Lamar Jackson is just a sophomore and cannot enter the 2017 NFL Draft. However, his outlook for the 2018 draft is bright depending on who you ask. Jackson’s stellar sophomore campaign at Louisville had him as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
He finished the 2016 season with 3,390 yards, 30 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. What was even more impressive was his rushing totals. Jackson ran for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns. He joined Tim Tebow in an exclusive club of quarterbacks who have both thrown and rushed for 20 touchdowns.
The question NFL teams will have to answer in the 2018 draft will be how Jackson’s skill set will translate into the NFL. Some have compared him to Michael Vick. Both players have small frames but possessed great speed and quickness. Vick himself tweeted that Jackson is better than he was coming out of college.
“Lamar Jackson has been outstanding for most of this season and projects as one of the favorites to be chosen first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft,” Walter Football notes.
One anonymous NFL executive told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein that Jackson projects to be a better NFL player than Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Heavy has Watson being selected with the fifth pick by the Chicago Bears in our latest mock draft.
“The thing I took away from the (Clemson-Louisville) game is that Lamar Jackson has the look of a first pick, but I don’t think Watson has the same look,” the NFL executive told NFL.com.
Jackson will enter the 2017 college football season with much higher expectations. He entered the 2016 season as a relatively unknown player. How he handles those expectations will impact his future NFL prospects.
Like we have seen with Watson, his game will also be looked at with greater scrutiny. The biggest question the NFL has about Jackson centers around his throwing ability. He will not be able to rush for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns in the NFL. While his speed can be an asset, an NFL franchise wants to have assurance he can stand in the pocket and complete passes.
Jackson has a smaller frame than many NFL quarterbacks. There will also be questions around whether he can take the punishment of larger NFL defenders. The Vick comparison is a best case scenario for Jackson. There is also a graveyard of players with similar skill sets that have not made it in the league. Johnny Manziel would be the worst case scenario and a comparison he will have to shake in the coming years. Jackson has too much talent to be easily dismissed.