Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner known for his athleticism, didn’t lead with his strength at the Cardinals’ Pro Day on Thursday morning.
He didn’t run the 40-yard dash, just like he skipped that drill at the NFL Combine in late February. Even if NFL personnel men — and every team was represented on Thursday — don’t have an exact time for Jackson, does it matter?
“Game speed is going to tell you it,” Jackson said with a smile during an interview with the NFL Network. “You have to catch me first.”
Jackson, in a workout in which he threw about 60 passes, mostly tried to address his perceived weaknesses. He took all his snaps from an actual center, having worked on his footwork and widening his throwing base after operating in the shotgun at Louisville.
“I came out here to prove to the guys that I can throw any pass from under center, instead of going in gun,” Jackson said. “That was a lot of things that guys were saying — you’ve got to see how fast he can get back in the pocket and have velocity on the ball.”
Jackson, who was measured at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds at the Combine, passed for more than 3,500 yards and ran for more than 1,500 in each of the final two college seasons before declaring early for the NFL Draft.
He is generally considered the fifth-best quarterback in a draft in which quarterbacks will be coveted early. In some order, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield are considered the top four.
NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Dane Brugler projects the Arizona Cardinals to select Jackson with the 15th overall pick. NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang has Jackson going 12th to the Buffalo Bills in his latest mock draft.
“Lamar Jackson is going to require an offensive play-caller who is going to be willing to cater his game to what Lamar Jackson does very, very well,” Rang said this week on SiriusXM.
“He does have the flick of the wrist, incredible arm strength, and he does have better accuracy than what many give him credit for. And, of course, he’s an extraordinary athlete. All that said, he too often stares down his primary receiver, and in the NFL, that’s going to lead to some trouble.
“There is going to be a learning curve with Lamar Jackson. As long as the NFL team that drafts him knows that and accepts that and is willing to cater their offense around him — very similar to what the Houston Texans did with Deshaun Watson a year ago — then I do think he can be very successful immediately.”
Jackson is sometimes compared to Michael Vick, the former Virginia Tech and NFL quarterback who told ESPN that Jackson is “five times better” than he was at the same stage of his career.
Andre Ware, the 1989 Heisman winner, said on ESPN that he would draft Jackson above the other quarterbacks. Even though there is little consensus with this quarterback draft class, that is very much an outlier opinion.
“Well, no matter what you do in life, there is always going to be naysayers,” Jackson said on ESPN. “No matter if you prove them wrong or whatever, they are still going to have negative comments. I still felt like I came out and showed the guys I could play from under center.”