Recently, we’ve heard NFL analyst Bill Polian say Lamar Jackson should make the transition to wide receiver.
Scouts even wanted him to workout with receivers at the Combine.
Instead, at the Combine, he threw in the drills, but elected not to participate in the 40-yard dash to prove that he was there to be evaluated as a quarterback. The former Louisville and Heisman trophy winning quarterback wants to put everyone on notice.
He is not a wide receiver.
Hide your pets because there are dog whistles all over the evaluations of Jackson. I’m here to give you my lukewarm take that Jackson is an NFL quarterback, and will be a dynamic fantasy player to roster.
Let’s look at some stats from our good friends over at sports-reference.com:
- QB A career stats: 477/783, 61% comp., 6177 yards, 7.9 Y/A, 57 TDs, and 26 INTs
- QB B career stats: 528/1060, 50% comp., 7469 yards, 7.0 Y/A, 42 TDs, and 37 INTs
- QB C career stats: 619/1086, 57% comp., 9043 yards, 8.5 Y/A, 69 TDs, and 27 INTs
- QB D career stats: 385/706, 54.5% comp., 4997 yards, 7.1 Y/A, 30 TDs, and 31 INTs
Three of these QB’s are players who played quarterback in college and are either playing wide receiver in the NFL currently or have in the past.
And one is Lamar Jackson.
QB A is Terrelle Pryor who played QB for the Ohio State Buckeyes from ‘08-’10 and QB B is Antwaan Randle El who played QB for the Indiana Hoosiers from ‘98-’01. Decent stats, but they were pushed into pursuing a different position to be an NFL player.
You’d think the way some scouts are evaluating Jackson, that he was QB D in this scenario, but that’s actually current Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. Which leaves Jackson as QB C.
College football is pass happy like the NFL now, if not more so, but these numbers are ridiculous. He was trusted with the ball in his hands a ridiculous number of times, outpacing the other three in attempts and it’s not even close in passing yards either.
He’s as dynamic as Michael Vick, rushing for 4132 yards on 6.3 yards per attempt. Randle El came the closest with 3895 career rushing yards, but at a lower 4.5 yards per attempt.
Okay, so Jackson is more gifted than a couple other players that switched positions. That doesn’t mean everything.
How does he stack up against other QB’s in this draft class?
Playing in an Air Raid offense, Baker Mayfield (198.8) is head and shoulders above all other qualifying quarterbacks in passing efficiency according to NCAA.com. Of the remaining QB’s projected to go in the first two rounds of the 2018 draft, Mason Rudolph is second (170.6), Sam Darnold third (148.1), and Josh Rosen fourth (147.0).
Jackson? Literally right behind Rosen on the passing efficiency list (146.6). (P.S. Josh Allen was deep down the list with an efficiency of 127.8).
From a fantasy perspective, Jackson was fourth in the nation in points responsible for with 272 in 2017.
Convinced? No? You’re right, stats are nice, but the eye test should play a role.
For a wide receiver, Lamar Jackson sure is good at sidestepping pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.. pic.twitter.com/jwh84CgVY3— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) February 22, 2018
While Jackson is known for disrespecting defenders as he’s sprinting down the field, his quick feet do more than help him evade players in the secondary. In the above video, you see how adept he is at moving in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield.
One might worry that Jackson is a one-read quarterback who will take off after the first option is eliminated. However, there are several instances of Jackson evading pressure and moving the sticks with his arm.
That arm is a strong one, too. He can flick the ball deep downfield without using his legs to provide a lot of torque. If there are critics of his accuracy (I’m not one of them), you might look at his lower body mechanics as a reason why. That’s something that needs to be coached into a lot of college quarterbacks, though.
Here’s an example of him mostly using his arm to drop a dime to the outside receiver:
Lamar Jackson makes a few impressive throws every game. He's really great when plays break down and consistently goes through his progressions. Beautiful pass into tight coverage: pic.twitter.com/gjMfIvsq5B— Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL) February 21, 2018
Jackson will be best deployed with play action and run-pass options using his threat to take off and move the chains with his feet. Here’s one last clip of Jackson standing tall, using his arm strength and delivering a pass only his receiver can get:
January 9, 2017. Tampa, Florida. Deshaun Watson to Mike Williams. 1:50 to go, 4th quarter. pic.twitter.com/9IFDeJqGCV— Seldom Used Reserve (@seldomusedrsrv) January 28, 2018
Oh wait— that was Deshaun Watson.
I know it’s an easy comparison, but the throwing mechanics are similar and both can do damage with their feet. In standard PPR leagues, Watson averaged 24.1 points per game in 7 games before getting hurt. If that’s Jackson’s destiny, you’re getting outstanding value.
Watson was able to thrive in an offense that readjusted to fit his strengths in-season. Jackson, and any other rookie quarterback for that matter, would be best served in an offense that can match his strengths.
A team with a solid running back would be scary for opposing defenses. Buffalo should consider using one of their two first-round picks and get a better version of Tyrod Taylor. Or Arizona can likely stay right where they are and get a quarterback of the future to pair with David Johnson. Cincinnati doesn’t like to change a whole lot, but at 12, they should consider drafting someone to wait in the wings. Andy Dalton is who he is at this point.
Speaking of Dalton, Jackson is the same height at 6’2” and roughly the same weight. Some may point to durability concerns, but Jackson is also only 21 years old as of January. I’m willing to bet once his full-time job is being a professional quarterback, and training with some of the best athletic trainers and dietitians in the world, he can gain 5-10 pounds of lean muscle.
There are safer picks and there are those that look like a “prototypical quarterback.”
Would you rather have a QB that’s an athletically transcendent game-changer or a QB that’s a cookie cutter game-manager?