Lamar Jackson: The Next Heisman Bust?

Dec. 15, 2016

Well it’s official, we all knew it was coming, Lamar Jackson has won the Heisman Trophy. After waltzing away with the Walter Camp award, it looked like Heisman voting would be a no brainer. This ended up being the case as, according to ESPN, Jackson received 79.5 percent of the vote. Jackson is great college quarterback, that’s not being brought into question. He’s razzled and dazzled defenses from Boston College all of the way to Florida State, who will be playing 6th ranked Michigan in the Orange Bowl on December 30th. It’s just that while I watch Lamar Jackson put up ridiculous numbers against teams, I feel as if I’m having Déjà vu. We’ve seen this before, right? I mean just two years ago we saw the “legendary” Johnny Football dance through defenses en route to a ridiculous college career. And not too long before Manziel came everyone’s favorite underdog: Tim Tebow. What Manziel and Tebow both had in common was a stellar college career followed up with a very lackluster, and in some cases, an awful professional career that lasted about as long as a single season. Will Lamar Jackson follow in their footsteps? Or can he avenge his fallen comrades and break out in the NFL?

On the field, these three Heisman winners are almost identical. They all have the ability to throw for crazy numbers, but also heavily favored tucking the ball and running at any given second. On paper, these three are also almost indistinguishable as well. During the years that they all won their Heisman awards, they all threw for well over 3,000 yards, with Manziel leading the way with 3,700, and all ran for whopping yardage, with Jackson beating out Manziel by about 100 yards with 1,500 rushing yards. All threw similar amounts of interceptions, scored roughly the same amount of touchdowns, and were once again similar in QBR with Manziel and Jackson ranking in at about 150 and Tebow leading the way in this category at 170. Well so now what? These three are practically the same, does this automatically doom Jackson for an unsuccessful pro career like his two predecessors? Well not exactly. Jackson must mature his game and develop into more of a passing quarterback in order to hold his own in the NFL.

We have seen many a running QB come into the NFL and automatically falter. This is just not how pro football works. With people like Khalil Mack and Von Miller shredding offensive lines, it makes running as a quarterback for any sort of effectiveness nearly impossible. We’ve seen the likes of RG3 and even now Cam Newton collapse their games due to their running tendencies. Robert Griffin III has seen more of his trainer than he has of the field lately, and more and more Cam Newton has fallen into that category. Cam has gone from a dominating MVP winner to a sub-par QB who has been plagued with injuries in just a matter of months. Time and time again we see running QBs getting demolished and sent to the DL because they expose themselves to these threats by trying to use the same game plan in the NFL as they did in college. How can a Heisman winning, Subway sponsored quarterback like RG3 slip through the cracks like he has? Well Griffin was never really considered a gifted passer by any stretch of the matter: he was more known for his extreme athleticism and ability to escape the pocket and leave pass rushers looking foolish. Lamar Jackson falls almost perfectly into this category, as do Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow both. With the exception of Michael Vick and sometimes Russel Wilson, the game has been dominated by elite passers like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck, just to name a few. While all of these QBs possess the ability to escape pressure in the pocket, they don’t rely on running with the ball frequently to be successful in the league. When you have the opportunity to throw to T.Y. Hilton or Rob Gronkowski, you take that opportunity. You throw the ball down the field and let those freaks of human beings do their thing. You do not run the ball only to meet Jamie Collins or Luke Kuechly 4 yards from the line of scrimmage. They will not have your best interest in mind, and they will put you into the ground…hard. Over and over quarterbacks have taken monster hits that have landed them on the DL. The truth is that quarterbacks just aren’t as big as these monsters that are called defensive ends and linebackers, and the more you run as a quarterback, the more you put yourself in danger of being on the receiving end of a season-ending hit.

In order for Lamar Jackson to transform from a stellar college quarterback into a reliable starter in the NFL, there needs to be a drastic change in his game. Before Lamar Jackson declares for the NFL draft, I believe he needs to spend every waking hour developing his already somewhat above average passing ability into a force to be reckoned with. Instead of Jackson shredding linebackers with his feet, I want to see him punishing safeties and cornerbacks across the country with his arm down field. This is what will separate him from the crowd, and this is what will separate him from a growing list of Heisman winners who have turned out to be a whole lot of nothing in the NFL.

-Tyler Brogan