Michael Vick: Don't Draft Lamar Jackson If You're Going to Waste His Talent

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2018

Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) warms up before the start of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick believes that any team interested in drafting Lamar Jackson has to be willing to build a scheme around the Louisville star's unique talent.

"The team that drafts him has to understand: We're going to change our mindset, our thinking," he told Mina Kimes and Domonique Foxworth of The Undefeated. "You have to take advantage of the talent. If you're going to waste it, don't draft him."

An NFL scout agreed with Vick's take.

"Offenses are more suited now to what Lamar can do," he told The Undefeated, adding that the team that drafts Jackson should tailor its offense to his skill set, akin to what Bill O'Brien and the Houston Texans did with rookie Deshaun Watson in 2017, changing its scheme on the fly.

"If not, they're being stubborn," the scout added.

Jackson is nothing short of dynamic. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 after throwing for 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing for another 1,571 yards and 21 scores. His encore in 2017 was hardly shabby, as he finished with 3,660 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 1,601 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.

His incredible athleticism has led some pundits to believe he should transition to wide receiver, though Jackson has maintained he's a quarterback and abstained from running the 40-yard dash at his pro day, likely in protest of the assertion that his athleticism should result in a position change.

"Some of them feel like they aren't given the respect they've earned for being the quarterback and doing the things they need to do to operate the game," Bobby Petrino, Jackson's coach at Louisville, said of athletic, mobile quarterbacks. "I think it's gotten to the point where quarterbacks don't like that tag."

And while there are questions about whether Jackson's game will translate to the NFL, there are even holes in that viewpoint.

"One of the critiques is that he's a spread-offense quarterback, which doesn't make sense at all," Chris Brown, author of The Art of Smart Football, told Kimes and Foxworth. "He played for a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator—they basically run Tom Coughlin's offense."

Brent Venables, Clemson's defensive coordinator, agreed, calling Louisville's scheme "as pro style as you're gonna get in this day and age."

"He made a lot of good, quick decisions with accuracy and poise," he added. "He's deadly when he gets into a rhythm."

And a number of NFL teams have built schemes around the specific skill sets of their quarterbacks or the game plans they were accustomed to in college. The Carolina Panthers have always utilized Cam Newton's dynamic ability as a runner. The Philadelphia Eagles incorporated many of the run-pass options that Carson Wentz ran in college. 

And one of the failures of the Mike Munchak era in Tennessee, arguably, was that he didn't utilize the dual-threat skills of Marcus Mariota to his fullest potential.

The argument for the pro-Jackson crowd has always been that quarterback isn't a one-size-fits-all position when it comes to skill sets. Is Jackson perfect? No. He only completed 59.1 percent of his passes in 2017, for instance, and his accuracy is a real concern. 

But mechanics and accuracy can be corrected, and if Jackson thrives in the NFL, it likely will be on a team that drafts him and builds its scheme around what Jackson does best. Trying to change him, either by assuming he's a wide receiver or forcing him to be a pocket passer, likely won't work.