Lamar Jackson offered a lesson on quarterback evaluations in the draft

OWINGS MILLS — There are numerous teams in the NFL questioning how they passed on Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL draft.

The Ravens traded three draft picks to the Eagles for a 2018 first-round pick to take Jackson at 32nd overall. Jackson was the fifth quarterback selected that year after Baker Mayfield (No. 1, Browns), Sam Darnold (No. 3, Jets), Josh Allen (No. 7, Bills), and Josh Rosen (No. 10, Cardinals).

Since being taken, Jackson has won a pair of NFL MVP awards and the Ravens have made the playoffs five times. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah and a number of NFL scouts underestimated Jackson.

“I wish I could go back and have a higher grade on Lamar,” Jeremiah said on his 2024 NFL draft conference call. “I think he was my 32nd player. I thought he was — he was very dynamic and had the upside to be really, really good.

“There was just make sure you fit him with the right spot and use him properly and correctly. That’s where he went. He went to the Ravens. They crafted an offense around what he does really well and his dynamic tools took off. You’ve seen him continue to grow and develop in the passing game throughout the years.”

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks with quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Photo by David Richard, USA Today Sports

Jackson has gone 58-19 as the starting quarterback for the Ravens in the regular season. He is the fastest quarterback to reach 5,000 yards rushing. Michael Vick holds the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback at 6,109, which Jackson could eclipse next season.

Of the 15 quarterbacks to receive multiple first-team All-Pro selections, Jackson and former Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts are the only ones who have never started in a Super Bowl, according to ESPN Stats.

Nonetheless, Jackson is a franchise quarterback who changed the fortunes of the Ravens. He also provided a valuable case study for NFL teams when evaluating quarterbacks in the draft.

“I think the lesson there is, first of all, don’t ever pass up that rare of a dynamic player,” Jeremiah said. “I think the other lesson, and I remember talking about this during that run-up, is I think some people struggle with it because if you watched him on tape, you could see two incompletions a game that were just — it was, like, two terrible plays where there would be just throws, and you’d be like, golly, that was awful.

“There’s so much good in there with him as a runner, a creator, and even as a passer working in the middle of the field very comfortably. Outside the numbers, he wasn’t as accurate. So I think that people made more of the few bad plays than they should have in that evaluation … I think those are some of the lessons you could take away from Lamar.”

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