Lamar Jackson – Quarterback
School: University of Louisville
Weight: 211 pounds
Lamar Jackson NFL Draft Profile
Perhaps the most electrifying college football player in over a decade, Lamar Jackson dazzled in his three seasons at Louisville. His amazing sophomore season earned him the Heisman Trophy after he completed 2016 with 3,543 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He also added 1,571 yards on the ground and 21 touchdowns.
His 2017 campaign saw him actually increase his numbers, yardage-wise anyway. 3,660 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 1,601 rushing yards 18 touchdowns.
There have been questions swirling about his ability to play the quarterback position at the next level. Many believe that he should move to wide receiver as that would better fit his skill set. But what does the film say? Let’s take a look.
There is no denying Jackson’s athletic ability. His eye-popping stats alone would lead one to this conclusion, but watching what he does on the field is truly a marvel. He has the keen ability to make defenders miss, whether it be in the open field or in the pocket.
At the collegiate level, he could do it through the air or on the ground. Against North Carolina in 2017, Jackson threw for three touchdowns while adding three touchdowns on the ground as well. He is a true game-changer or “magic-man” as many announcers called him.
At 6’3″, 211 pounds, Jackson has a big frame that moves with excellent elusiveness and prowess. Countless occasions throughout his career at Louisville, opposing defenses knew exactly what the Cardinals were going to run, and yet they could not stop Jackson. This athleticism will certainly translate over to the NFL, but at what degree?
Jackson’s arm strength is noted as he can make all of the throws, keyword, can. Accuracy is a whole other element that we will touch on later. He has tremendous power in his throws but also has the ability to give a quick “flick of the wrist” and deliver the ball 40+ yards. A lot of scouts and broadcasters attribute this likeness to that of Michael Vick. I see a much better comparison to that of Vince Young.
Both players have a slow and longer wind up but put a lot of power behind their throws and can release it very quickly, with pure arm strength. Vick had more “Zip” in throws while Jackson has more power. Getting the ball in the vicinity of his receivers at any level, under any kind of pressure, will not be an issue.
There is an art in a quarterback’s ability to extend plays and create something out of nothing. John Elway made a career out of doing this. Russell Wilson dazzles fans and stupifies defenders as he escapes non-escapable situations and completes inspiring throws. Carson Wentz is the newest member of the NFL quarterback room to leave spectators saying, “WOW.”
Lamar Jackson is the epitome of this quality. He can extend just about any play and make some amazing highlight reels. Countless times throughout his career he was able to escape a sure sack and turn it into either a first down or touchdown.
Eagerness To Run
In college, Jackson was amazing at creating plays with his legs, whether that be in a designed run or after the pocket collapsed. The problem is the number of times Jackson ran the ball, which is what scares NFL scouts and executives. When you are making such a large investment in one player, running the ball as much as Jackson did, and taking the kind of punishment that he received is going to be highly frowned upon at the next level.
Let’s put this into a little bit of perspective, shall we? Deshaun Watson, who was drafted out of the ACC last year and had some question marks about his transition into the NFL, rushed the rock 165 times in his final season at Clemson.
Vince Young, the player comp that makes the most sense to me, ran the ball 155 times in his final season at Texas.
Michael Vick, who the national media loves to compare Jackson too, only ran the ball 104 times in his last year at Virginia Tech.
Larmar Jackson ran the ball an astonishing 232 times last year at Louisville, 17.9 per game. To make this sink in, even more, Saquon Barkley, who is considered by many as the top running back prospect in the last decade, finished last season at Penn State with 217 rushes, 15 less than Jackson.
Unless offensive coordinators are willing to overhaul their playbooks, Jackson’s rushing totals, something that made him who he was in college, will have to drop significantly if he is going to make it through the grueling NFL season.
While Jackson’s arm strength is a major positive, his inaccuracy is a major downside. In 2017, he finished with a 59.1 completion percentage, which was the highest of his college career, so there was a positive improvement. The biggest issue is that his accuracy plummets against tougher competition and is inflated against weaker teams.
Last year against Clemson, Florida State, and Mississippi State, Jackson had a combined completion percentage of 51.3%. Against Kent State, Murray State, and Kentucky, he had a combined completion percentage of 74.1%. The competition is only going to get tougher in the NFL, and the throwing lanes and windows will only get tighter.
The biggest worry that I have is a lot of the throws that Jackson missed are simple slant/crossing routes and corner routes. These are throws that have to be made at the NFL level.
Progression Of Receiving Options
To put it bluntly, it was very rare to see Jackson make any progressions, whatsoever. Once the ball was snapped (always out of the shotgun), he had his receiver locked in and either threw it to him or tucked the ball and ran. Going through progressions is one of the most difficult things for a quarterback to do at any level, especially if said quarterback has amazing athletic ability and can gain yardage with his legs. If the ability/willingness to go through progressions isn’t there at the college level, it’s hard to believe that it will magically happen in the NFL. See Paxton Lynch.
Lamar Jackson is an incredibly gifted athlete that has some definite question marks as a quarterback at the NFL level. His playmaking ability and arm strength will translate over, but his willingness to run as soon as any type of pressure hits the pocket, the issues with accuracy, and lack of progression are all red flags that scouts and execs will be mulling over when their number is called and he is still available.
I do think that Jackson can play quarterback in the NFL if that is what he truly wants, and from what everything he has said that is his plan, but whatever team takes a chance on him will need to be willing to adapt their playbook to fit his skillset.
He is not a prototypical pocket passer, but that does not mean that he cannot command the offense and make some amazing plays. NFL playbooks have begun to adopt more and more college plays, and whoever takes Jackson will undoubtedly need to continue this trend, twofold.
NFL Player Comparison
Teams With Need At Quarterback
Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints