Despite owning the twelfth pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, there is a distinct possibility that the Buffalo Bills will miss out on the consensus top-four quarterback prospects if they decide to stay put at 12. However, that doesn’t mean the team would be left with poor players at the position. In all likelihood, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson would still be available at the twelfth selection and would make for an enticing option. If general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott find themselves in such a position, here will be the points they are likely to debate regarding the former Cardinal, come April 26th.
Seeing significant playing time as a freshman, Jackson was able to establish himself as a dangerous dual-threat at the quarterback position by passing for 1840 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions to go with 960 rushing yards over 12 starts. Going into Jackson’s sophomore season, Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino helped to design new running and passing concepts that would play to Jackson’s strengths. This eventually led to Jackson hoisting the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 3543 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions to go along with 1571 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns in 2016. While many consider Jackson’s Heisman year to be his best, last year he managed to throw for more yards (3660), rush for more yards (1601), and improve his completion percentage from 56.2 to 59.1. Jackson decided to forego his senior season declare for the draft on January 5th of this year.
The case for Jackson
Lamar Jackson is probably the most electric dual-threat quarterback since Michael Vick was playing in the NFL. When carrying the ball, Jackson combines the straight-line speed of a wide receiver with the shiftiness and open-field moves of a scat-back. Jackson’s running ability ensures that any offensive play is never truly “dead.” When a pass play is called and wide receivers are blanketed in coverage, Jackson has the ability to scramble, buy time, and run positive yards if he’s forced to. Jackson also offers one of the strongest arms in the 2017 quarterback class. At times, his deep ball accuracy was just as potent a threat as the his running ability. Despite popular misconceptions, Louisville’s offense featured many different pro-style concepts, route structures, and personnel groupings that have prepared Jackson for the NFL. Under center more in 2017, Jackson’s pocket presence is also underrated. He’s able to side-step pressure, re-establish himself, keep his eyes downfield and rocket a pass to receivers.
Bobby Petrino’s Louisville offense has been likened to the Erhardt-Perkins (E-P) system that the Buffalo Bills are attempting to install this offseason. As such, Jackson is already comfortable with concepts like route sight adjustments by his wide receivers, pre- and post-snap reads, and audibles at the line of scrimmage. If Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll chooses to install zone-read concepts into the offense, Jackson would make those concepts highly effective.
The case against Jackson
Mechanically, Jackson is all over the place, which affects his accuracy and is a problem that can prove difficult for quarterbacks to fully overhaul. His throwing motion is more of a wrist flick than a true follow-through. He often sets up in a tight, narrow throwing base that also doesn’t allow for much follow-through. Jackson tends to overshoot receivers as a result of these issues. While Louisville’s offense did feature pro-style concepts, many of Jackson’s reads were simplistic in nature. Half-field reads were not uncommon and if immediately placed into a more complex environment, Jackson can be expected to struggle. In college, Jackson’s smallish-frame had commentators questioning his ability to absorb multiple hits and stay healthy. His aggressive running style might need to be curtailed a bit if he wants to survive multiple years in the pro game.
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