Scouting Profile: Quarterback Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Weight: 216 pounds
40-yard dash: N/A
Hand Size: 9.5 inches
There always seems to be one mobile quarterback in each class who is highly debated. With Jackson, there were a few teams who took it a step further, asking him to participate in wide receiver drills at the Combine, though he declined saying he’s a quarterback. There are definitely some areas of Jackson’s game that need improvement, but the main question is whether or not he’s suitable for any NFL offense, or if a team would need to build around his skill-set.
While at Louisville, Jackson threw a rather high 1,086 pass attempts, completing just 57 percent of them. His completion percentage did rise each season, though, as he completed a career-high 59.1 percent in 2017. The numbers that pop off the page are his rushing totals, as he accumulated 3,172 rushing yards and 39 rushing touchdowns over his last 26 games at Louisville. That’s 405 more yards and three more touchdowns than Saquon Barkley had on the ground the last two years.
Arm Strength/Throwing Motion: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He doesn’t have the speed on his throws that some of the other quarterbacks in this class have, but he has an ultra-fast release, which is almost just as good. It seems the ball comes out of his hands very well with just a flick of the wrist. I was disappointed with his performance at the Combine, as it seemed like he was aiming his throws instead of just throwing the football. His arm strength isn’t great, but it’s also not as bad as some think. His mechanics can use some real work, as he stands too upright and will be caught flat-footed in the pocket quite a bit. He also needs to put his body into his throws more often, and it’s the reason his velocity is so hit-or-miss.
Accuracy: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s been getting better, so we’ll give him that. Similar to Josh Allen, Jackson has a lot of different looks when throwing the ball. You’ll see him leaning back at times, then standing straight up other times. You’ll see him throw flat-footed, then you’ll see him jumping while throwing. Every now and then you’ll see him step into a throw and it looks like a laser comes out. All of these inconsistencies lead to accuracy issues. With a quarterback who possesses the escapability that Jackson does, you’d think he’d be able to create solid angles and set up his throws a bit more. Accuracy isn’t something that can be taught, but he can become much better in this department if he fixes the inconsistencies in his mechanics. One area of concern, however, is that he appears to lack touch on the ball, and that’s something that doesn’t come easy.
Mobility: 5.0 out of 5 stars
You think Cam Newton is elusive for a quarterback? We haven’t seen a quarterback with the moves of Jackson since Michael Vick, and that’s saying something. He’s built like a wide receiver at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds but moves like a third-down back. His ability to spin out of contact is remarkable and you can’t help but feel bad for the defender trying to chase him down. His moves aren’t telegraphed and he’ll juke a defender in the open field similar to the way Vick used to. This is the part of Jackson’s game you have no doubt about – he’s special when moving around the field. If he were to start all 16 games at quarterback, there’s little doubt in my mind that he’d total 800-plus yards on the ground. If you have a creative offensive coordinator, he’s going to bring out some special things in Jackson’s game.
Pocket Awareness: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Another area of Jackson’s game that’s top-notch, as he feels pressure and reacts to it relatively quickly. The fact that he’s so slippery allows him to evade pass-rushers at the last second. The NFL is going to come a lot faster, but the way he maneuvers the pocket is a lot like the way Vick used to. The slight knock to him here is that he’ll go through the first few progressions and if he doesn’t find anyone, he’ll just take off running, even if there’s no pressure. But I’d argue that it’s better for him to have that internal clock and take off rather than wait too long and take a big hit. Jackson knows how to manipulate defenders to make them think he’s going one way, only to spin back around to the weak side to give him some room. His awareness is one of his strengths.
Vision/Decision-Making: 2.0 out of 5 stars
While he has great vision as a ball-carrier, Jackson’s vision as a quarterback is mediocre at best. While scanning the field, he might make it through two progressions before he takes off running. While watching someone like Sam Darnold, you can see he processes things quickly, whereas Jackson always has the temptation to run if things don’t appear to him right away. That’s all fine and dandy when there are holes, but NFL teams will adjust and make him throw the ball. His decision-making is also highly questionable, as he will often throw the ball into a small window where the defenders have just as much opportunity to catch it as his receivers do. When a quarterback lacks touch on the ball (as Jackson does), it’s not wise to try drop a ball in-between a linebacker and safety, but Jackson routinely does this and it’s part of the reason his turnover total was higher than it should’ve been.
Anticipation: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He’s not someone who wide receivers will be surprised by, as it’s not often that they’ll turn around and the ball hits them in the numbers. Instead, Jackson prefers to wait until he sees a wide receiver get into his route and create separation. This is something you’ll often see out of inaccurate passers, as they don’t have the confidence to throw the ball into a tight window where only his wide receiver can catch it or react to it. When a quarterback throws with anticipation, they are throwing to a spot on the field that has been rehearsed repeatedly. Jackson throws to his receivers, not a spot on the field. In the NFL, this has got to change, as it’s rare to see a wide receiver get multiple yards of separation, though Jackson’s mobility will help give them time to do so.
Potential Landing Spot
It seems like Jackson may go to the Cardinals, though I would prefer that he didn’t. Not to say that he’d be bad there, but I’d prefer to see him go to a team that has an offensive-minded head coach to better utilize his strengths and not try to make him “fit” into their offense. However, this isn’t a place to project the ideal landing spot, but rather the projected spot and it seems like the Cardinals, Jaguars, and Dolphins are the frontrunners for Jackson.
It wouldn’t be right to compare him to any player not named Michael Vick, but being real about it, his arm doesn’t sniff what Vick’s was able to do. They both have that same flick of the wrist throwing motion, but Vick threw maybe as hard as anyone in the game, while Jackson is among the lower-tier. While Vick developed into a better passer later in his career, the same may be said of Jackson, as he’s shown real improvement over the last few years, though his arm limitations may prevent him from reaching the ceiling that Vick did. If Jackson can clean up his mechanics and develop some better decision-making, he should be able to start in the NFL.
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