’ That’s something I’ve been trying to work on, and I think it has helped a lot.”

Lawrence performed relatively well in avoiding sacks as a rookie. Opponents pressured him on 33.1 percent of dropbacks, slightly above the league average of 32.4 percent. But he finished with the NFL’s ninth-lowest sack rate (5.0 percent, which led all rookies).

The bigger issue last season was the team’s receiving corps. Lawrence had 37 of his passes dropped, behind only Justin Herbert of the Chargers. It’s probably part of the reason Jacksonville spent big bucks on its new wideouts.

New Jags receiver Christian Kirk ranked 23rd in yards per route run from the slot (1.78) last season. Maybe not impressive enough to merit his big contract, but still an upgrade over Lawrence’s top slot options last year. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault ranked 53rd and 54th in yards per route run from the slot (1.3 for both). Zay Jones, another new Jags receiver, ranked 35th in yards per route run from the slot: 1.6 on 113 such routes.

Plus, Kirk led the Cardinals with 77 receptions for 982 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. That would have led Jacksonville last season in all three categories. There’s no doubt the Jaguars have provided Lawrence more to work with in his second season.

Lawrence also adds value as a runner. His rushing success rate of 51.5 percent — which excludes scrambles — ranked seventh among 13 quarterbacks with at least 50 carries last season. In the red zone specifically, I have ranked fourth among the same 13 passers in rushing success rate (70 percent). Seven of his 12 red zone carries went for first downs, and another two were touchdowns.

Sure, you’re staring at his 12 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions, a 59.6 percent completion percentage and a 71.9 passer rating since last season. But a late-round flier on Lawrence as a backup quarterback might pay off more than you expect.

The Athletic‘s Aaron Reiss contributed to this story.

(Photo: Matt Pendleton/USA Today)

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