Skeptics on Both Sides Not Fazing Lamar Jackson
(973espn.com) — If you go looking for insults, you're going to find them.
That's the path so many took when a bad Bill Polian take morphed into murky reports suggesting that "some" NFL talent evaluators want Lamar Jackson to work out at wide receiver in advance of April's draft, something the star Louisville quarterback actually denied when he took the podium on Friday in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“No teams have asked me to play wide receiver,” Jackson asserted. “I don’t even know where [that report] came from. I’m strictly quarterback.”
The low-hanging fruit of the athletic African-American quarterback unfairly stereotyped by a Caucasian power structure was blown, or so it seemed.
Not so fast.
Then came the hypotheticals with the assumption someone may make the suggestion down the line.
“I’m not going to their team,” Jackson plainly said of the so far non-existent team. “If anything, whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going. That’s strictly my position.”
To date, every personnel expert I've discussed Jackson with have only talked about him as a QB with the talk centering on whether he's a late first- or second-round talent with some outside the game taking the latter as some kind of insult because of the success Jackson had in Louisville.
Many outside the NFL often can't fathom how college success doesn't necessarily translate to the next level and that's why the Tim Tebow fan club is so sure he would be on the fast route to Canton instead of trying to breakthrough in Major League Baseball if just given one more opportunity or that once co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam was kept from excelling in the league because of his sexual preference.
Jackson is a much better prospect than either of those players and better than many recent college QBs actually asked to make similar changes, some white like Tebow or former Nebraska star Eric Crouch.
If you're not actually looking for trouble perhaps the better description of Jackson's ability is that he has the physical gifts to make a move to WR if things don't work out as a signal caller much like Terrelle Pryor, which could just as easily be spun as a compliment.
The problem comes with history, of course.
If you want to go back in time and deny African-Americans were often unfairly stereotyped and steered away from the QB position, you're just as wrong as those who believe that Jackson is being singled out in the modern era where there have been African-American superstars at the position for years.
Ironically, those making the easy comparison with Deshaun Watson today are engaging in the same empty thinking that they accuse others of.
After all, Watson was the No. 12 overall pick last year, hardly a sleight, and assuming Jackson is the next Watson because both were African-American playmakers at the college level is a bit superficial isn't it?
Every prospect is criticized through the draft process but in the 2018 NFL, no one is looking at the skin color of a quarterback who might be able to help them win.
Jackson will ultimately get his opportunity at his position of choice and it will be up to him to do something with it.
“I’ve faced adversity throughout my whole life,” Jackson said. “Just coming up since youth football, going to high school, they said, ‘You can’t do this and that.’ I got to college and was able to do it. And I’m here now, so I’m ready to do it.”
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen