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Lamar Jackson Comparison Breakdown

December 31, 2017

 

Breaking down some of Lamar Jackson's closest comps here to get a better sense of who Jackson is....and who he isn't.

 

Well known draft analysts created waves early December when they suggested that Lamar Jackson is a WR, not a QB. A lot of draftniks subsequently lost their shit over this.

 

In my opinion, this take doesn't suggest Jackson can't play QB in the NFL... just that he could make a bigger impact at the next level as a WR. I don't necessarily agree, but that's a valid argument.

 

  • Running Ability

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As a QB, you can't help but see another Mike Vick in Jackson. Both were the most athletic guys on the field and had big arms. As a scrambler/runner Vick was a little more deceptive and opportunistic.

 

He was smooth and changed his speeds up. He recognized he could burst past anyone at any time, and used change of pace and vision to snatch up yards. And at 6'0 215, he generally wasn't reckless with his body and looked to slide or avoid the big hit.

 

 

Jackson is more aggressive and might be a little faster. He's easily the quickest, most explosive guy in every contest and thus doesn't use as many gears as Vick did to produce.

 

Fewer speeds could render him a little easier to tackle in the NFL but his top tier quickness and breakaway speed should make it largely irrelevant.

 

Jackson also likes to run more physically than Vick and routinely lowers the shoulder on guys despite his trim frame.

 

 

Durability is a legitimate risk if Jackson continues to finish his runs like this. RG3 was a similar finisher.

 

Fortunately for Jackson, he's avoided any significant injuries thus far. And his superior lateral quickness and body control, which Griffin sorely lacked, allows him to be much more elusive and avoid contact when he chooses to.

 

His pocket presence is also more advanced than Griffin's was at a similar point.

 

  • Mechanics

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As a passer Vick had smooth, quick mechanics and footwork with a three quarters release. He was consistently accurate underneath and deep but often struggled with intermediate touch.

 

The two clips below show RS FR Vick demonstrating early on how pretty his mechanics and arm talent were.

 

 

Jackson's mechanics and footwork aren't as precise, although he changes arm angles with ease, but he's got a very quick release and uses touch more effectively and more often than Vick did.

 

His footwork is improving but It's been widely discussed that his base narrows a bit. Whatever the primary culprit may be, his accuracy is often off the mark...

 

 

Jackson has plenty arm but you don't see as often the same kind of frozen ropes Vick used to unleash like the one in the clip below.

 

 

Vick had a stronger arm but refining Jackson's footwork/base mechanics might close the gap.

He'll certainly need to test tighter windows more often at the next level. And if he can't become more precise with his accuracy, it won't matter.

 

 

 

  • Pocket Patience

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Lack of patience in the pocket was a common criticism of Vick, but in reality, his laid back play style did afford him moments where he hung back in the pocket, he just didn't necessarily read the defense well enough to find the right matchup.

 

He was usually better off just taking off. Jackson's pocket patience and processing is similarly erratic.

 

 

In the clip above his initial read is to the left. Instead of hanging in the pocket and working back to the middle where he has a man come free...he evacuates before he really needs to and misses his man come wide open.

 

He does see him late but then throws the pass behind him. It's a trifecta of failure here...late eyes, flees the pocket too soon, and is inaccurate.

 

Jackson's overall pocket poise is clearly improved from his freshman play but it's still progressing.

 

Now here, in the clip above, in the previous year as a RS Soph he stays focused in the pocket even while a free blitzer rushes in on him.

 

He keeps his eyes downfield and completes a crosser. If he can do it occasionally, he can do it regularly with good coaching.

 

Auburn Cam Newton was arguably less experienced as a passer and as much a runner/thrower as Vick & Jackson but still demonstrated the pocket patience that might have been a tell to his production as an NFL passer.....demonstrated in the clip below.

 

Cam also had near flawless mechanics and good footwork that year...but those flashes of pocket patience for a run first QB were noteworthy.

 

Vick was equally competent in the pocket but he self admittedly didn't put in the work to process quickly enough.

 

As far as I've read and heard, Lamar Jackson's work ethic is solid and doesn't suffer from any distractions, character or otherwise.

 

  • Arm Talent

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As a passer, the dual threat QB Jackson reminds me of most is Vince Young.

 

Young was a dominant running QB with an ugly side arm delivery but he was also an underrated, clutch passer at Texas that could win throwing just as readily as running.

 

 

These last two clips were incredibly clutch throws in the game winning drive against #4 ranked Ohio St. early in the Longhorns 2005 national championship season.

 

I don't think Jackson has converted solely with his arm in as clutch a way against a big opponent as yet. It's not a question of tools...it's just stringing together big time throws and showing he can be consistently accurate.

 

 

  • Decision Making

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Jackson lowered his int rate this season and improved his completion percentage to hit the benchmark 60%. His career rate is still at 57.4 % but the improvement is noteworthy.

He's generally careful with the ball and avoids gunslinger style turnovers.

 

He recognizes his limitations and plays within himself as a passer. His game managing plus elite mobility reminds a little of Tyrod Taylor.

 

That said, it's worth noting that Louisville doesn't commonly ask him to attempt high risk intermediate throws. And I'd add that Tyrod was a more acomplished passer at Virginia Tech than Jackson in college.

 

 

  • WR?

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There have been plenty successful college QBs turned good WR's. Julian Edleman, Hines Ward, Randall Cobb.....and others, like Ron Curry, Braxton Miller, where it's been more of a struggle.

 

It's reasonable to consider he could make a position switch. And Jackson's the quickest guy on the field in nearly every game he's played.

 

It's difficult to draw a comp for a guy at a skill position he's never played before...but assuming he can even actually catch the ball, if I take a wild swing... I think he could be something like a 6'3 DeSean Jackson. While his floor might be another Tedd Ginn.

 

 

  • NFL Comparison

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Every QB comp for Jackson mentioned here demonstrated the passing ability/arm talent to win a clutch game with their arm just as well as their legs.

I'm not sure the same can be said of Jackson just yet.

 

There's no doubt he possesses all the tools, but he's a clear cut project in the same way that Colin Kaepernick, for instance, was an elite tools project.

 

Kaepernick appeared to make enormous strides in his pre draft preparation with his mechanics, footwork and white board work to the degree that you felt confident he would start in the league sooner rather than later.

 

Assuming he declares, a similar showing from Jackson will catapult him up the boards.

 

I feel like Jackson is roughly the same level of prospect as Kaepernick. Not as a comparison but as caliber of prospect.

In short, he's a game changing scrambler, and a toolsy thrower with a very good, not incredible arm, that needs further precision.

 

The question that will come up in draft rooms is... could what Jackson become as a WR help the club more than what he could become as a QB?

 

Vick was the best running NFL QB of all time. He was a deceptive runner who always had an extra gear and had one of the strongest arms in the league. It made him an especially difficult playmaker to contain despite his limitations as a passer.

 

Jackson, when he enters the league, should be just as dangerous a runner from the position as Vick, but to be picky, he's a little less deceptive and his arm isn't as strong.

 

Texas' Vince Young was a relentless, gifted runner who often carried his team, and was a good enough passer to make you respect his arm.

 

Jackson's faster and his mechanics are better, but his play style reminds me most of Vince Young. Essentially, I feel he's a mentally stronger, less clutch, 6'3' Vince Young.

 

Young never really advanced his passing ability as a pro and dealt with personal demons that helped sack his career.

 

I think Jackson's continued progression as a passer and especially his initial scheme/coach will be vital to his success as a pro QB.

 

As a WR, it's a blind projection purely going off his physical skill set, but he's unquestionably a special player with the ball in his hands. Seneca Wallace, Kordell Stewart, Joe Webb and most recently Terrelle Pryor have each played QB and WR in the league with moderate success. Jackson's more talented than each of them.

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