NFL Draft 2018: The curious case of Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson is one of the most interesting prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, but where does he fit at the professional level as a quarterback?

In 2016, Lamar Jackson lit the college football landscape aflame. In one of the most prolific seasons in recent memory, the Lousiville product not only won the Heisman but also Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Awards, as well the ACC Player of the Year.

Following an amazing sophomore campaign, Jackson put up nearly identical numbers as a junior. Though his passing and rushing yards increased in 2017, Jackson was constantly overlooked by other quarterbacks, including the most recent Heisman recipient, Baker Mayfield.

Going into the 2018 draft, is Jackson getting the respect he deserves?

During his junior season, Jackson compiled over 1,600 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. However, Jackson wanted to prove to NFL scouts that he is just as effective through the air as he is on the ground. As a result, he threw more and ran less. Jackson ended the 2017 season with 3,660 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 146.6 passer rating.

Throughout last season, Jackson proved that he could make deep, accurate throws downfield. His completion percentage improved to 59.1 and his yards per attempt was at 8.5. Jackson also showed the ability to throw into tight coverage and his dual-threat capability made him a beast in the red zone.

Ignoring Jackson’s yards per game would be silly. He led the FBS with a ridiculous 404.7 yards per contest in 2017 — over 30 yards more than the next closest player. Jackson is a big play athlete and is always looking for the home run. However, to improve his passing efficiency, he may need to take fewer chances downfield.

While there is no question that Jackson has an exceptional athletic ability, his prowess as a next-level passer is still up for debate. Though he improved as a pocket passer, he made many dangerous throws that will cost him in the NFL. Jackson was very inaccurate with throws on the move throughout the 2017 season. His mobility makes him a threat on every play, but he has a hard time integrating that aspect into his passing game.

The Florida native’s turnover total was too during his career. For Jackson to succeed at the next level, he has to be smarter with his decision making and more confident in his passing ability.

So where does Jackson land in the NFL? Many predict he will be a late first rounder or an early second-round selection. There are many teams looking for a quarterback in this draft, so it will be interesting to see where Jackson is picked.

At 6-3, 200 pounds, Jackson has the measurables to stand under center next season. He also has the ability to become a dual-threat, Mike Vick-like quarterback in the NFL. With the right coaching and players around him, Jackson may become one of the best quarterbacks in the draft.