Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com comments on Ravens first round draft pick Lamar Jackson:
“Before the draft, the NFL’s media company pushed this opinion from an unnamed offensive coordinator regarding quarterback Lamar Jackson: ’He will not be able to play [quarterback] in this league — mark my words. When he throws, he hopes.”’
“One guy who may already be ready to unmark the words of the unnamed assistant coach is Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who praised Jackson’s throwing skills nine days after making him a first-round draft pick.
“’The thing that I was really impressed with is I thought he was accurate,’ Harbaugh told reporters on Saturday. ’You read the reports and stuff like that but he’s a naturally talented thrower. He’s got natural arm talent. And that’s something that I think people were questioning. So to see him out here throwing the ball naturally and very accurately I thought was a big plus.”’
There are a lot of people in the NFL media who are very openly rooting for Jackson. Part of this is that with his mobility he could make for an exciting player to watch. Part of it is almost certainly also the deep suspicion that despite all evidence to the contrary, the NFL is resistant to the idea of a black quarterback.
In watching the league over the past decade or so, I don’t think the latter of these factors affects NFL scouts all that much anymore. Scouts simply report the facts and they report what they see. Is it completely unbiased? No. If you let those biases take you too far out of line, you lose both your games and your job.
And here are the facts. Yes, Jackson’s accuracy is a concern. But the biggest problem he faces is that he combines that with a lack of arm strength. Jackson’s ball velocity was tied for dead last among all quarterbacks when measured at the NFL Combine. That’s below a whole host of quarterbacks that weren’t drafted and, indeed, will not even have the whiff of a hope of making an NFL roster.
This is a fact. It isn’t just an impression or some kind of fluffy quote from a coach who has no reason to be anything but positive after a guy’s first practice. It’s a measurement.
Lamar Jackson wasn’t asked to workout as a wide receiver because he’s black or because of some inherent remaining bias in the NFL. It’s because there are real doubts about whether he can make all of the throws. Whether he can get the ball outside the numbers throwing from a dead stand still without hanging it up like a weather balloon. And these doubts are rooted in cold, hard facts.
One of these days, one of these mobile quarterbacks is going to drop back and show that he can throw the ball all over the field consistently and accurately from the pocket. When it happens he’s going to change the game. If Jackson is that guy, more power to him. We can all hope that’s the case.
But don’t hold your breath.