I had been listening to the Lamar Jackson rumors for weeks, and I’ll admit, they were making me a little nervous.
I wrote earlier this week about Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and how, if the Patriots wanted to draft Tom Brady’s successor in the first or second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, he was the guy I wanted to see them take. I watched video and studied up on all the QBs projected to go in the first two rounds, and out of all of them, Rudolph just seems like the best option. It’s really just a gut feeling, but when it comes to stuff like this, a lot of times your gut instinct is the best thing to trust. It’s just a sports thing.
But I kept hearing Lamar Jackson’s name being mentioned along with the Patriots. Several notable Patriots fans were very, very high on Jackson (Bill Simmons of The Ringer being one of them), and a few rumors were swirling that New England had serious interest in drafting the Louisville product. I just wasn’t buying into the hype. Jackson has potential to excel in the NFL, but his energetic, explosive style of play that often thrives at the college level doesn’t always transfer over to the professional level very well. I didn’t want to see the Patriots take that chance. My gut feeling about Rudolph was much stronger.
The first round of the draft has officially come and gone, and Rudolph is still on the board. Jackson is not. And I’m not going to lie, I’m a little relieved about that.
Four quarterbacks were taken in the first 10 picks of the draft – first time that’s ever happened. The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield first overall (idiots – they just drafted another Manziel), Sam Darnold went to the Jets at No. 3, Josh Allen went to the Bills at No. 7, and Josh Rosen went to the Cardinals at No. 10. Following that, I was rooting for someone … anyone … to draft Jackson. I just wanted him off the board so the Pats wouldn’t be tempted.
When the first Patriots pick rolled around at No. 23 and Jackson was still on the board, I couldn’t sit still. I was a fidgety mess, because I was about 80 percent sure the Pats were going to give in and take Jackson. They were lucky that he had even fallen all the way to 23, to be honest. Surely they wouldn’t be able to resist.
But they did resist. Instead, they took offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn from Georgia – a great pick, because the Patriots ALWAYS need O-line help. It’s their biggest perennial challenge. And I breathed my first sigh of relief because they passed on Jackson. For the time being, at least, they were on the same page as me.
Now, since many folks have described Jackson as the “most exciting quarterback in the draft,” I figured surely he would be off the board when the Pats picked again at No. 31. Nope. There he was, still sitting there, waiting patiently for someone to take a chance on him.
Ugh. At this point, I figured it was a sign. The fact that Jackson was still there at No. 31 … I mean, it was like the Pats had been gifted a second chance. How could they pass on him again? It had to be fate, like the football gods were just waiting for the right opportunity to drop him safely into Bill Belichick’s arms.
But then came the pick, and the Pats took running back Sony Michel. Another sigh of relief, this one much bigger than the last. Belichick had now passed on Jackson TWICE in the first round. Maybe there wasn’t nearly as much interest as the reports had suggested, or maybe Belichick just didn’t believe Jackson was a first round talent. If he could get him in a later round, then maybe he would. Either way, with the Eagles as the only remaining team on the board, it appeared as if Jackson was dropping out of the first round.
At least, until the Ravens came swooping in with an out-of-nowhere trade and snagged Jackson at No. 32, the final pick of the first round. That was that. He was off the board, no longer destined to land in Foxboro.
Had the Pats ended up with Jackson, I would’ve found a way to talk myself into the pick. I always find a way to do that whenever I don’t initially agree with a selection. This scenario would’ve been no different. But ultimately, I just don’t see Jackson’s NFL career panning out the way many people think it will. He’ll be a work in progress for the immediate future, as his footwork and accuracy both need improvement.
Belichick and Josh McDaniels have never ran an offense where a Jackson-style quarterback would really fit in. Additionally, mobile quarterbacks like Jackson rarely work out in the NFL. They become some of the most injury-prone players in the league (just look at Deshaun Watson from last season). It’s not anybody’s fault as to why that is. The NFL is just a much different game than college football; NFL defenses are 10 times tougher.
A bigger guy like Mason Rudolph – 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, powerful arm, throws line drive passes to receivers, doesn’t run quite as much – would do well spending a year or two learning behind Tom Brady and absorbing the Belichick-McDaniels system, and then when his time comes, would be able to step right in and have immediate success. I’m not saying he would become a three-time Super Bowl winner, rack up league MVP awards and break all of the NFL quarterback records. But with the right molding and the right mindset – a competitive, chip-on-the-shoulder mindset – he could win football games for the Patriots. And you can’t really ask anything more from your starting quarterback.
I wish Jackson the best of luck in Baltimore. Heck, if he can be anything like Deshaun Watson was before he got injured last year, then the Ravens will have gotten an absolute steal at No. 32. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pro athlete has made me eat my words. That happens pretty much every year. But for now, I’m glad the Patriots decided to pass on him. And since the Ravens scooped Jackson up at the tail end of the first round, now I won’t have to worry about Belichick being tempted to take him if he continued to slide in the second round.
Sigh of relief.