The question we have all been asking since Lamar Jackson started his Heisman Trophy campaign in the fall of 2016 sounds so simple, but is so complex. Does Jackson have what it takes to play in the NFL?
Under normal circumstances, this is easily a yes or no question. Yes, players have the skill/talent, commitment and smarts to play in the league. Yes, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield have what it takes to be pro football quarterbacks.
For a first round pick, this is slightly concerning. Jackson was taken by the Baltimore Ravens with the 32nd pick of the Draft, trading up with the Philadelphia Eagles to land him. We now have three preseason games worth of tape to watch on him. Does he have what it takes to play in the NFL?
Does Lamar Jackson have what it takes to play in the NFL?
Athleticism and running ability
Lamar Jackson has some refined running skills, let me tell you. He has speed that we haven’t seen at his position since the days of Michael Vick, and he still might be faster then Vick. His field vision is through the roof as he sees holes open up downfield better then pretty much anyone.
Jackson is so remarkably athletic that NFL teams and scouts wanted him to switch to another position as he came out of Louisville. He refused, saying he was a quarterback, and even refused to run a 40 yard dash at the NFL combine because of it.
Passing and smarts
Jackson’s passing ability flashes great awareness and ball placement abilities. He throws a beautiful spiral that makes your heart jump. Sometimes, he can place a ball so well that you wonder why people question him.
However, he has mechanic issues. His plant is inconsistent, something that comes from being uncomfortable in the pocket. Instead of stepping into a throw, he tries to stay upright and deliver a pass on his tip toes. This limits the consistency of his ball placement. Watch his release as well. People criticized his release through the draft process calling it slow. He tries to whip the ball faster and until it is mastered, his throw will be less consistent. As a result, Jackson has yet to complete 50% of his passes in a single preseason game.
Lastly, it was reported that Jackson scored a 12 on the NFL’s famed Wonderlick test. These reports are hardly accurate but it does bring up a point of concern. Is he smart enough to play quarterback in the league?
The Last Word
Lamar has great abilities that make him a truly unique player in the league. At this point, we won’t get a chance to see if he really has what it takes to stay in the league. Right now Jackson is, at best, a 3rd string quarterback behind Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III. He will get better, in time, but for now the question will be unresolved for sure. Does he have what it tales to play in the NFL? I believe yes, he does.
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