Lamar Jackson starred in the college game for the Louisville Cardinals, but will his traits transfer into the NFL. That is the question facing NFL teams ahead of the 2018 Draft.
The quarterback provides a dual threat with his ability to throw downfield and also run for huge yardage. He threw for 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions during his three years in Louisville, although his rushing statistics were even better, totalling 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Most running backs would be delighted with that level of play, highlighting his quality. Despite his pedigree as a passer and runner, pundits claimed that he should switch to wide receiver. The 21-year-old has dispelled the notion, confidently stating that he’s a quarterback.
Jackson has a mould similar to that of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson endured similar doubts ahead of the 2017 Draft and fell out of the top-10 before being scooped up by the Texans at number 12. He was simply sensational during his rookie campaign before a torn ACL injury curtailed his season.
NFL teams will have looked at his displays and will have similar hopes for Jackson. The betting line puts him to be selected midway through the first round, with odds on being selected before the 17th pick at +105 with 888Sport. Due to the need for quarterbacks, Jackson could well be on the move before then either with a team currently in position or one that moves up to snag him. We’ll now break down the top candidates to acquire his services.
The Bills have the capital to move up into the top-10, but may opt to sit back and wait for Jackson to fall into their hands at number 12. Sean McDermott’s men have a need at the quarterback position after trading away Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns.
Nathan Peterman and AJ McCarron could are currently on the roster, although neither have performed well in their limited action in the NFL. As a result, Buffalo will be in the market for a quarterback to develop into the future. Watson’s success could nudge the club into action, especially considering his performance against the New England Patriots.
There’s not a great deal of talent in Buffalo’s receiving corps outside of Kelvin Benjamin, although LeSean McCoy remains as good as ever in the running game. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl deploying the run-pass option. Selecting Jackson would give the Bills a potent duo of the 21-year-old and McCoy in the backfield, with a threat of Benjamin downfield. It should be a move that they consider, while the offense would not have to change that dramatically.
The Cardinals lost both quarterback Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians to retirement. The club are in a rebuilding mode, having enjoyed a brief period of success by reaching the NFC Championship in the 2015 season. Sam Bradford has been brought in on a one-year deal along with Mike Glennon to stock up the quarterback position.
However, both players have had issues with injury or poor form in the NFL. Jackson would be a good fit for the Cardinal, with once again the potential of the run-pass option a contributing factor. Arizona boast one of the best running backs in the league on their roster in the form of David Johnson. The duo could be devastating as a tandem, while there is enough talent in the receiving corps, featuring veteran Larry Fitzgerald to ease the 21-year-old into the NFL.
The Cardinals sit with the 16th pick in the Draft and could be the ideal destination for the quarterback, with freedom and a lack of overwhelming pressure to develop his game at the highest level.
The Chargers could be in the market for their quarterback of the future as Philip Rivers is approaching the twilight of his career. The 36-year-old was still operating at the peak of his powers, enjoying one of his best seasons, throwing 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Despite the quality of Rivers’ play, the Chargers were once again out of the running for a playoff place. Los Angeles have not competed in the post-season since the 2013 campaign, enduring a number of issues that have held a potential surge in check.
Anthony Lynn’s men have to consider their future without Rivers as Peyton Manning proved with the Denver Broncos that the end can come abruptly. The Chargers have Geno Smith and Cardale Jones on the roster, but neither boast the upside of Jackson. The 21-year-old would have time to develop his game in Los Angeles behind Rivers for at least one season. There’s a lot of quality in the receiving corps that would ease the pressure on the Jackson. With the 17th pick the Chargers could select their quarterback of the future.
Jackson has visited a few teams, but one of the standouts has to be the Patriots. Tom Brady was outstanding last season, winning the third MVP crown of his career. He almost had his sixth Super Bowl only to be denied by the Philadelphia Eagles and his side’s porous defense. Brady has stated his ambition to play until he’s 45, but there is reported discontent between him and head coach Bill Belichick. Their harmonious relationship has been the bedrock of the franchise’s success, but cracks are beginning to emerge. There have been mixed messages from Brady about his future, putting the Patriots in a bind over the future of the most important position on the field.
Jimmy Garoppolo appeared to be the heir apparent, although Brady’s impressive form fended him off, forcing the Patriots to trade him away to the San Francisco 49ers. Now with only Brian Hoyer on the roster, New England have to consider Brady’s long-term successor.
They have capital in the first round after trading away Brandin Cooks, owning the 23rd selection and their own 31st. Reports have suggested they are intrigued by his ability and have worked him out in Foxborough. He would break away from the tradition pocket passer that the Patriots tend to look for at the position. However, Belichick may have been intrigued by the destruction that Watson reigned on his defense last season in New England’s narrow win over Houston. It would not be a surprise to see New England move up into the teens to try to acquire Jackson.
Lamar Jackson To Be Selected With 17th Pick Or Higher 2018 NFL Draft
Thursday 26th April 2018 20:00 ET (Friday 27th April 2018 01:00 BST)