Lamar Jackson Declares for 2018 NFL Draft After 3 Years at Louisville

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2018

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 18:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals  runs with the ball against the Syracuse Orange during the game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson announced Friday he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL draft.

He made it official with the following tweet in which he thanked the University of Louisville along with his teammates and coaches:

Lamar Jackson @Lj_era8


Jackson enjoyed another strong season in 2017 with 3,660 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He added 1,601 rushing yards and 18 rushing scores en route to a third-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

That came on the heels of a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2016 when he threw for 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions to go along with 1,571 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.

The argument can be made that Jackson was just as good in 2017 as he was in 2016 statistically, but he wasn't given legitimate Heisman consideration due to Louisville's 8-5 record.

Even so, Jackson made history by becoming the first quarterback in NCAA history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. He also joined an exclusive club as one of only three players in FBS history with 50 career passing touchdowns and 50 career rushing touchdowns along with Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick.

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino tweeted the following highlight video featuring some of Jackson's most spectacular plays from the 2017 season:

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Bobby Petrino @CoachPetrinoUL

YES!!! The best ever!!! @Lj_era8 @UofLFootball @HeismanTrophy #RingTheBell https://t.co/6X8KdawvVg

While Jackson is among the most productive quarterbacks in NCAA history, there has been no shortage of questions regarding how he will translate to the NFL.

Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports is among those with a high opinion of Jackson and his ability to play quarterback in the NFL:

Barrett Sallee @BarrettSallee

NFL scouts will tell you for the next six months that Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are better than Lamar Jackson. They'll be wrong.

ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian isn't so sure, though.

Appearing on ESPN LA (h/t Jason Lisk of The Big Lead) in September, Polian expressed his belief that Jackson isn't on the same level as Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. He added that Jackson may have to change positions in the NFL.

"I don't think that Lamar the Louisville kid's in that discussion; in fact there's a question that he may be, he might be a receiver," Polian said. "No, I'm not kidding you. And that has to do with girth and skill set as well."

Nick Coffey of 790 KRD vehemently disagreed with that assessment:

Nick Coffey @TheCardConnect

No clue what the future holds for Lamar Jackson at the next level, but anyone saying he needs to play a different position in the NFL hasn't watched him play.

For as eye-popping as Jackson's numbers have been, he has some deficiencies that could limit him in the NFL.

Chief among them is his low completion percentage; he completed just 59.1 percent of his passes in 2017 and 57.0 percent during his collegiate career.

Jackson is also susceptible to injury due to his penchant for running, which would make investing a high pick in him risky. Due to the injury risks involved with playing another year for free, though, it is difficult to argue with Jackson's decision.

As of Nov. 20, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Jackson ranked as the No. 5 quarterback in the 2018 draft class behind Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Baker Mayfield.


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