Lamar Jackson has been the best player in college football for the last two years, but most of the major media NFL Draft analysts like Mel Kiper (ESPN), Todd McShay (ESPN), Matt Miller (Bleacher Report) and Walter Football have him ranked behind many other quarterbacks in the draft. Some of them are even suggesting he change to wide receiver. This is completely absurd.
Lamar Jackson is not just an athletic freak who has some ability at the quarterback position. He is one of the most polished quarterbacks in this class and in my opinion is THE most polished quarterback in this class.
Josh Rosen is the only quarterback that lives up to his hype. Rosen is fantastic and shows quality in every trait except for mobility most of the time. Rosen’s issue is that he isn’t very mobile and consequently takes a lot of brutal hits, and has a few moments each game that are completely uncharacteristic and quite frankly terrible. These moments are quite odd given how good Rosen usually is and they hurt him and his team, often resulting in interceptions. These are usually lapses in mental comprehension of the game.
Sam Darnold is just not anything close to what the big analysts tell you he is. He lacks pocket composure, is not mentally ready even for the college level, and is not close to mechanically sound. He also has a huge fumble issue. Darnold absolutely has a lot of potential, but needs a lot of work to be a solid NFL quarterback.
Josh Allen is only a highly touted prospect based on his potential because he is not anywhere close to NFL ready. He has great size, good mobility, and a great arm, but he is not ready for the NFL in his mental game, accuracy, pocket presence, or mechanics. He can be quite good, but has a long way to go.
Baker Mayfield is quite polished, but has size and mobility concerns. Mayfield also has very limited upside.
The only one of these quarterbacks even on the same level as Lamar Jackson is as a passer right now is Rosen. I believe Jackson is better right now because he is less turnover prone than Rosen and the interceptions that he does throw are much easier to fix than Rosen’s.
Jackson plays in the Bobby Petrino offense, which is highly complex and requires the quarterback to make progressions on a high level. Jackson has zero concerns in the mental facet of his game. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner’s only issue is mechanical. His upper body mechanics are usually quite good and Jackson has a great quick release. His footwork causes most of his inaccuracy and this inaccuracy is the cause of most of his interceptions. Jackson has made clear progress on his footwork not only since last season, but throughout this season. Jackson’s improvement in this area as well as other areas leaves me without concerns over whether he can fix his footwork. Jackson is completely ready for the NFL from a mental standpoint and has some mechanical concerns that should be easily fixed. Jackson also has incredibly polished pocket presence, avoiding would-be tacklers with ease and extending plays while keeping his eyes downfield.
Jackson’s potential is obviously through the roof. Louisville announced over twitter that Lamar Jackson ran a 4.34 second 40 yard dash in the team’s 2017 spring testing. You read that right, a 4.34 second 40……for a quarterback. Even if Jackson runs in the 4.4’s, his speed is without a doubt ridiculous. Jackson is also an incredibly intelligent runner in the open field. He uses his off-the-charts agility to avoid taking big hits both in the pocket and running the football. He also avoids tackles with ease in the open field, making him one of the most dangerous runners in the open field in the nation. This intelligence, speed, and agility make his running ability translatable in the NFL. Jackson’s arm strength is also insane. He can throw the ball 60 yards down the field with ease without even a run-up. Jackson also has great intangibles. He has shown a great ability to improve his game, gets complements from all of his team representatives and teammates, and is very humble in his press conferences.
Jackson’s biggest risk is his size, but even that is overblown as Jackson has been the healthiest of all of the quarterback prospects mentioned in this article at his size. Especially given the context that Jackson has taken more hits because of his running game than any of the other quarterbacks, this concern should not be a major one.
Given all of this information, Jackson is a low risk prospect with a high floor as a quarterback because of his polish. It is no exaggeration to say that Jackson has the upside to be the best player in NFL history with his absurd physical gifts and great work ethic.
My fellow SFE writer Harun Muhammed had this to say about Jackson: “While Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are continuously heaped with praise from the media, league scouts, and executives, the true quarterback prospect that should be highly regarded is none other than supposed NFL wide receiver Lamar Jackson. While Darnold and Allen have notoriously put the ball in risky situations, Jackson’s brings the same (although to a greater extent) electrifying playmaking ability at the quarterback position, without the tendency of putting the ball in harm’s way. The decision making and awareness coupled with that arm talent, mental processing, and his unprecedented athleticism, Lamar Jackson should be in serious contention for the top selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.”
Don’t buy into the false narratives surrounding the Louisville star.
My favorite landing spots for Jackson
The New York Jets
The Jet’s offensive coordinator was nothing short of brilliant while managing the offense with Josh McCown at quarterback. This gives me confidence that he can scheme to give Jackson the ability to show off his talents as a runner and truly become the offensive nuclear weapon that he can be. The Jets also have a young defense and solid receivers with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse.
The Cleveland Browns
This spot is purely a favorite of mine because of the prospect of Lamar Jackson and Saquon Barkley in the backfield behind a talented offensive line with David Njoku, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman as receiving threats. This is also under the assumption that the Browns fire Hue Jackson before the beginning of the 2019 season at the latest.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a highly talented team on offense with Leonard Fournette at running back, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on the outside, and Cam Robinson at left tackle. The Jaguars were also a playoff team this year with a historically good defense. The addition of Jackson could make the Jaguars instant Superbowl contenders if they already aren’t.
Lamar Jackson is an incredible prospect that has not gotten his due respect by the media. This is yet another example of why not to trust the big draft media for prospect evaluations. See where MJ put Jackson in his latest mock draft here.