Lamar Jackson’s college success was legendary but can the 2016 Heisman winner see his game translate to the NFL and be a first round pick in the NFL Draft?
For the last three years, there was no other player who generated more highlight-reel plays and demanded your attention on Saturdays than Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 2017 finalist had breathtaking touchdown runs and the ability to make the deep ball look effortless. He was a human cheat code and if the old EA Sports NCAA Football video game was still around, Jackson would have been the favorite player across gamers throughout the country.
After three years at Louisville, countless records and one Heisman Trophy, can Jackson see his skill-set translate to the NFL?
Below you can find my evaluation on Jackson and what NFL teams will love, what will give them pause and ultimately, where I think he’ll hear his name called in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville
Jackson had one of the best college careers a quarterback has ever had but his NFL future is very polarizing.
While some (Bill Polian) think he should convert to wide receiver, Jackson will have a future as a good starting quarterback if he can get a little stronger, improve his ball placement and overall accuracy.
The positives for Jackson are immense. He has rare speed and athletic ability for the position we haven’t seen since Michael Vick. He didn’t run his 40 at the combine or his pro day, so we don’t have the number but we have the game tape and the eye in the sky never lies.
For perspective, Jackson had more rushing yards than top running back prospect Saquon Barkley who is being touted as a generational back not seen since Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson. Further, Jackson’s ability to flick his wrist and launch the ball 70 yards in the air is eerily reminiscent of Vick’s throws at Virginia Tech and in the NFL.
Jackson has been criticized because of the system he played in at Louisville but that’s unfounded and incorrect. While some think Jackson played in a simple one-read system that let him tuck and run at will, that’s just not true. He was well-coached under Bobby Petrino and was able to master the principles of the Erhardt-Perkins offense. That’s what the New England Patriots use and no one is saying Tom Brady plays in a basic system.
I don’t think Jackson will have any problem picking up the offense of the NFL team that drafts him.
Sure, Jackson is far from a finished product, but he has the capacity to improve as a passer and I think he’ll be best served sitting behind a veteran for a year or two to begin his career. This will allow him to get a little stronger, add weight, refine his mechanics and overall game. Ideally, all of the top quarterbacks in the draft will have that luxury. I think Jackson, however, would struggle if thrown to the fire as a rookie.
He’s not the prospect Vick was but if he gets the chance to sit and learn and play for an imaginative coach, he has the potential to be a special player. I think he’s better than Vince Young who is the other quarterback most often compared to Jackson.
Ultimately, I think Jackson gets drafted at the end of the first round by a playoff team looking for a potential successor to their current starter. Could that be the Patriots or Saints?
Draft Projection: Late-first round