Lamar Jackson was the fifth quarterback taken in the 2018 NFL Draft. Following the selections of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen, the Ravens took a flier on Jackson.
In his first season, Jackson showed flashes of potential as he electrified the running game for a rather stagnant Ravens offense. As a passer, Jackson was inaccurate at times, but he showed some promise.
Since the final seconds ticked off of the Ravens’ season against the Chargers, fans and analysts alike have been criticizing the play of Lamar Jackson. Most point towards the potential for an unsustainable level of offense in the Ravens’ system. After a rather pitiful performance against the Chargers for most of the game, Jackson was no longer immune to the criticism of fans and the media as he was one of the sole reasons why the Ravens lost. With these hardships falling on him over the last few months, his talent has been eroded in the public eye.
A popular off-season topic is the creation of a quarterback power rankings. This system of ranking quarterbacks includes the five rookie quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class. While people have ranked them and predicted their future successes since the 2018 draft, very few have put Jackson at or near the top of that list. Many have Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold ahead of Jackson, no arguments there. However, the presence of Josh Rosen and Josh Allen above Lamar Jackson in arguments brings controversy.
In the 2019 season, Rosen was putrid for much of the year. He showed very little in the way of upside. While Josh Allen was as flashy as Lamar Jackson at times, his inabilities as a passer were evident. Despite his cannon of an arm and elite ability to escape pressure in the pocket, Allen lobbed interceptions left and right while also having a relatively low completion percentage. Even Donald had problems with connecting with wide receivers, hitting below 60 percent of his passes.
While completion percentage does not tell the whole story of how successful or unsuccessful the quarterbacks were, it can be a barrier to the growth of Lamar Jackson, at least in the eyes of the media. The double standard arises when individuals in the media observe Lamar Jackson’s 58 percent completion rate and proclaim it is not good enough to succeed in the NFL. The same media members fail to look at the completion percentages of the likes of Donald, Allen, and Rosen who have lower percentages than the Ravens starting quarterback. Another factor in play that some people don’t notice is interception percentage. Jackson has the lowest interception percentage of any of the five rookie quarterbacks, even lower than near-Rookie of the Year Baker Mayfield.
Jackson, who threw zero interceptions in December, was very effective at keeping the ball out of the hands of the opposition on his pass attempts. While his fumbling must be improved upon, Jackson appears to make fewer turnover-worthy throws, although he was bailed out by questionable defensive plays later in the season. Even Mayfield threw three interceptions in Week 17 as the Browns fell to the Ravens. Darnold, Rosen, and Allen all threw more than 10 interceptions and had rates nearly twice as high as Lamar Jackson’s interception rate at times in the season.
If any of the three quarterbacks have started all 16 games, they probably would have led the NFL in interceptions, beating out Ben Roethlisberger. The other four rookie quarterbacks were all in the top 10 in the NFL in interception percentage for those with qualifying stats. If Jackson had qualified he would’ve been in the bottom 10 to 12 quarterbacks, the very best of the best at keeping the ball away from the opponent.
With Lamar Jackson in the NFL, there will certainly always be haters who will maintain that he is unable to throw the football at a high-level. Even with these detractors, Jackson has shown flashes of being an effective quarterback both as a runner and, at times, as a passer.
The former Louisville product should continue to progress and the Ravens organization will continue to have high hopes for the former No. 32 overall pick.