If you follow the Baltimore Ravens, or NFL football in general, you’re well aware they used the 32nd overall pick in this year’s draft on Louisville Quarterback Lamar Jackson. While no one disputed his athletic talents, the Ravens selecting him in the first round was a surprise to some.
The main concern with Jackson is whether he is polished enough as a passer to succeed right away at the next level. This is typical for rookie quarterbacks, particularly those without experience playing in a pro-style system. Despite this nearly ubiquitous concern, the Ravens should take the chance and go with Jackson. Why? A better question is: Why not?
In spite of what some Ravens fans may want to believe, Joe Flacco isn’t all that great. His performance has progressively deteriorated since his miracle Super Bowl run six years ago (it probably feels even longer for Ravens fans). The Ravens have seen what Flacco can do, and they know what he’s going to give them. It’s becoming clear to any objective observer that Flacco’s best years are likely behind him –and the Raven’s may be too if they stick with him too long.
It’s true that Jackson lacks experience in a pro style system. It’s also true that throwing him to the wolves too early could have a negative effect on his development. But in today’s NFL, the success of quarterbacks with Jackson’s skillset has become more common. Take a look at Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III’s rookie season, Marcus Mariota, and Dak Prescott. Three of those players won Rookie of the Year, one has an MVP and a Super Bowl appearance, and another just led his team to a comeback road playoff victory. There’s nothing about Jackson that suggests he’s any less capable of succeeding in the NFL than any of the aforementioned players.
The Steelers have been the kings of the AFC North for the past few seasons and it’s likely to stay that way this year unless something drastic happens. Jackson could be that something. It’s no guarantee Jackson will lead the Ravens to a playoff run, but he could provide a much-needed spark to a team that, since winning it all in 2012, has been mostly stagnant.
So far, it seems both Jackson’s coaches and teammates are impressed. His head coach praised his arm strength and accuracy, and he seems to be clicking well with most of his receivers. The Ravens ranked 29th last season in both passing offense and passing yards per game. Jackson could help improve this immediately, and this doesn’t include his potential contributions to the running game, something Flacco is not capable of providing.
The past three seasons, the Ravens have finished 5-11, 8-8, and 9-7 and missed the playoffs each year. The Raven’s shouldn’t accept mediocrity, especially when they have a player of Jackson’s caliber and potential.
This isn’t the NFL of old. The days of top young prospects sitting behind experienced veterans to learn the ropes are mostly over. Aaron Rodgers is the last known example, and even that was over a decade ago. Today, people don’t just think young quarterbacks can succeed, they expect them to –Jackson shouldn’t be any different.