BOZICH | NFL teams primed to dis (and motivate) Lamar Jackson at quarterback
Rick Bozich studies 25 mock NFL Drafts and found Lamar Jackson ranked as high as No. 12 by three analysts -- and outside the first round by three others.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With the 15th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select Lamar Jackson of the University of Louisville.
Tell me what would be awful with that?
Phenomenal weather. New coaching staff ready to change the franchise vibe. Two veteran quarterbacks on the roster who can take the early hits and then step aside when Jackson is ready to make his skeptics look silly.
No offense, Buffalo and Cleveland, but there are worse places Lamar Jackson could start his professional career than suburban Phoenix.
This time, I'm serious: Tell me what would be wrong with Jackson going 15th to Arizona.
The Cardinals are a mess. Their best receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, is a senior citizen. They're several lengths behind an improving Los Angeles Rams' team in the NFC West. Jackson's signature number -- 8 -- has been retired by the Cardinals for Larry Wilson.
If Jackson goes 15th, it's likely his name will be called after Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. That is not surprising but is confounding to people who watched Jackson average 399 yards per game of total offense the last two seasons for the Cardinals.
But that's the way it will be Thursday night when the first round of the NFL Draft unfolds at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
I compiled the numbers of 25 mock drafts. I included guys like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN. The crew at NFL.com. The Yahoo, Ringer and CBSSports.com websites. Four of the last five winners of the mock draft contest at TheHuddleReport.com, which has compiled and scored the results from dozens of mocks in recent seasons.
Here is the breakdown on Lamar Jackson from 25 mock drafts:
Best forecast: Three sites have Jackson going 12th to the Buffalo Bills.
Most consistent forecast: Arizona, which was the pick by 11 of 25 sites.
Worst forecast: Undrafted in the first round. Send your critical e-mails to Daniel Jeremiah, Charley Casserly and Curtis Conway of NFL.com. They're the Three Amigos.
Other projected spots: two forecasts to the Ravens (16th); one to the Chargers (17); one to the Bengals (21); two to the Saints (27) and two to the Steelers (28).
Don't be surprised if all of them are wrong. It's the NFL Draft. Even when forecasters get the draft right, teams get the picks wrong. Ask the offending franchises how those Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Paxton Lynch, E.J. Manuel, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden first-round picks have worked out at quarterback over the last half-dozen seasons.
You know the knocks on Jackson. He failed to complete 60 percent of his throws as a junior or sophomore. He's too eager to tuck and run, which is a direct route to the injured list in the NFL.
This what Victor Mather wrote about Jackson in his draft preview at the New York Times, after talking to NFL talent evaluator Mike Mayock:
"He's the most intriguing and hardest to place," Mayock said. "His upside is so high, I wonder if someone is going to try to get him in the first 10 or 12, 13, 14 picks. If he starts sliding into the 20s, you've got all these really good football teams with what I call a secondary quarterback need."
"That would be the best place for him to go."
Most drafters have him going somewhere between No. 12 and the end of the first round. The BetDSI sportsbook has the over/under for his draft slot at 17.5.
The guys the NFL gurus like (or is it love?) more than Jackson are the guys they believe have more thunderous and accurate arms -- Josh Allen of Wyoming; Josh Rosen of UCLA; Sam Darnold of USC and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.
Allen received the most love as the overall Number One pick, earning the top spot from 13 of the 25 mocks I studied. Not everybody is gaga. I found him at 11th in one mock and 12th in another.
Scouts love Allen's sizzling arm strength and size. I wonder how they justify the three games last season when he failed to complete 10 passes or 50 percent of his throws. Doesn't sound like the next John Elway to me.
Darnold has the best overall scouting report, probably because he played the glamour position at USC (although that didn't help Mark Sanchez or Matt Leinart). Of the 25 forecasts, 12 have Darnold going first to Cleveland and 22 put him in the top three picks.
Mayfield, surprisingly (at least to me), earns considerable love, too. He's third on 10 mocks, sixth on five forecasts, 11th on eight and only as low as 12th on one. Considering some of Mayfield's antics, I'm surprised teams are eager to plant their flag on his shoulder pads.
There is Rosen, the only guy who splits opinion as much as Jackson. You can find Rosen as high as Number 3 on eight mock drafts -- and 12th or lower on nine forecasts.
That's not surprising when people sometimes question how much Rosen loves football.
Nobody needs to ask Jackson how much he loves football. He loves it -- and Jackson will love getting the opportunity to show people that he can play the position better than Allen, Darnold, Mayfield or Rosen.
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