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Take Two: Could Lamar Jackson end up being a steal in NFL Draft?

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson (AP Images)

Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

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CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

THE STORYLINE 

Lamar Jackson posted incredible numbers in three seasons at Louisville, won the Heisman Trophy and dominated college football in numerous ways. But his NFL Draft status continues to be opined, and there are some who don’t believe he has the throwing ability to be a first-round pick.

In a draft that’s loaded with quarterbacks and that could see USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield all taken early in the first round, there still seems to be a considerable amount of debate on where Jackson will land, mainly because his downfield accuracy is a perceived weakness.

Jackson finished with 69 touchdowns and 27 picks and also rushed for 4,132 yards with 50 scores - those numbers on the ground were better than the career stats of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who is considered a generational talent.

Jackson decided not to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine or at his pro day, and some think it would have been a no-win situation. If he was super fast, the argument he should move to receiver would be ramped up. If he was slower than expected, it could hurt his draft stock.

So in a draft filled with quarterbacks at the top, each with their own concerns and issues, why is Jackson not being considered among the top four with Darnold, Rosen, Mayfield and Allen?

  FIRST TAKE: HOWIE LINDSEY, CARDINALSPORTS.COM  

Lamar Jackson didn't run the 40 because he doesn't have to run the 40. Everyone knows he's fast. Beyond that, his game speed is faster than his track speed. His pro day was all about getting under center and showing he can do the dropbacks and make the throws.

“In terms of draft position, Lamar is probably going to go in the mid- to late-first round because he's not a ready-made NFL quarterback. He's not a safe pick. The terrible teams drafting in the first 10 picks want safe picks at quarterback, and they'll get guys who are within inches of their full potential.

"Lamar Jackson still has miles to go before he reaches full "Super Saiyan," as he likes to say. I actually hope he goes later in the first round so he can go to a better team with a decent QB who he can learn behind for a season. I can't wait to see the player he is going to become.”

  SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM  

“I don’t know if he should go mid-first round. There’s going to be a run of quarterbacks at the top, and that’s where you’ll see who wants to trade in. The four quarterbacks at the top of this draft are all going to go probably in the top six or seven picks.

“Before, there were projections of a guy like Rosen dropping to No. 15 or in that range and that’s not going to happen anymore. Once you get through those four, is somebody going to trade up for Jackson? That’s where I think he could go in the middle of the first round. Talent-wise, he’s late first round or a second-rounder. He should’ve run. I don’t know why he didn’t. I don’t think it’s comparisons. I just don’t know why he didn’t run. If I were him, I would certainly show off my speed if I knew I was going to test well. Maybe he knew he wasn’t going to run that great.

“When it comes to throwing, these stupid pro days where it’s routes on air are even worse than anything we see – at least we get to see guys throw with defensive backs out there – and he wasn’t overly impressive. There were some accuracy issues there, not as bad as the combine, because he was in a more comfortable setting. I think he’s a big-time reach if you’re talking in the middle of the first round. I would take him late in the first if I wanted to take a chance or I’d take him in the second round.”