It has been rumored recently that the Baltimore Ravens are considering drafting Lamar Jackson later this month. The prospect is intriguing, to say the least, and the main catalyst for these rumors has been the Ravens organization itself. Last week, the Baltimore Ravens held a press conference in which Joe Hortiz, Director of College Scouting for the Ravens said that Lamar Jackson was the “type of guy you can build around.”. Ozzie Newsome mentioned that he may surprise fans this year with who he picks at number 16. That is, if he picks, at number 16. Fuel was added to the fire when the Ravens invited Lamar Jackson to an official visit at the team facilities in Owings Mills, Maryland.
Many NFL analysts, including myself, predict that Lamar Jackson will be selected in the first round of the draft. However, predictions and value are two very different things. In my opinion, Lamar Jackson is grossly overvalued, and drafting him in the first round would be a major mistake for any franchise. This is not a knock on Lamar Jackson. He is a very good football player who had tremendous success at Louisville. His talent is there, but his playstyle does not match the Ravens scheme and is more akin to Tim Tebow than anyone else. Lamar Jackson is a great running quarterback, but he has negative qualities that cannot be overlooked.
Lamar Jackson is undersized, standing at just 6’2″, 216 lbs. He is not an accurate passer, especially when compared to other quarterbacks in this draft class. He lacks the precision required of NFL quarterbacks. He also will be prone to fumble the ball, as he does not carry the ball properly. Instead of holding it high and tight, he holds it out in the open, ready to have it snatched from him. Again, I’m not criticizing Lamar Jackson as a person, or even as a player. He was an excellent college quarterback, whose value is being vastly blown out of proportion. It’s risk versus reward when drafting players in the NFL, and the risks outweigh the rewards with Lamar Jackson.
If the Ravens did draft Lamar Jackson, what would the team be getting from him? A player with the ability to electrify an offense, yes, but one who may not translate to the NFL. And for what? Joe Flacco showed that he still has plenty of gas in the tank during the final stretch of the 2017 season. He could end up playing for six more years for all we know. To spend a first round pick on Jackson, just so he could sit on the bench for four or five years, would be ludicrous. The Ravens showed that the team is ready to win now, and is just a few pieces on offense from doing so. Quarterback is not one of those pieces.
If the Ravens want to add a designated heir to Flacco’s franchise quarterback throne, the team needs to be smart about it. First round selections need to be immediate starters. There is no problem with drafting Lamar Jackson in the second round if Ozzie Newsome really believes with time he can be developed. It would still be a reach for him, but it would be less of an issue than drafting him in the first round. But will Lamar Jackson fall to the second round? Probably not. The Ravens have a better chance of finding a developmental quarterback in the later rounds, with prospects who I would argue, are better. LSU quarterback Danny Etling, who I ranked sixth in this year’s quarterback class, can be obtained in the fourth and fifth rounds. Other quarterbacks like Mike White of Western Kentucky, and J.T. Barrett of Ohio State, can both be found in the later rounds. With time and coaching, all three of these passers can become excellent at their craft.
In all honesty, there is no way the Baltimore Ravens are actually considering Lamar Jackson as a first-round option. This is all just a smokescreen, to ensure the likely quarterback blitz at the top of the draft. If a run on quarterbacks happens in the first ten picks, it ensures better players fall to the sixteenth pick, where the Ravens are currently seated. Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said it himself during a press conference in February, that the Ravens had “bigger fish to fry”, when asked about finding Joe Flacco’s heir. Who knows, Josh Woodrum could end up beating out Robert Griffin III this offseason as the backup quarterback, and the Ravens could eye him as the future.
If the unlikely scenario occurs that Lamar Jackson falls into the second round, the Ravens could easily justify drafting him. However, the first round is a stretch for a quarterback that is not going to play for at least two or three years, barring a massive injury to Flacco. The Ravens aren’t showing their cards by keeping rumors alive, but I find it very hard to believe the team would actually invest so much into Lamar Jackson, while not guaranteed to see it ever pay off. In short, drafting Lamar Jackson in the first round would be a very bad idea. Even if he turned out to be a great quarterback in the NFL, it just isn’t worth the risk for Baltimore right now.