Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 at Louisville, quickly skyrocketing him as one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. He had a star-studded college career, as he took college football by storm.
On ESPN’s Golic and Wingo Monday morning, Bill Polian said that he thinks Jackson is a wide receiver in the NFL, and not a quarterback:
“I think wide receiver,” Polian said. “Exceptional athelete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand and that’s rare for wide receivers. That’s AB, and who else? Name me another one, Julio’s not even like that.”
Polian added, “Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.”
He also called Jackson “short and slight” which seems quite off — considering Jackson is 6’3, and 211 pounds.
It’s not the first time Polian has said this.
In an appearance with ESPN Los Angeles in September, Polian said that Jackson would have to play receiver:
“I don’t think that Lamar, the Louisville kid’s in that discussion, in fact there’s a question that he may be, he might be a receiver.”
[loud yelling from the hosts, including “are you kidding me?”]
“No, I’m not kidding you. And that has to do with girth and skill set as well.”
Later on, after discussing the other quarterbacks, LZ Granderson brought up Drew Brees’ size (Brees is actually much shorter than Jackson, who is listed at 6’3″ and a slender–by QB standards–211 pounds). Polian responded, “Different guy, different guy.”
“You hurting me, Bill,” Keyshawn Johnson then added, “because I think he’s a NFL quarterback.”
“I’m not saying he isn’t, I just don’t think he’s in the class of the other three,” Polian said in response.
“The other three” that Polian is referring to are Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen — all considered to be top-10 picks in the upcoming draft.
Polian is wrong about Jackson.
While they’re good quarterbacks, it’s a joke to act like Jackson should just give up playing quarterback. He won a Heisman doing so, after all.
Jackson wasn’t an elite passer, but he was one of the better ones in college football. He finished in the top 30 nationally in passer rating (out of 130 FBS teams).
SB Nation’s Alex Kirshner explains that while Jackson is assumed to be the worst passer among his peers, that’s not the case at all:
Jackson’s career passer rating at Louisville was 142.9, but he was between 146 and 149 in his sophomore and junior seasons, before declaring for the draft. That’s better college pass efficiency than Wyoming’s Josh Allen (137.7) and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (140.1). It’s a whisker behind USC’s Sam Darnold (153.7). Among potential first-round QBs, only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (175.4) and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (159.7) were significantly better college passers than Jackson.
Among Allen, Darnold, Rosen, and even Baker Mayfield, Jackson had the highest percentage of his passes dropped, with 12.04 percent. That’s nearly double that of Darnold:
So the latest I heard in terms of making things up to make the narrative work is: Josh Allen's receivers dropped a lot of balls.— Neil Hornsby (@PFF_Neil) January 23, 2018
Here's the draft class ranked by drop rate: pic.twitter.com/fqe1fXK3Ls
Despite all these numbers, nobody is suggesting that the other quarterbacks should move to wide receiver. Odd.
If you (or Polian) would like a nice visual, here’s a supercut of Jackson’s touchdown passes from the 2017 season. There’s some damn good thrown footballs in here:
Lamar Jackson 2017 Regular Season 20+ yd passing TDs pic.twitter.com/zJI5Qoti80— Patrick Claybon (@PatrickClaybon) January 27, 2018
Even Michael Vick said Jackson is the real deal.
“If I’ve ever seen another guy that looks like me, it’s been Lamar Jackson,” Vick told the Courier-Journal of Louisville. There’s also this:
Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech....Enough said!! #future— Michael Vick (@MichaelVick) September 17, 2016
And Vick backed that up, for people who thought he might have been stuck in the moment.
“I said that because he made it look so easy,” Vick said. “Maybe I made it look easy, too, but now I’m on the other side and have the chance to watch younger guys. ... I just gave him a lot of credit, and I wouldn’t say it was more credit than he deserved because he deserves a lot, but at the same time it was coming from a guy who revolutionized the position, so to speak.”
Both Vick and Jackson were excellent in the ground game. But Jackson’s got Vick by a mile when it comes to passing at the collegiate ranks.
In his two full seasons as a starter, Vick completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. In his two seasons, Jackson completed 57.7 of his passes for 7,203 yards, 57 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions.
Vick ended up playing 13 NFL seasons at quarterback — so you might imagine that Jackson could squeeze out some seasons at the position as well.
This isn’t anything new, and the discussion will continue.
The spotlight will remain on Allen, Darnold, and Rosen leading up to the draft. But because of how amazing he was on the football field, and his eventual NFL Combine performance, we’re going to have to have a discussion about Jackson.
Nobody really knows if Jackson or any of these other quarterbacks are going to be good in the NFL. But to say that Jackson can’t throw is lazy analysis at best.