By the time Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson walked off the field against Florida State in September 2016, every spectator inside Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was in awe at what they had just witnessed. A 19 year-old sophomore, who came into the season relatively unknown, had just made the No.2 team in the nation look like a group of high-school freshman. The 63-20 annihilation of the Seminoles was beyond even the most avid Louisville fan’s wildest expectations, and anyone who was watching that day could tell you exactly what happened.
Jackson ran past, over and through the Florida State defense like it was nothing. He was on a completely different level. At one point, it almost seemed like they were letting him score on purpose. That’s how easy it was for him. This game was the first sign Jackson had arrived. He had the nation’s attention, and they couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do next.
He didn’t disappoint them. Jackson put together a stretch of brilliant performances, with eye-popping stats and insane highlight reels. During the first half of the season, there was no one else even in the conversation for the Heisman trophy. Jackson did stumble down the stretch however, losing his final three games and looking very un-Heisman worthy in the process, but he won the award anyway.
This past season, Jackson didn’t get as much attention, but he managed to put up even better numbers. He threw for 3,660 yards, compared to 3,543 the year before. He also rushed for more yards (1,601 compared to 1,571). Jackson was invited to the Heisman ceremony for the second year in a row, but came in third behind Baker Mayfield and Bryce Love.
In spite of all his success, Jackson isn’t being talked about as much as some of the other quarterbacks in the draft. This is partially due to the fact that this year’s class is loaded with talent, but it’s also partially due to bad scouting. Some experts don’t believe that Jackson can be a successful NFL quarterback. Bill Polian said he was “too short” (Jackson is 6’3, taller than the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson). Some even make the asinine assertion that Jackson should switch to receiver.
There has been much speculation as to the reasoning behind these claims, but that’s besides the point. The point is it’s dumb. Really, really dumb. How do these people know Jackson can even play receiver? Just because he’s big and fast doesn’t mean he can catch. In his college career, Jackson has proven to be just as good, if not better than most of the other quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and no one is discussing a position change for any of them.
Despite what you have read so far, Jackson isn’t perfect. He still needs some refinement on his passing, and he gets sacked far more often than someone with his athleticism should. But these are minor flaws and they’re not worth passing him over. I’m not saying he should be the No.1 pick, but if a team that’s in need of a quarterback has a mid-to-late first round pick, they’d be stupid not to use it on him. Take it from someone who’s had the privilege of seeing him play in person, you don’t want to miss the chance to have this kind of talent on your team.
Like any prospect, it’s hard to predict exactly how Jackson will fare in the NFL. What we can do though, is compare him to other quarterbacks with similar skill sets. He’s faster than Cam Newton, bigger than Russell Wilson, and has a stronger arm than Dak Prescott. Michael Vick said Jackson is better than he ever was. And he was pretty damn good, for those of you who may not remember. No one should talk about him changing positions. They should talk about him changing games, because that’s exactly what he’s going to do.