Fantasy Football: The Trevor Lawrence pessimism has gone too far

At the end of the 2022 season, Trevor Lawrence was an ascending star on an ascending team. He’d directed an outrageous comeback win against the Chargers in the Wild Card round, passing for 288 yards and four TDs, then his Jaguars had given the eventual champion Chiefs a mild scare the following week.

By the end of the 2023 season, however, Lawrence was widely viewed as a disappointment — drifting toward the bust zone, if not quite there. The internet was full of generational-prospect jokes. Every good thing Lawrence achieved the year before had basically been negated.

Today, we're mostly out on Lawrence as a potential fantasy contributor — he's buried at QB20 in the early Yahoo ranks — and the world has moved on to hyping the Texans and Colts as ascending AFC South powers. Reputationally, Lawrence exists somewhere between an enigma and a flop.

But it’s probably worth mentioning the fact that Lawrence is still only 24 years old. He’s been a high-visibility athlete for so long that it feels like he must be 30, but no. Lawrence is actually three years younger than Joe Burrow and one year younger than Jordan Love. He’s only one year older than newly drafted Jayden Daniels. We’re talking about a quarterback with plenty of development ahead of him.

Also, let the record show that Lawrence is capable of completing throws that are absolutely disgusting and beyond the capabilities of many NFL starters:

It’s not as if the buzz that surrounded his arrival in the league was the result of collective delusion. Lawrence, in fact, possesses a few skills.

We certainly aren’t going to try to convince you that his 2023 season was secretly excellent, because that’s not really a defensible position. He threw 14 interceptions in his 16 games, which is entirely too many, and his adjusted yards per attempt slipped to 6.7 — tied with Justin Fields and only barely ahead of Gardner Minshew (6.5). Not great.

Lawrence did a few things well last season, however, finishing among the leaders in big-time throws according to PFF (35) and posting a passer rating of 114.9 on deep attempts. He threw 11 touchdown passes on attempts of 20-plus yards, which tied with Brock Purdy for the most in the NFL.

Still, we aren’t trying to overstate the impressiveness of a 21-TD, 14- INT season in which his team went 9-8 and fully collapsed in December. Lawrence was playing through injury late last year, it should be noted, but he wasn’t exactly lights-out before the high-ankle sprain.

If you're looking for one fact about his otherwise meh third season to give you real hope, it should be the scandalous number of near-misses and crushing drops in Jacksonville's passing game last year. Lawrence surely led the NFL in one-foot-inbounds collegiate touchdowns last year (not a real stat) and his receivers dropped 26 passes, one of the highest totals in the league.

Just look at all these coulda-been big plays:

In a game where the margin between success and catastrophe is so small, things can turn around quickly. Let’s be careful not to write off a player as young and conspicuously gifted as Lawrence at such an early stage in his career. He also happens to be a low-key dual-threat guy who’s rushed for nine scores over the past two seasons.

Calvin Ridley, last year’s leading Jags receiver, relocated via free agency, which is clearly a significant departure. But Lawrence will still have Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and new arrival Gabe Davis at his disposal, along with a 6-foot-4 first-round rookie with 4.33 speed:

Brian Thomas Jr. was a spectacular big-play receiver at LSU last year, averaging 17.3 yards per catch and reaching the end zone 17 times. His best traits align almost perfectly with the areas in which his new quarterback has excelled, too. It’s a pairing that should produce a fair number of highlights in the season ahead.

But if you’re out on Lawrence after a mostly unhelpful 2023 … well, fine. That stance probably isn’t going to burn you in a one-QB fantasy league of typical size and shape. As a general rule, however, we shouldn’t be assigning do-not-draft status to 24-year-old players with obvious talent and respectable track records.

Lawrence is just one year removed from a QB7 finish; he plainly has the ability (and the supporting cast) to reach that level again. He's an upside option at a rock-bottom draft price.

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