Seven picks after drafting South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst 25’th overall, the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the first round in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring the 32’nd overall pick and selecting Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
For the 32’nd pick, the Ravens sent pick #52 (second round), pick #125 (fourth round), and a 2019 second-round pick to the Eagles.
Jackson stands at 6’2″, 216 pounds. A native of Pompano Beach, Florida, Jackson played in 38 games over three seasons at Louisville, where he threw for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in that span.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016, becoming the youngest player ever to win the award. Jackson is just 21-years-old, and will not turn 22 until Jan. 17, 2019. In his Heisman-winning season, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns.
For a quarterback, Jackson resembles a speedy play-maker who relies on his ability to move out of the pocket and make plays with both his arms and his legs. He has a powerful arm and can easily avoid defenders with his speed. He’s a touchdown machine both as a runner and a thrower, reminiscent of Michael Vick.
As the case is with any scrambling quarterback, the big concern with Jackson will be whether or not be can stay healthy at the NFL level. Although he did not miss a start over his last two seasons at Louisville, collegiate superstar quarterbacks, like Robert Griffin III, saw their professional careers fall apart due to injuries. With Jackson being less than 220 pounds, that’s definitely something to worry about. The more Jackson runs, the better chance he has of getting hurt.
Although scouts praised Jackson for his arm strength, his accuracy needs some improvement. He needs to lower the height on his deep balls, adjust his low release point, and stop staring receivers down. These types of things lead to tipped passes and interceptions, and Jackson has thrown 27 of them in his collegiate career.
For a team who’s owner said a few weeks after the 2017 season ended that the Ravens “had bigger fish to fry” than finding Joe Flacco‘s potential replacement in the 2018 draft, this is a stunner. Most expected the Ravens to take a quarterback in the mid rounds, but not this early. Although John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ brass said after the pick that Flacco is still their quarterback going forward, the writing is on the wall. Jackson will likely need some time to develop under Flacco, but if the 11-year veteran fails to lead the Ravens back to the postseason for the first time in four years, the Lamar Jackson era could very well begin in Baltimore. After all, Flacco has no more guaranteed money on his contract after the 2018 season.
The drafting of Jackson likely means that RGIII will not make the 53-man roster as training camp progresses. Jackson and Griffin are virtually the same quarterback, and the Ravens’ intentions are clear with this pick. Griffin will need an outstanding summer performance to even warrant the Ravens keeping a third quarterback on the roster.
Image Credit: Houston Chronicle