Stop trying to make star QB Lamar Jackson a WR

Nov 25, 2017; Lexington, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats in the first half at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson is an NFL quarterback prospect. It’s that simple, no matter what nonsense you hear until draft weekend.

A strange narrative has circulated, presumably from certain NFL scouts, that the former Heisman Trophy winner’s biggest impact would be at the wide receiver position at the next level. Has anyone seen Jackson run routes? Catch a football?

Why would a switch to wideout wipe out the concerns over his frame? If anything, he would take more vicious hits going over the middle on routes, unlike in the open field as a quarterback-turned-runner, where he has done a great job eluding contact.

The point is simple: Lamar Jackson is an NFL quarterback prospect, something that wasn’t given to him but rather earned by immense improvements as a passer over the years. He’s reading the field, he’s throwing with touch to all three levels of the field. Most importantly, he’s elevating the play of those around him from the most important position on the field.

If you aren’t enamored with Jackson as a prospect, that’s fine — to each their own. To not even give him a chance at the position, one where significantly inferior talent has been drafted over the last five years? That is absolutely insane to me.

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is rumored and projected among many as a top-10 selection for next spring even while completing only 56 percent of his passes over the last two years and having a 13:6 touchdown-interception ratio this season. The narrative around Allen is that he’s big and athletic with a gigantic arm, while also getting very little help from his poor supporting cast.

Those arguments are fair, but why doesn’t Jackson (who has been far more productive with a 60.4 completion percentage and a 25:6 touchdown-interception ratio) get similar backing? He has a pretty big arm as well with a flick-of-the-wrist release. If you need proof, wait no longer:

The consistent argument against him is his frame, which is undoubtedly light for a quarterback who stands between 6-2 and 6-3. Two other quarterbacks in recent years have received the same criticism before the combine, but had little problem bulking up. Those were Marcus Mariota, who weighed in at 222 pounds in Indy, and Deshaun Watson, who weighed in at 221.

The other pressing (and unfair) concern is that Jackson is consistently compared to Robert Griffin III. While RGIII flamed out of the NFL quickly due to multiple injuries, his rookie season was brilliant.

Most important is that Jackson is a very different prospect from the former Baylor superstar. He protects his body better when he takes off in the open field, shows a different on-field demeanor, and is more impressive as an intermediate passer, the bread and butter of today’s NFL.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen will most likely be the premier signal-calling prospect in the 2018 draft class. Sam Darnold out of USC, assuming he declares, won’t be too far behind. The rise of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (the soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner and potential national champion) has been as impressive as anything we’ve seen during this college football season.

That does not mean we should rule out Jackson entirely in this year’s group. The demand for franchise quarterback’s is as high as it will ever be in the NFL. Talk of moving a potential one to wide receiver is not only unjustified, but a waste of everyone’s time. Lamar Jackson is an NFL quarterback prospect, it’s that simple.

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