The Baltimore Ravens are planning on putting Lamar Jackson in at wide receiver, and that’s a disaster. It should be quarterback or bust for Jackson.
When a team uses its first-round pick on a quarterback, that player is instantly seen as the face, or future face of the franchise. This is true of Lamar Jackson, who the Baltimore Ravens traded up to get with the 32nd-overall pick of April’s NFL Draft.
Jackson is a raw talent, one that should be nurtured along in Charm City while Joe Flacco plays one more season in purple. This year for Jackson should be akin to what happened with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City last year, starting only a meaningless Week 17 game against the Denver Broncos.
While it appears that head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t plan to play Jackson over Flacco, it does sound as though he’s going to put him on the field … at multiple spots. Harbaugh told reporters on Tuesday that Jackson could see time alongside Flacco, presumably as either a running back or receiver in certain formations.
This makes no sense on multiple levels. While Jackson is certainly a tremendous athlete — he rushed for 50 touchdowns at Louisville — he should be treated as a prized possession. Using Jackson in spots where he’s subject to major hits is both short-sighted and dangerous, putting the rookie in a position to get hurt.
If one needs any example, look down the depth chart. Robert Griffin III burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 with the Washington Redskins, only to be run into the ground by head coach Mike Shanahan. While Griffin played quarterback exclusively, he ran the ball an absurd 120 times, many times in a designed option play. The result? Griffin tore his ACL, and has started exactly 12 games since the 2013 season. At 28, his career is ruined.
Getting Jackson on the field is enticing, but it’s the wrong play for a veteran coach who knows better. The short-term impact could very well be there. Unfortunately, so will the long-term one.