Scouting Report | QB Lamar Jackson – Louisville

They say behind every great man is a great woman, and it couldn’t be any truer than in the case of the former Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. He was born in Pompano Beach, Florida to Lamar Jackson Sr. and Felicia Jones. Jackson Sr. passed away at age 31 when his son Lamar Jr. was just 8 years old.

Jones knew at a young age that her son had a chance to be a great athlete and ultimately a ‘great man’. She enrolled him in pee wee football at the age of 8 and Jackson never looked back. Even at that age, he was running away from everyone and wanted to hone his obvious ‘gifts’. Soon after signing him up for football, Jones got Jackson a trainer. Yep, from the age of 8 up through high school, Jackson worked with a trainer six days per week. According to reports, anyone that has been around Lamar knows that his mother is the engine that has driven his career.

Through the first two years of high school, Jackson’s grades were not his strength. His athletic skills were still the centerpiece of his blossoming career. But Jones was not satisfied with her son’s progression, so she moved slightly up north to attend Boynton Beach High School. His new coach also had high standards, and when he met Jackson he let him know what his priorities should be.

Look, get your grades right,” Rick Swain told Jackson. “We’ll take a look at you in the spring. But unless you get your grades right, there’s no need for us to be talking.”

Having a strong work ethic instilled at a young age by his mother caused Jackson to confidently state to his coach, “I’ll be there in the spring, Coach, and I’ll also be your quarterback.”

Jackson held up his end of the bargain by pumping out straight As for the first two grading periods, and all it took to become the starting quarterback at his new school was one practice. He had a productive career in high school compiling highlight after highlight, most of which came due to his legs.

At 6’3″ and 185 pounds, he had many offers coming out of high school, but those offers didn’t include Louisville early in the process. That’s because then head coach Bobby Petrino didn’t see a quarterback, and Petrino wasn’t the only one to believe that. Georgia didn’t want him as a quarterback, Florida State wanted to redshirt him, Mississippi State wanted him to be a backup to Dak Prescott, and the University of Miami just brought in a freshman stud named Brad Kaaya. But Jackson had people fighting for him.

A former player of his high school coach named Lamar Thomas was in Jackson’s corner. Thomas was the Louisville receivers coach at that time and called him the “the best athlete I’ve ever seen.” But oddly enough, Jackson was only considered a three star recruit.

But much like the NFL draft analysts now, the issue with his recruitment was that Petrino couldn’t see past the athleticism and natural running ability of LJ, so Thomas told Jackson to alter his highlight tapes to display his passing acumen. This reel included a 70-yard throw, which was all it took to convince Petrino, and Louisville consequently offered Jackson a scholarship. Knowing Petrino’s ability to develop quarterbacks, Jackson accepted the offer. Jackson, obviously managed by his mother, again put his career on track to improve, to surround himself with people to support his development.

But the adjustment to Petrino’s pro style system was not going to be an easy one for Jackson or for Petrino. Petrino was no doubt excited to coach the second coming of Michael Vick, a player that he was supposed to coach in 2007 as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, prior to that season Vick plead guilty to federal dog fighting charges, and Petrino abruptly quit following the season.

Petrino’s NFL offense and Jackson’s experience in a pistol-triple option offense in high school was an interesting combination and, much like the career of Jackson, it was going to need some finessing.

Jackson struggled the first couple years and even stated that the playbook “looked like foreign letters.” He needed to get comfortable digesting the playbook and, more importantly, taking snaps from under center, something he didn’t do much of in his career to that point. Jackson wanted to be an NFL quarterback, and he knew that if he followed Petrino’s tutelage, he could develop into just that. So he did whatever they asked of him. He studied all of his film, and he utilized virtual reality technology to help him learn and process coverages and to get him comfortable being a quarterback.

It was a drastic change, as Jackson had relied on his 4.3 speed his entire career. Any time he saw an opposing jersey flashing in front of him, he would take off. But HC Petrino’s son Nick, who became the QB coach at Louisville, took that away from the budding star. The staff would blow the play dead any time he would fail to throw a pass on schedule or bail from the pocket.

The defensive line runs a stunt, but Jackson keeps his eyes downfield

 

They wanted to see Jackson throw the ball, not try to escape the pocket. If you followed Jackson’s career, you have seen firsthand how far he has come in doing just that.

Strengths:

Aside from his overall athletic ability, which of course is my highest-graded trait of the former Cardinal, his poise and ability to throw from the pocket really stood out on his 2017 film.

On this play, in the face of a delayed blitz, Jackson stands tall, releases the ball thinking that there will be tight 1-on-1 coverage down the field, and drops the pass where only his man could catch it.

 

His poise as a passer showed up week in and week out. Here Jackson is in a backed up situation, and the staff dials up a play action pass from under center and sends all five eligible receivers out into routes. Look at how calm he is as he hits the top of his drop five yards deep in the end zone, hitches up, and delivers a throw to his tight end.

 

His pocket awareness was my favorite trait to study. There was plenty of film in which Jackson stood in the pocket, went through his progressions, and made throws with or without pressure in his face. Look at how calmly he climbs the pocket after the left defensive end gets the corner with a double handed swipe. He realizes that the defense is in a single-high look so the post route is a no-go. The outside linebacker does his job by widening with the running back, which opens up a really nice passing lane for Jackson.

 

The extra film study and virtual reality technology have improved his field vision and anticipation. Here, the defensive tackle bull rushes the guard until they are sitting right in Jackson’s face, but he is still able to throw the receiver open.

 

He proved a lot of doubters wrong by showing that he could work through progressions this season, which is why I don’t understand how scouts are supposedly calling him a wide receiver at the next level. On the snap, Jackson wants to throw the ball to the #1 WR to the field, who starts his route stem outside then comes back towards the middle. But the defense is protecting the sticks. Jackson doesn’t panic; instead, he changes his initial progression of reading low to high and hits the deeper route, a post, for a big play.

 

His ability to anticipate throws will be analyzed closely, but I believe this is another area that he improved. Here, Louisville runs a ‘tosser’ concept (double slants) to the field. Jackson anticipates and throws to a spot.

 

Throwing with anticipation to the middle of the field is where you win and lose in the NFL. In order to hit those passes you have to be able to process coverages pre- to post-snap. Jackson does just that here. Wake Forest shows a two-high safety look pre-snap, but then blitzes the force defender from the field post-snap.

 

The defense then rotates into a Cover 3 Buzz look with the safety dropping down replacing the blitzer. Jackson recognizes the zone blitz and hits his receiver in the window. Among the other seven top QBs in this class, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Mike White, Josh Allen, Luke Falk, Mason Rudolph, and Sam Darnold, Jackson ranked 3rd in completion percentage on passes in the 9-19 air yards (intermediate) range. He completed 59.1% of these passes, which includes 11 touchdowns to this quadrant.

 

Quarterbacks must compute every little bit of information prior to the snap, re-analyze post-snap, and then execute. Jackson does all of that on this play.

 

I believe his reputation of being an amazing athlete and playing in a run-first offense in high school blinds fans to his true abilities as a passer. But the film tells a different story. The film has many instances in which Jackson avoided pressure and, rather than taking off, he resets and makes the necessary throws. Here, the looping defensive lineman creates havoc after the play action fake. Rather than taking off, Jackson resets, finds a platform to throw from, and rifles the pass downfield.

 

Jackson’s ability to extend plays inside and outside of the pocket is impressive. As good of an athlete as he is, you want him to be able to manipulate the pocket or make a defender miss but then reacquire his targets down the field like he does on this play.

 

Having played in a triple option offense, his ball handling skills are unmatched in this class. On play fakes he does such a good job of hiding the ball and selling run.

 

Jackson possesses tremendous play speed, the ability to play at 100 miles per hour, but you want him to be able to harness it. After the play action fake, an unblocked defender has a free shot at him. He makes the defender miss, regains his balance and quickly reacquires his primary target, then flashes his arm strength. That’s the player that got Petrino to say “Who the heck is that?” after watching Jackson’s high school passing reel. Jackson completed 24 passes over 20 yards for 893 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017.

 

Petrino believes Jackson is a rare breed of athlete, the type of passer whose throwing motion is effortless and can drop some serious dimes.

 

Jackson finished his junior campaign with 3,660 yards, 27 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He’s a very competent passer whose ceiling hasn’t been met yet. But his athleticism is rare, and that has always been the center of his game. In his three seasons as the QB for the Cardinals, Jackson registered 4,132 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns! Of his 1,617 yards on the ground this season, 946 yards came after contact. That’s because he has elite elusiveness and balance. His high school coach said that his core “might be the secret to his success.” You will see some of those traits shine through on some of these plays.

 

Weaknesses:

 

As you may have noticed in some of the previous clips, Jackson struggles with placement. He is very hot and cold. There are plays where he goes through his progressions, makes it to his 3rd or 4th option, but then is slightly off the mark with placement. In the NFL, placement is key. Placement is the difference between a pass that leads to 50 yards after the catch and a pass that is batted down by the defender.

Jackson’s mechanics and process of throwing the ball from the hips down is so unique, not in a good or bad way. As I talked about in my Sam Darnold scouting report, when it comes to mechanics there are many schools of thought. Throwing mechanics start with the base, the footwork, and Jackson’s base is very unique. It isn’t the most common method, but his narrow base is just fascinating to watch. His throwing process reminds me of an outfielder’s crow hop when attempting to throw the ball to home plate from deep center field. It’s very segmented-looking, but ultimately it’s done to maximize arm strength and accuracy.

 

It looks awkward, but there has to be a reason that the ‘QB whisperer’ Bobby Petrino and his son Nick chose this method. They didn’t choose that route to help his velocity; he has plenty of that. It was chosen to help his accuracy, placement, and control. Jackson has such arm talent that he often relies on it too much. At times, he effortlessly throws the ball with a bit too much velocity, especially in the short area. The mechanical approach in his throwing motion appears to help him pull the reigns back in a sense, and gives him his best chance to throw an accurate ball.

 

Think about it, Jackson’s core is his strength. His arm talent is generated from that left hip through his core, up through his arm. That twitch, that torque through his core, is sudden and aggressive.

Notice the difference in torque between Darnold and Jackson?

 

Having him in a narrow base is an attempt to use his entire body to transfer the amount of force that is necessary, while keeping his hips in line with his release, which increases accuracy. The motion appears to harness the force by slowing down that aggressive motion, in turn leading to a better placed ball, but also a more catchable pass. If you’re into studying the biomechanics of quarterbacks, start with this video by The Performance Lab of California.

Has the narrow base helped Jackson to become more accurate? I can not definitely say that it has. When you stack up his raw statistics against the other seven top QBs in this class, he is below average in just about every area.

From 0-9 yards, Jackson registered a 67.2 completion percentage, which sounds great, but compared to the other QBs it’s the second-worst.

This is an area in which he needs to throw in rhythm, on time and, most importantly, accurately. A route that is often the epitome of ‘on time’ throws is the slant route, an area in which Jackson got some boom-like production. He threw for 295 yards on slant routes alone, which was the 3rd-most. But he only completed 52.8% of those attempts, which was the 67th-best. For a little context, Mayfield completed that route 85% of the time.

 

Raw statistics aren’t the entire story, but they are meant to give you a glimpse into the type of passing prospect he is right now. He is very boom or bust. The issue that arises with the robot-like movements, specifically on short throws, is that if his approach to the delivery is slightly off, then the placement is off. In turn, you will get throws like this. The placement is off and not out in front of the wide receiver. Instead, it’s on the back hip.

 

It is frustrating at times because you know he sees the coverage and knows where to go with it, but he is half a click too slow to pull the trigger. Like on this ‘tosser’ concept, he knows that the linebacker (#11) took away the inside slant, which was the first target in his progression. He needs to fire it to the other slant immediately. He fails to do so, misses the window, and it is intercepted.

 

Another area that staff worked on in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season was his deep accuracy.

 

While I believe he throws a decent deep ball, his control and accuracy are not where you would think they would be for a guy with his arm talent. Of the top QBs in this class, Jackson is dead last in completion percentage on passes over 20 yards.

 

There were just too many instances in which he read the defense but missed the throw. Here, he reads the safety and attacks the proper route, but just doesn’t stick the ‘landing’.

 

You saw control issues on the last throw. Here, he has trouble driving the ball down the field with accuracy. Instead, he puts a little too much arc on the ball and the defensive back is able to make a play on it. Being able to control the amount of touch or velocity on passes is a trait that you must possess at the next level. NFL quarterbacks are required to make a multitude of throws from play to play.

 

Finally, while I feel Jackson’s mental processing of coverage is above average, he still has a lot to learn. The stronger the opponent, the more he struggled reading defenses. At times, his play speed was slightly too fast. Simple concepts that he ran smoothly all season, he tended to struggle with versus faster and more talented defenses. On this play, the Cardinals run a snag/spot concept. As the ball is snapped and the defender on the field hash widens with the running back, Jackson should hit the spot route (slant curl) on the hash. The tight end running vertical held the linebacker enough for an NFL-sized window, but Jackson doesn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he blows through his progressions and misses the primary target, who was open on schedule.

 

Overall:

Lamar Jackson has been one of the most interesting evaluations I have ever done. His talent is simply unrivaled but I felt it necessary to really investigate the player on and off the field because as is often the case, the two are so closely intertwined. To completely understand Jackson on the field and his progress, I wanted to get an idea of Jackson the person. I am glad I did.

The work ethic ingrained into Jackson’s mind from a young age really makes you understand how he has been able to improve each and every year. Of course, it’s because of his mother, who had to play the role of mother, trainer, motivational speaker, coach, manager, and so much more. She groomed him from the sidelines and kept her persona out of the limelight by continuously turning down interviews regarding her son. Jones did whatever she could do to help maximize her son’s god-given gifts. Her son, in turn, has always had his head on right, taken coaching well, and did his part by taking advantage of each opportunity along the way. For example, Jackson was deathly afraid of speaking in front of the media, so he took a class and even went as far as to contact a local reporter to help him improve in that area. It’s stories like these that really give you an idea on the type of man you are getting if you draft Jackson.

As a player, Jackson’s ceiling is extremely high. Clearly, he is as dynamic a runner as I have come across, but I will not let his running ability blind me as an analyst. He has another opportunity ahead of him and, after reading his story and seeing his career still trending upward, it’s impossible for me to say that he isn’t a legit QB prospect. Will he have his growing pains? Sure, but he has shown the ability to learn from his mistakes and build upon the god-given skills that he possesses.

Jackson graded out to a 4.958 on my grading scale, which is just below the 1st round grade threshold. He is a 2nd round player with possible future Pro Bowl potential and a player that I will continue to root for.

For more Jackson footage check out this Twitter moment:

Please follow and share:

 

 

Want more in-depth NFL and Draft analysis? Subscribe to our premium content

Subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Subscribe to our NFL Draft Podcast Cover 1 | The Podcast

For topic ideas or rants call us at 716-266-2892

 

3 comments on Scouting Report | QB Lamar Jackson – Louisville

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top