Bucky Brooks: Lamar Jackson closer to RGIII than Marcus Mariota

The expected quarterback class for the 2018 NFL Draft is an exciting one. Players like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mason Rudolph and Josh Allen will all jockey for early first-round consideration in addition to Lamar Jackson, the defending Heisman Trophy winner.

Jackson was recently put under the microscope by NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, who suggested the supremely gifted athlete was closer to Robert Griffin, III than Marcus Mariota when it comes to playing quarterback.

“When I compare his game to Mariota and Griffin, he currently is closer to Griffin, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, than the Tennessee Titans‘ franchise quarterback. Jackson and his supporters might take offense to my comparison based on RG3‘s recent struggles, but I believe he could learn from the former Redskins and Browns QB1’s missteps.

Instead of relying solely on his athleticism to get out of trouble, Jackson must learn how to win during the pre-snap phase by understanding how to decipher coverage. In addition, he needs to be able to process post-snap adjustments and find a way to get to his second or third option when opponents blanket his primary receiver.”

Brooks isn’t the first analyst to question Jackson’s ability to play quarterback from the shoulders up, and it’s unfortunate. It seems like a yearly tradition that players with Jackson’s makeup are questioned more than the traditional quarterback prospects are. The simple fact is that Jackson is one of the rarest athletes to come along since Michael Vick, who also — ironically — was criticized because of his apparent inability to become a cerebral passer.

Vick overcame an underwhelming receiving corps with the Atlanta Falcons and developed into a dangerous passer with the Philadelphia Eagles during his NFL career.

Jackson is arguably more talented as a runner than Vick was, and that’s hard for me to admit.  Vick was the most exciting player I’ve ever scouted at quarterback; To admit someone may actually surpass him is a hard sell. But it’s true.

Jackson threw for 3,549 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016 while adding 1,571 yards on the ground with an astonishing 21 scores. I can’t see any way he matches those stats this season, but he should at least come close.

Critics will point to Jackson’s 56.2-percent completion rate as evidence of his inconsistencies as a passer. And it’s true. But now entering his third year, and second as the full-time starter for Louisville, I’d expect a significant jump in that department.

Remember:  There are a lot of analysts pumping Wyoming’s Josh Allen as a potential No. 1 pick candidate. His completion rate — 56 percent — was actually lower than Jackson’s.

Scouts would be wise to take a step back and not overanalyze Jackson. He’s a different breed of quarterback and one that doesn’t come around too often. Traditional passing charts and scouting jargon should be tossed out the window when evaluating him. Simply put, he’s a game-changer with potential franchise-changing ability.

As is always the case, he’ll have to put another good season of tape on his resume. If he follows his monster 2016 season with another Godzilla-like year, any attempt to discredit his ability to play quarterback at a high level in the NFL needs to be seriously questioned.