Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the QB class was considered to be strong. Darnold, Mayfield, Rosen, and Allen were all top prospects expected to make it as successful NFL signal callers. However, there was one QB that was a wildcard. That QB was Lamar Jackson.
Jackson attended Louisville and won the Heisman his Sophomore year. His Junior year he put up even better numbers but ended up finishing third in the Heisman voting.
Going into the draft, Lamar had question marks swirling all around him. Could he develop as a passer? Would his speed translate to the NFL? Could he stay healthy? All of these uncertainties made scouts question his ability to become a franchise QB.
In the draft, the Ravens moved back into the first round to select Jackson with the 32nd overall pick. Jackson was set to become Flacco’s replacement.
In week 11, Lamar got his chance to start with Flacco nursing an injury. Lamar more than succeeded with him leading the Ravens to a 6-1 record their final seven games. In the playoffs, Jackson struggled in the first half but got back in rhythm to lead a comeback. The effort ended up falling short, and the game ended 23-17 with the Chargers being victorious.
Most QBs that start 6-1 would be endlessly praised, but not Jackson. Instead, he still is bombarded with the uncertainty to pick up the new offense and his ability to develop as a passer.
I believe this treatment is unfair to Jackson, who has done nothing but prove doubters wrong. No one saw Jackson being able to lift the Ravens past the Steelers to win the AFC North in his first season.
Last season Jackson only completed 58% of his passes and had an 84.5 QB rating. However, the Ravens didn’t draft him to be an elite passer. They saw what he did to defenses in college with his legs. Many people out of college compared him to that of Micheal Vick.
Jackson finished the season with 695 rushing yds on 147 attempts (4.7 yds/carry) and 5 TDs. Defenses began to prepare for Jackson and his running abilities but failed to stop him.
Going into next season, I hope to see Jackson improve in some areas. One area is obviously his passing. Only completing 58% of your passes is not going to go over well and is not the recipe for sustained success. Lamar is a smart football player and knows if he wants to last in this league, he will need to do everything possible to become a quality thrower of the football.
Another area is learning how to slide. Jackson is a dominant runner that can easily make defenders miss but never quite took to sliding. Instead, he absorbed many big hits while running. This style of play will end a players career very quickly. Lamar is not a big QB, so his body will not take the kind of punishment he took last season year after year.
If he has any questions, he should ask his back up RG3 who would be the first to tell you that sliding may be the most important skill to learn.
The last area in which Jackson needs to improve is protecting the football. Jackson was awful when it came to ball security last season. He fumbled 12 times and threw three interceptions. Turning the ball over is another quick way to get booted out of the league.
Overall, I believe Jackson will turn out to be the Ravens franchise QB. Most of the areas he needs to improve on are all coachable. The biggest concern is his ability to throw at a high level. This is an area he will have to work on pretty much the rest of his career. While I do not think he will ever become a great thrower of the football, that is ok. As mentioned before the Ravens drafted him because of what he could do with his legs. I am a big fan of people who prove doubters wrong, and Lamar can do just that if he works hard and keeps that chip on his shoulder.