The 2018 NFL Draft is now less than a week away. Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has been an oft-criticized quarterback (or is he a receiver?) in the draft process. here’s a closer look at his arm, mechanics, progression, and much more.
There’s a reason he scored 96 touchdowns in the past two seasons.
The Michael Vick comparisons are apt. He fires the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, and could probably run a 4.4 forty yard dash.
You can have your Josh Allen. In my book, in terms of athletic tools, no one in this draft comes close to Jackson.
Jackson throws with an overhand arm motion, but will adjust the release point and angle depending on the situation. He has flashed effective footwork in his dropback and hitch steps, but also has a tendency to play with an extremely narrow base that doesn’t afford him much room for error on his throws.
Jackson has quiet feet in the pocket, allowing him to easily evade pressure or throw when pressure approaches. He’s a magician with the ball on play fakes, turning his body, holding out an arm, carrying the ball in an off-hand and selling the hand off to everyone involved.
Sometimes, Jackson will hold the ball out at a dangerous distance, rather than keeping it close to his chest. That allows him to make LeSean McCoy-esque escape maneuvers, but also could make him vulnerable to fumbles.
Lamar Jackson has come a long way from his freshman year, when I looked at his tape and did indeed think his future lay at wide receiver. He improved his completion percentage each season, and actually finished his junior year above sixty percent until a 13-of-31 performance in the bowl game dropped him down to 59.1 percent.
In terms of highlight throw potential, Jackson and Josh Allen lead the class. Jackson has the arm strength to fit the ball into small windows even when he’s not able to set his feet for the throw.
He also has a good foundational understanding of touch, throwing catchable passes to all levels of the field.
Like Allen, occasionally Jackson’s placement is spotty. When Jackson’s mechanics are rhythmic, he’s on target, but if he gets sloppy, he misses high and wide.
The good news is, I’ve seen that tremendous improvement (including from high school, when he essentially played in a triple-option offense). That tells me his trajectory is headed upward.
Processing speed and decision-making
Jackson played in an Erhardt-Perkins offense under Bobby Petrino, a former NFL coach and longtime college head coach. He does a good job getting through his reads, and sometimes anticipated his initial read coming open. Jackson has that rare athlete’s trait where the game will slow down for him, and he’ll make moves before anyone else on the field can react.
It’s somewhat surprising for a player with his level of productivity on the ground game, but Jackson is one of the most mature pocket passers in the draft. He’ll hang in even when a defender is only a step away, knowing that if the play isn’t available he can escape like Houdini when the pocket closes around him.
Jackson’s narrow base actually benefits him in this instance, because he doesn’t take up much space as he steps around the pocket.
Jackson has a lot of confidence in his playmaking ability, and sometimes pushes his luck in the red zone. He’ll throw the ball up for grabs when the play needs to be killed off. His tendency to swing the ball away from his body when juking, and not to slide on some of his runs, also put him at risk.
Lamar Jackson is a unique kid, from his background, to his raw talent, to his college career and his unorthodox approach to the draft process. If he’d waited until 2019 to enter the NFL, I have no doubt in my mind he’d be the #1 overall pick - if Michael Vick could do it, so could Jackson.
Jackson, though, left school a year early, and in a talent-loaded quarterback class. He also turned off teams by refusing to run timing drills, and his decision not to hire an agent is also annoying some individuals.
Is he the right pick for Buffalo? It’s hard to say. In theory, they have a veteran quarterback to support Jackson, and an Erhardt-Perkins offensive coordinator who just returned from a stint in the college game. On the other hand, we’ve not heard any news connecting the pair since the Combine, and Jackson’s unrefined mechanics may not appeal to a team who seems to prefer traditional dropback pocket passers.
Personally, I don’t care - I love him and all his potential. Do I think there are some better quarterbacks in this draft? I do. But if the Buffalo Bills landed Jackson, I’d still be grinning ear-to-ear.
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