Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lamar Jackson - 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Lamar Jackson is a Heisman Trophy winner who was pretty damn successful as a college quarterback at Louisville. This has not stopped people from completely dismissing him as a quarterback prospect in the NFL. It's not for a normal reason, as everyone seems to agree that he has a great arm. Most also agree that his accuracy leaves a little to be desired, but so does Josh Allen, and yet nobody is mentioning him as a guy who could use a position change. So you know what that means? It's because he's black. Yep, we're still doing this bullshit. But I'm not quite ready to move Jackson to wide receiver just because his skin is more cinnamon than sugar. Instead, I decided to take a look at his games against North Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina State, and Purdue.

Although everybody brings up how fast Lamar Jackson is, it undersells what his athletic ability to only look at him as a runner. He uses his speed and footwork to create space to make plays with his arm just as much as he does it with his feet.
This play is a success at the snap, and the defense has no way to stop it, as even without the wide receiver on the outside coming in to help with a pick, Jackson is able to get outside the pocket for an easy pitch and catch to his receiver.

Here, North Carolina State sends a perfect blitz up the middle and Lamar Jackson is screwed...
or maybe not. This looks like NC State called their play in Tecmo Bowl, and Lamar Jackson turned into QB Eagles to make a ridiculous play for a first down. Seriously, this play looks nearly identical.
If you send a great blitz up the middle, you better be damn sure that your defensive ends can contain, because Jackson will put on the burners and make you pay if he gets some open field.

One issue that showed up repeatedly was his inability to keep his eyes down the field when he gets pressured.
When he gets that pressure, his head goes down, and he's looking to make a play with his feet. When you have legs like Jackson, it's understandable, but if he can stretch out plays and keep looking for receivers, it would open up some big play opportunities.

The following was one of my favorite plays from Jackson, because he actually did evade pressure, put his eyes back up field, and make a hell of a throw across the middle of the field.
That is the ideal way that he would be able to use his athleticism in the NFL. His offensive line breaks down, but instead of going for a full flee, he sees that there is still a pocket if he can maneuver. He does so which gives him enough space to fire the ball down the middle of the field for a first down.

More often, even the threat of pressure with a closing pocket would be enough to get Jackson out of rhythm.
He has good protection on this play but fails to reset his feet, and he throws the ball well behind his receiver crossing over the middle.

Something that I noticed but couldn't confirm was how much better he was at throwing the ball over the middle of the field than he was toward the sidelines. I looked for passing charts for the season but couldn't find anything, so I can only say this anecdotally, but he seemed to be much more effective when he didn't need to worry as much about footwork than he was when he had to adjust and throw towards the sidelines.

Here is a nice touchdown pass where he sets it up by looking to his left to freeze the linebacker over the middle before pivoting and firing it to the open receiver in the endzone.
But this is not a strength of his game. He rarely scanned the field, but I think that is mostly by design. He did show this ability on occasions but never with much consistency. He often gets dead set on a certain receiver and just waits for that guy to get open with the second option being bailing out with his feet.

But let's not forget about what those legs can do.
I should have warned you that the clip was NSFW, because blowing up a crease like that can only be described as pornographic.

There is a lot to like about Lamar Jackson. He has some incredible physical gifts that have led him to great success. There is also a lot of room for improvement. He doesn't have much experience in working through reads, panics with pressure, and his inconsistent footwork leads to inconsistent results. Still, those physical traits are pretty damn incredible. Honestly, his struggles are pretty close to what you see in Josh Allen. Now, if you want to dream about what a quarterback can become, I would way rather take a chance to dream on Lamar Jackson's potential than I would Josh Allen.

With his physical traits, there is no way to find a quarterback with a higher ceiling in this class, but he also has major deficiencies that give him a relatively low floor. Most people are saying that he won't be a first round pick, and I do understand that. But I feel like coaching staffs have done a much better job of fitting schemes to their player, and because of that, I really can't imagine him getting out of the first round. You may say I'm a dreamer, but when it comes to NFL front offices, I can just about guarantee that I'm not the only one.

2018 Scouting Reports
Josh Rosen - Quarterback - UCLA

Josh Allen - Quarterback - Wyoming

Mason Rudolph - Quarterback - Oklahoma State

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