Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson was selected with the No. 32 pick in the first round Thursday by the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens traded back into the first round to get Jackson, announcing they sent the 52nd and 125th selections in 2018 and a 2019 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for this year's 32nd and 132nd picks. Baltimore had previously selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the No. 25 pick.
Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III and safety Tony Jefferson welcomed their new teammate:
Many praised the Ravens for finding a likely successor to Joe Flacco:
The major question for Jackson coming into the draft process was whether he would be a quarterback or a wide receiver during his NFL career.
As a signal-caller at Louisville, he won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and threw for 7,203 yards, 57 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over the past two seasons while also rushing for 3,172 yards and another 39 scores.
If he stays at quarterback, he has the athleticism to have a Michael Vick-esque impact at the next level. But there are questions about his ability to make an impact in the pocket given his completion percentage sat at 57 percent in college.
ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian, for instance, doesn't see Jackson as a quarterback at the next level.
"I think [he's a] wide receiver," Polian told ESPN when discussing Jackson's best future position in February (h/t Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk). "Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand and that's rare for wide receivers. That's [Antonio Brown], and who else? Name me another one. Julio [Jones is] not even like that."
NFL front office personnel, meanwhile, seem to be torn on Jackson.
"With as much natural talent he has, there's developmental potential," an NFC player personnel director told B/R's Matt Miller in December. "The key will be how well his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach can create a scheme for him—like Kyle Shanahan with Robert Griffin III—so he can have success early. Then you have to build on that success so defenses don't catch up to him."
A former NFL general manager mused on Jackson's situation when speaking to Miller: "Well, I think the first question is what is he? I don't think he's a great passer despite good arm strength. I don't think he's a powerful enough runner to have success on the ground. So he'll have to learn to be a better thrower and stop relying on his legs. And if that doesn't work, move him to receiver."
Greg Cosell of NFL Films shared his scouting report on the player:
Greg Cosell @gregcosell
Today's evaluation is Lamar Jackson. A lot there, and a lot of factors and variables as you transition him to the NFL. Smart reasonable people will have different points of view re: Jackson. There's no question he will generate much discussion in NFL organizations. https://t.co/0e0MBuqLKa
And plenty of people believe he'll absolutely be a quarterback at the next level:
Matt Bowen @MattBowen41
I go back to playing against Michael Vick when studying Lamar Jackson. There were certain coverages/pressures we just couldn’t run against Vick. Too dynamic with the ball in his hands. Rare stuff...And I think Jackson could have a similar impact as he develops in the NFL. https://t.co/Rv9EXNG10P
One thing just about everyone can agree on, however, is Jackson is dynamic when he has the ball in space.
There will be a role for Jackson in the NFL, whether he's utilized as a quarterback, wide receiver or gets to play a specialized, hybrid role that players such as Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randle El played in the past for NFL teams.
Obviously, Baltimore believes he has the ability to be special at the next level, and his selection will energize the fans, as their team has just brought aboard arguably one of the most dynamic weapons in this draft.
And having Flacco as the incumbent starter in 2018 should aid in Jackson's long-term development, since he won't need to take the No. 1 job right out of the gate.