Dec. 13, 2016
Meet the Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson
On Saturday, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson became the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy at just 19 years and 337 days of age. The true Sophomore won what ended up being a two-man race over Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. So, who is Lamar Jackson?
Jackson won the Heisman largely on his electric running ability. This season, Jackson ran for over 1500 yards and 21 touchdowns, AS A QUARTERBACK. He also added almost 3400 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns vs 9 interceptions. He had his signature Heisman moment in just week 2 vs Syracuse when he leaped over a defender en route to a rushing touchdown. After becoming the early Heisman favorite, he never looked back. Even with a Louisville slide late in the season, Jackson had built up enough of a lead that he was still the clear winner.
All that being said, what is Jackson’s future as an NFL quarterback? Based on his skillset and playing style, it is very tough to project, but here we are going to go beyond the metrics to offer you some possible career paths. Let’s take a look at some NFL comparisons to give you a better idea of how his skillset may transfer to the next level.
Michael Vick: This is perhaps the most common comparison out there thanks to Jackson’s electric running ability, incredible speed, and agility. Jackson has the same type of running ability as Vick, and that by itself will strike fear in opponents. Being an electric runner by itself will not lead to success at the next level though, just ask Mr. Robert Griffin III about that. Jackson also has good arm strength but has inconsistent accuracy and will regularly misplace the ball on short and intermediate routes. Vick is a good comparison, and maybe his most likely career path in the NFL as a feared player but not necessarily a great quarterback.
Dennis Dixon: Many NFL fans may not even remember this name, and for good reason. Dixon had all the same types of tools as Jackson in college, albeit with less than Heisman production, but those skills never translated to the NFL. Dixon spent a few years as a backup in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, only ever starting 3 games, and has one career touchdown pass. A Dennis Dixon comparison is basically your “worst case scenario” comparison for Jackson.
Tyrod Taylor: Perhaps the best comparison among current players, Tyrod Taylor offers much of the same skillset as the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Taylor makes his living as a threat running the ball while being as safe as possible throwing the ball. He’s had some success running this style of offense in Buffalo, going 13-12 as a starter over the last 2 years. He has thrown 31 touchdowns vs 11 interceptions in the past 2 seasons while running for over 1000 yards and 10 more touchdowns. He also struggles some with accuracy, but can usually make up for it with his big play ability. Tyrod is good enough to make Buffalo a threat to make the playoffs, but many around the league believe he should be replaced as the starter and that Buffalo may be capable of more without him.
Randall Cunningham: This is what would be the “best case scenario” for Jackson. Cunningham was a 4x pro bowler in his career and had a record of 82-52-1 as a starter in the NFL. He threw for nearly 30,000 yards and over 200 touchdowns while running for almost 5,000 more yards and 35 more touchdowns. When Cunningham was at his best, he was extremely tough to beat. He was a feared runner, and his ability to sling it downfield was second to none. This was never more true than in 1998 with the Minnesota Vikings when Cunningham was at the helm of the highest-powered offense of all time to that point, pairing his skillset with a couple guys named Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Cunningham also struggled some with accuracy in short to intermediate routes, but made up for it with his big play ability. If Jackson is going to be successful in the NFL, Cunningham is the guy for him to model his play after.
Only time will tell what Lamar Jackson’s future holds in the NFL. Hopefully this offers some insight as to what may be his best case, worst case, and most likely outcomes as a player at the next level. There is no denying his athletic ability or his ability to run the ball. He also has enough arm strength to make all the throws. Questions are raised about his accuracy, ability to throw from the pocket, and his slender build. The guys listed above all had mostly the same concerns with varying levels of success. As we said earlier, it is very difficult to project a player like this. For now, we get to enjoy at least one more season at Louisville and we all hope he is just as exciting to watch next season.
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