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Scouting the 2018 NFL Draft- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

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Heisman Trophy Presentation - Press Conference Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Today we’ll take a look at yet another quarterback prospect receiving opinions ranging all over the map: Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. There has been a lot of buzz that, at the moment, Jackson isn’t even in consideration in the first round. Yet, his productivity and electric potential rivals that of any other quarterback prospect. Are the scouts undervaluing him?

Personal/Physical

Born: January 7, 1997 (age 21 on draft day)

Hometown: Pompano Beach, FL

Height: 6’3

Weight: 212

Career Stats

2015: 135-247 (55%), 1840 yards (7.4 Y/A), 12 TD, 8 INT, 126.8 NCAA rating, 960 rush yards (includes sack yardage), 11 rush TD

2016: 230-409 (56%), 3543 yards (8.7 Y/A), 30 TD, 9 INT, 148.8 rating, 1571 rush yards, 21 rush TD

2017: 254-430 (59%), 3660 yards (8.5 Y/A), 27 TD, 10 INT, 146.6 rating, 1601 rush yards, 18 rush TD

I watched the following games from Jackson’s 2017 season: Florida State, Purdue, Clemson, Mississippi State

Positives:

  • Tremendous production, positive progression over career as a passer backed up by statistical improvement
  • Superb athlete; fast, quick, tremendous feet and change of direction
  • Carries the ball in the open field like an elite running back, possessing excellent vision, anticipation, and a wide array of moves to create
  • Might not be ideal for a QB, but always leads with the shoulder looking to churn out every extra yard, and has the strength to pull out many of them
  • Smart with the option play, usually makes the right decisions
  • Can throw with tremendous power when he sets himself
  • Has a very good deep ball, can throw some absolute money down the sideline when he sets in the pocket
  • Reliable screen accuracy
  • Good accuracy and power on intermediate throws when the read is simple
  • Would like to have seen him balance throwing/running when outside the pocket, but absolutely can make the money throw outside the pocket
  • Crafty in the red zone
  • Durable, tough

Negatives:

  • Destroyed by the pressure, becomes panicked and inaccurate with sloppy footwork
  • Despite elite athleticism didn’t get away from pressure at a very good level
  • Needs to take fewer sacks and recognize when to throw the ball away
  • Perhaps biggest issue; footwork needs a lot of work. Tends to hold feet far too close together
  • Footwork holds him back from consistent production at any level of the field, very hot and cold with his accuracy
  • Needs to get better with his all-around pocket game
  • Works exclusively under shotgun
  • Was not asked to read progressions much
  • Didn’t look past first read very often
  • Very high rate of snaps were option runs
  • Not much intermediate range passing production
  • Doesn’t have much going towards the sideline
  • Has deep ball potential but didn’t produce much downfield

Game Notes:

  • Played a good game against Florida State. Not a very productive passing day, missed quite a few throws, but had a dominant running performance and was money on more than a few deep bombs that were dropped.
  • Against Purdue, did well to take what the defense gave him. They played to take away his run game and deep ball, so he took the underneath game all day, then created when he needed to. This game showed that he is capable of using the middle of the field.
  • Struggled against a strong Clemson team despite 3 TDs. Had a poor pick and a few other near-picks and was inaccurate other than screen passes and given underneath throws. Also his worst rushing output; 2nd fewest yards and fewest Y/A with no touchdowns.
  • Not a productive passing game against Mississippi State. Threw four picks, forcing some throws and inaccurate on others. With this game in addition to Clemson, in his two games against top ten yardage defenses, he completed 47% of his passes for 6.7 yards an attempt with 5 TDs to 5 INTs.

Film

I’ll start off by showing you Lamar Jackson at his best: carrying the ball in the open field. Even once he enters the NFL, there might not even be many non-QBs who can move it like he can.

Though his running game is clearly far ahead of his passing game, there are some things Jackson can do well throwing the football. Though he didn’t take many shots and needs to clean up his footwork to get more consistent, he is capable of dropping some dimes deep.

Notice his feet on these three bucket drops down the sideline (which all came in the same game, a mark of his hot and cold throwing). That’s his primary issue, but in this game, on these plays, he had it going on. He doesn’t rush these, gives himself a solid base and throws with the right amount of touch. These are glimpses into his potential.

This next throw is a display of arm talent to me. Check out his feet: they don’t look all that great. His back foot isn’t planted, his front foot isn’t facing the target. But yet, he drops this one right in the hands of the receiver. That tells me that he has the pure ability to make these throws, and with better footwork he can do it far more consistently.

Let’s move on to the areas where Jackson struggled that have some scouts and draft analysts scoffing at his first round potential. As you saw a glimpse of in the last play, his footwork needs a lot of fine-tuning. He has the arm strength to make any throw, and displayed potential all over the field, but game-to-game was not consistent due to his feet.

Here is a combination of the feet issue and another I noticed he struggled with: pressure. On this play he airmails an open receiver under pressure. On the closer view, you can see his happy feet in the pocket, and his overly tight base.

Jackson misses on a wide open short out route here. Why?

Look where his front foot his pointing when he throws. It’s destined to be too far outside.

A major part of being a productive pocket passer is handling pressure. Jackson didn’t demonstrate this ability. He did show that he can throw accurately on quick reads from a clean pocket, but the longer he stood in there and the more crowded it became, the less effective he was. Here is one example.

Jackson can make plays outside of the pocket but needs to better understand when he can get there and when a play is dead. Throw this one away.

Jackson didn’t often have to sit back very long and read the field. Here, he does a poor job and is fooled by a great defense. He’s looking for this receiver the entire time and yet doesn’t recognize the zone coverage waiting for him at all. It looks like he assumed this was man coverage, which is why he didn’t account for the defender who made the pick, but he’s looking that way the whole time and needs to see that.

Let’s finish with some good. You’d like to see him utilize his athleticism to get outside and throw more often, but when he does do it he can work some magic.

I think this play really demonstrates Jackson’s progression as a passer and showcases that he does have the ability to make the strides he must to become a great quarterback. Many of the flaws I listed, he puts to rest on this play. He goes through his reads in the middle of the field, then fires a very accurate bullet between two defenders, while under pressure. Reads? Check. Working the middle of the field? Check. Pocket presence? Check. Accuracy? Check.

Other GGN Views:

Matt (GangGreenMag): Footwork is a problem for Jackson, but is Jackson’s footwork worse than Darnold’s? Lamar puts his body on the line constantly yet has still proven to be more durable than Rosen. Every QB has their flaws that need to be ironed out. Lamar has shown the ability to improve as a passer, and will always be an athletic freak. The sky is the limit for this young man, and in the right situation, could be a star.”

Draft Grade: Mid First Round

I see an undeniable ceiling in Jackson. He put up monster production numbers in the tough ACC. His athleticism is unlike that of anybody we’ve ever seen play quarterback. He has proven to have a vastly underrated trait for any athlete, and especially a QB - durability. And though he has a lot of work to do as a passer, he is not just an athlete playing quarterback. He showcased a lot of arm talent and progression that with some time can be harnessed into a dynamic two-way threat.

However, his rawness as a passer makes him a risky gamble. He doesn’t have much experience under center or reading a defense. He has footwork issues that could make him one of the least accurate passers in the league upon entry. There are a lot of things he needs to work on to become an NFL-caliber passer. All of these issues make him one of the least day-one ready prospects among the top five or so. Worst case scenario, if the quarterback thing doesn’t pan out, I don’t think it’s insane to see him make a Terrelle Pryor-esque move to receiver one day.

With all of that being said, if Josh Allen can get top five consideration, I certainly think Jackson should as well. Both have accuracy, awareness, and field-vision issues, but Jackson has even more physical prowess than Allen, and flashed just as much, if not more arm talent. All while producing far more against far better competition.

I see Jackson as outside the first tier of quarterbacks, which in my opinion includes Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold. There are a lot of things he must improve on that make him too risky for a high selection in my view. However, he showcased throwing ability. You’re not teaching a track runner to lead a huddle. He can throw a pretty darn good football. If you pick him top 5-10, you just better be willing to tailor your entire team-building process around him; your offensive philosophy, your roster, and your timeline, to make it work. A team needs to lift him up before he can do the same for them. If he slips past the top 5-10 and a team in a good situation that is willing be patient takes him, they could have a steal.

As for the Jets? If they still need that franchise guy going into the draft, and they can’t trade up or everybody out of that top tier I mentioned is off the board at 6, you bet I’m rooting for them to take Jackson. They need to take a shot up high for once, and Lamar Jackson is a moonshot. I just hope the Jets would be of the utmost confidence that they have a clear plan to develop him the right way.

Poll

Where would you be comfortable selecting Lamar Jackson?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    1-5
    (78 votes)
  • 24%
    5-10
    (176 votes)
  • 33%
    Round 1 outside top ten
    (239 votes)
  • 23%
    Round 2
    (168 votes)
  • 7%
    After round 2
    (50 votes)
711 votes total Vote Now