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Bill Polian says Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should switch to receiver

By The Sports Xchange
Bill Polian says Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should switch to receiver
Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws under pressure from the Clemson Tigers defense on September 16, 2017 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Lamar Jackson isn't likely to take the advice of Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian, who said the Heisman-winning quarterback should make a quick change of position.

"I think wide receiver," Polian said Monday on ESPN's Golic and Wingo show.

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"Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand, and that's rare for wide receivers. That's AB [Antonio Brown], and who else? Name me another one who's like that. Julio [Jones] is not even like that.

"This guy is incredible in the open field and has a great ability to separate."

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That's all fine praise, but it also serves as backhanded compliments for the Louisville quarterback, who will be at the NFL Scouting Combine next week with a chance to compare his passing (and athletic) skills next to projected first-round quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen.

NFLDraftScout.com projects Jackson as the 22nd-best prospect, behind those other four quarterbacks. No doubt, Jackson's projection to the next level will be one of the most hotly-debated topics leading up to the draft, which starts April 27.

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Polian said Jackson shouldn't wait to make a position switch as did Terrelle Pryor, who was a quarterback for three seasons with the Oakland Raiders before moving to wide receiver, where he posted a 1,000-yard season in 2016 with Cleveland.

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Maybe Polian is right about Jackson's future spot in the NFL, although calling him "short and a little bit slight" seems overly critical, considering Jackson likely will measure at about 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds at the Combine. If Jackson is short, what does that make Mayfield, who checked in at 6-foot 3/8 inches at the Senior Bowl?

Jackson ranked 29th in the country in passing efficiency last season (146.6 rating) and that mark could have been better. Pro Football Focus noted that 12.04 percent of Jackson's passes were dropped, the highest mark among the top quarterback prospects.

"Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are," Polian said of Jackson. "The accuracy isn't there."

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Jackson rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of the past two seasons, winning the Heisman as a sophomore in 2016. He is often compared to former NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

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NFLDraftScout.com writes:

"Jackson showed improved accuracy and poise from within the pocket from a year ago, keeping his eyes downfield to locate receivers breaking free late even as the rush intensifies and setting his feet to deliver strikes on NFL-caliber throws requiring velocity, timing and touch. He took snaps from under center as well as the shotgun, showing off the vision, poise and body control to quickly reset if pressured and throw accurately on the move.

"For all of his obvious strengths, Jackson still appears more comfortable as a runner than a passer and he remains a projection into the pro-style offense most NFL teams prefer. Jackson runs the ball like a master strategist playing chess, often setting up defenders with shoulder fakes and altered gaits, stringing together moves and instinctively eluding opponents.

"This same anticipation is not always evident as a passer, however. Jackson routinely stared down his primary target at Louisville, often waiting for his receiver to make his break before delivering the pass. Further, Jackson sails some intermediate and short throws, occasionally forcing his receivers to alter their routes or leap into the air to make twirling catches, leaving them vulnerable to big hits and eliminating some run-after-catch opportunities."

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