Lamar Jackson: Armchair Scouting Report
What His Numbers Say
Here are Lamar Jackson’s numbers courtesy of Sports Reference:
I also put together his final year game log, including the rank of the opposing pass defense based on Football Outsiders S&P+:
|North Carolina State||36||26||47||55.3||354||1||1||121.4||19||73||2|
Regardless of what you think of him as a potential NFL player, Jackson is certainly one of the best quarterbacks in college football history. He is one of only two signal-callers since 2000 to finish his career with over 9,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing. The other was Colin Kaepernick, and it took him a fourth year in college to do it. Jackson, at just 21 years of age, accomplished the feat in three years. It is worth noting that Kaepernick has a fantasy QB1 season in his history.
Jackson faced a fairly rigorous schedule in 2017, facing five teams inside the top 25 of S&P+ pass defense. Here is how he fared in those matchups compared to the rest:
|Split||Games||Cmp||Att||Pct||Yds||TD||Int||Rate||AYA||Rush Yds||Rush TD|
Jackson certainly performed worse against top competition, but he was no more affected than Sam Darnold was when I profiled him. The nice thing for Jackson is that he was able to supplement some of the struggles he had passing with rushing production, gaining roughly 36 more yards per game on the ground in tough matchups. Most of his struggles really boil down to the Mississippi State game, in which he was absolutely dreadful. Against Clemson and Boston College, he was excellent.
There isn’t another big ACC quarterback to compare Jackson to in this class, but there was one last year. Let’s take a look at how Jackson compared to Deshaun Watson against five common opponents in 2016:
The opponents faced in this sample were fairly difficult. Their ranks in S&P+ pass defense for 2016 were 14, 15, 27, 41, and 114. Not only was Jackson productive as a passer in this sample, he was wildly more efficient than Watson (who was efficient in his own right). The idea that Jackson needs to change positions to find NFL success is preposterous.
The elephant in the room with Jackson is his completion percentage, which was 57 percent for his career, and 59.1 percent in his final season. As I mentioned in regards to Josh Allen, there have not been many QB1s to post a final year completion percentage under 60. Fortunately, it is not all doom and gloom for Jackson, who compares favorably to mobile QB1s like Michael Vick (54 percent in his final season), and Tyrod Taylor (59.7 percent). This type of quarterback, due to a versatile skill-set and fantastic athleticism, has managed to prevail despite shortcomings with accuracy.
I know injury is a concern for a lot of people with regards to Jackson due to his playing style, but I’m not terribly concerned. Over his final two seasons, Jackson carried the ball 492 times in 26 games—18.9 carries per game. Over that time, he accounted for 50 percent of all Louisville rush yards. When we factor in that he’s also thrown 839 passes in that time, he’s taken a number of hits commensurate with a workhorse running back. Despite that, he has missed exactly zero games for two years. Being able to handle a large workload is a skill, and Jackson has it. I’m not worried about him missing a substantial amount of games due to injury.
Player Comparison: Michael Vick
Vick is the easy and lazy comparison, but it’s the best we have. Jackson is remarkably unique, and even if he is a similar athlete to Vick, I’m not positive they succeed in the same areas of the field when throwing the ball. Here are their career numbers:
|Player||Cmp||Att||Pct||YPA||TD Rate||INT Rate||AYA||Carries||YPC|
Vick was the more efficient passer, but his sample size is a lot smaller than that for Jackson. We can have more certainty that 8.3 is Jackson’s true yards per attempt than Vick’s being 9.6. Regardless, Jackson was proficient at keeping his touchdowns up and his interceptions down. He also paced Vick in YPC. It is possible Jackson is, in fact, better than Vick, but I certainly think they are different. For now, I’m just waiting to see if Jackson can match Vick’s pro day 40-yard dash time of 4.33.
Ideal Landing Spot: Vikings
Jackson needs to go to a place that will utilize his diverse skill-set as best as possible. Though Pat Shurmer is leaving to be head coach of the Giants, it cannot be understated what the Vikings coaching staff did in 2017 with Case Keenum. Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are all free agents, and there is a chance the team opts to go with a cheap rookie instead of overpaying one of them. Jackson would have the opportunity to play with perhaps the best receiving core in football, and would also have the luxury of an elite defense to keep games close. I really love the potential fit here if Minnesota can make it work.
CURRENT 2QB FANTASY ROOKIE DRAFT PROJECTION: TOP-SIX (Top-Half of Round 2 IN 1QB LEAGUES)
Because of Jackson’s mobility, he should be a high priority fantasy asset, even if he manages to go later in the draft than some of the other top prospects. For that reason, I am confident he will go inside the top six of rookie drafts, unless he manages to fall out of the first round entirely, and a starting spot ends up not being likely. Even in 1QB formats, he should be an asset who can break into the QB1 tier immediately. For that, he will go a little higher than the other prospects.
I’m not positive that he is the best, but Jackson will certainly be my favorite prospect to track during the draft process. His play-making ability is unparalleled by any quarterback in this class, and perhaps any quarterback prospect of the last decade. I’m really looking forward to what he can do at the next level.