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PFF predicts Lamar Jackson will increase passing yardage by 27%, yet throw fewer touchdowns in 17-game season

An interesting theory by PFF

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

PFF recently projected Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to air it out more in 2021. They even hint at a second MVP-caliber season from the signal caller.

But in their projections, they place Jackson’s total touchdowns at 29, which would be his lowest since becoming the starter in 2019. In the projection, they put Jackson’s passing touchdown total at 21, with eight rushing

It is rather strange to project Jackson to throw for 1,000 more yards than last season, yet five fewer touchdowns. Especially when considering the Ravens overhaul of the wide receiver unit with two rookies and veteran Sammy Watkins, and this season having 17 games.

While I consider this suspect, I’ve tried to consider why PFF drops Jackson’s touchdown total. First, by checking their projections for running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Maybe they figure Dobbins and Edwards will get an abundance of redzone carries to nullify Jackson’s touchdowns?

Nope. Not even close. Dobbins is projected for 8.5 rushing touchdowns with Edwards behind him at 4.4. Justice Hill places third, at 1.2.

This implies PFF believes that with an extra game in 2021, the Ravens will drop from 51 offensive touchdowns in 2020 to 43 in 2021. Once again, this comes in spite of the numerous offensive additions, from the offensive line additions and returning from injury, to free agency and the draft.

I can’t imagine the Ravens somehow get Jackson to air it out for nearly 3,800 yards but he plummets in touchdown pass percentage. Jackson’s ability to either throw to open players or throw players open is what led to him leading the league in passing touchdowns in 2019 (36).

It would be a mighty large regression for Jackson in touchdown pass percentage. In 2019, Jackson’s percentage of touchdowns thrown when attempting to pass was a league-leading 9.0%. In 2020, it regressed a bit, down to 6.9%. If Jackson were to manage 3,790 passing yards, it can’t come without an increase in attempts, and a fair amount of them. Somehow, PFF believes Jackson’s attempts will be up, his yards will increase by 27%, yet he throws five fewer touchdowns?

In sum, the math doesn’t add up. If Jackson throws more, it’s unlikely only his passing yardage total increases. Jackson’s been a touchdown throwing machine the past two years and a sudden significant regression after adding multiple weapons and a 17th game sounds outlandish.