Lamar Jackson is a household name in the college football community. The 2016 Heisman winner had two spectacular years at Louisville as a starter after a promising freshman year. He’s entered the 2018 NFL Draft like he entered college; an underdog who is overlooked by some of the bigger names at the position. As a High School senior Jackson was only a 3 star recruit in a class that included UCLA’s Josh Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold. Now those names, and more, have joined him in the 2018 Quarterback Class. Look at any big board and you’ll see Jackson solidly behind Rosen and Darnold, and usually, also cast behind Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. But Jackson is not nearly as raw and unfinished a QB that mainstream draft media will lead you to believe.
The Louisville QB has issues, like every QB in this class does, but Jackson’s are far more fixable than Allen’s in-game inconsistencies and Mayfield’s anticipation issues. The junior signal caller will need to fix his footwork, a common issue among college QB’s, to fully realize his accuracy and touch. Jackson will also need to improve his ball security, especially considering his scrambling style, to limit fumbles and sacks that he takes from holding the ball too long. These are issues that, with the right coaching staff, Jackson will be able to overcome in his development into a starting NFL QB and one that does things no one, not in this class and perhaps few in the history of the league, can do.
Jackson has mature eyes for the position, able to manipulate defenders to deliver passes as his receiver is entering the area the defender vacated. On this play against UNC in 2017, we see Lamar look left to draw the UNC defender that way before looking right and delivering a strike for a TD.
Despite his connotation as a scrambling QB, Jackson does an excellent job of reading through his progressions and being patient in the pocket, getting to his second, third or fourth reads before deciding to toss it downfield or take it off and use his legs to pick up yards.
Accuracy & Touch
Jackson has some footwork issues that prevent him from showing great accuracy on a consistent basis but when he’s on, he can make any and every throw on the field. In this play against Clemson in 2017, Jackson escapes the pocket, keeps his eyes locked downfield, and delivers a strike in the end-zone where only his receiver can grab it.
The two-time ACC offensive player of the year isn’t just accurate on the run, he’s also proven himself to be able to throw with anticipation and precision inside the pocket. In Jackson’s final college game, a bowl game against Mississippi State, he delivered a perfect pass to his receiver coming open against two defenders, throwing with the type of anticipation that QB’s like Baker Mayfield simply don’t have.
Even though his receiver doesn’t look open, Jackson can anticipate he will be open when he comes out of his break and with a big enough window, he puts it right in his receiver’s hands. Unfortunately, the touchdown is not completed because the WR ultimately drops the well-thrown ball.
On The Run
Arguably his most exciting trait, Jackson has the speed and quickness at the Quarterback position that, in the history of the NFL, has only been rivaled by Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham. He is going to immediately be a team’s first or second rushing threat and with a creative offensive coordinator who will run read-option, Jackson will be a nightmare for defenses. On this play against Mississippi State, Jackson showcases excellent rushing vision and instincts to rip off a huge gain.
Jackson, on a designed QB draw, escapes the pocket and starts to work downfield, angling to his left to allow his blockers to pick off defenders.
Jackson is headed on an outside run before seeing the lane that his WR has opened for him. He cuts hard up-field and has the speed and acceleration to run by the DB that is chasing him with a superior angle.
Once into the open field, Jackson weaves behind his WR to allow him to get his hands on Mississppi State’s #24. Jackson is tackled ultimately but not before picking up 75 yards.
Lamar Jackson does not have the polished footwork and accuracy of a Josh Rosen or the complete tool-set potential of a Josh Allen but he is by no means the fourth or fifth best QB in this class. With the exception of Rosen, all of these QBs have to work on their footwork, pocket presence, accuracy or a combination of the three. Even Sam Darnold, who most are touting as the best QB in the class, is by no means a finished product. I think Jackson’s level of polish, better than Allen, Darnold and Mayfield, and his one of a kind rushing ability makes him the second best QB in the class and ultimately, the most underrated of the group. Whoever gets to pick Lamar Jackson this year will be getting their next franchise QB.