As the 2018 mock draft projections pour in, I just shake my head that the majority of pundits, and NFL scouts alike, continue to devalue the skill set of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. They’ve all got UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph ranked ahead of him.
Other than the obvious stigma that continues to surround dual-threat African-American quarterbacks coming out of college, I’m wondering what else I could possibly be missing.
Jackson’s NCAA resume was beyond exceptional, with speed, explosiveness, deceptiveness in the open field and an arm strength that is rare. When the pocket breaks down, he’s almost impossible to corral once he breaks contain and causes nightmares for opposing coaches due to his ability to improvise
During last year’s Heisman Trophy winning season, he threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 more scores. This year, he passed for 3,660 yards and 27 TD’s while gaining 1,601 on the ground and scoring 18 times as a runner.
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People harp on his so-called shoddy mechanics and sometimes inconsistent ball placement, but find me a college prospect that was supremely refined in these areas. Yes, he’s far from a finished product, but that does not take away from the fact that he should be considered a top prospect. I’ll go a step further in saying that not only is he a top prospect, but he’s an undeniable franchise quarterback that will shock and amaze once given his chance in the NFL.
Remember how Deshaun Watson got pigeonholed last year as a dual-threat QB, which was manifested in the Chicago Bears, thirsty for a difference-maker under center, passed on him to select Mitchell Trubisky out of the University of North Carolina with the second overall pick in the 2017 Draft?
Given Watson’s incredible rookie performance prior to suffering a torn ACL that ended his season, a year in which he accumulated 1,699 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in only six starts, I’m wondering how the Bears feel about that selection now.
Deshaun Watson ll “Redemption” ll 2016-17 Ultimate Clemson Highlights ll Deshaun Watson had a tremendous season with the Clemson Tigers. In my opinion he should’ve won Heisman over Lamar based on what he did to Alabama and Ohio State in the playoffs. Deshaun will be a great future NFL QB one day.
Skeptics harp on Jackson’s lanky frame, and that leads me to question the validity of their research and overall professional acumen. I’m guessing that they never saw a guy named Randall Cunningham play in an era when the NFL was perhaps its most vicious.
Cunningham was light years ahead of his time and unlike anything the NFL game had ever seen. As a senior at UNLV in 1984, he led Rebels to an 112 season, the school’s only 10-win season ever. Luckily for him, Cunningham played for a pro coach who saw the game in unorthodox ways and recognized how to incorporate his unique skill set. Buddy Ryan utilized him as a backup to the aging vet Ron Jaworski early on, inserting him into games during third-and-long situations.
After two years coming off the bench to see sporadic duty, Ryan unleashed Cunningham as the full-time starter in 1987. One year later, he became the first black quarterback to ever be elected a Pro Bowl starter, and proceeded to be named the game’s MVP. That was the year, 1988, that he passed for 407 yards during the 20-12 “Fog Bowl” 20-12 loss to the Chicago Bears in the playoffs.
If there’s one play that encapsulates his genius, it happened in a 1990 game against the Buffalo Bills. The legendary defensive end Bruce Smith was poised to sack him from the blind side in his own end zone, when Cunningham, with eyes in the back of his head, ducked and fired a 95-yard touchdown pass Fred Barnett. That same year, he ran for 942 yards while averaging eight yards per rush. When he left the Eagles after the 1995 season, he was the third-leading rusher in franchise history with 4,482 yards, behind only Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren and the criminally underappreciated Wilbert Montgomery.
For those that were fortunate enough to witness it, his 1998 season with the Minnesota Vikings will never be forgotten. He led them to a 151 regular season record while tossing 34 touchdown passes, orchestrating one of the most unstoppable offenses the NFL has ever seen while throwing to Cris Carter and establishing a rookie named Randy Moss as the greatest downfield weapon in league history not named Jerry Rice. If you’ve never seen the tape of the Monday night game against the Packers where threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns, please do so. It provides a snapshot into his unique genius.
Cunningham led the league that year with a 106.0 passer rating as the Vikings scored a then-NFL record 556 points, making him the first Black quarterback to lead the league in passer rating. He was the NFL’s ultimate weapon as a quarterback, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.
As the Eagles prepare to face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Cunningham’s exploits and accomplishments will be discussed and celebrating leading up to the game. He changed what people thought was possible. And Lamar Jackson seems poised to follow in his footsteps.
Whoever gives him that opportunity is sure not to regret it.