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CFB Chronicles: Lamar Jackson’s Insane Start

“How the hell was Lamar Jackson allowed to leave the state of Florida?”

That’s the question I’m sure many college football fans are asking themselves after seeing how Jackson firebombed Syracuse last Friday night. Hailing from Boynton Beach, recruited by Clemson, Florida and Florida State, Jackson has racked up 697 passing yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 318 rushing yards and six more scores in two games.

There’s no question that Charlotte and Syracuse are not top level competition, but heading into this week’s showdown against Florida State, can Jackson keep this monster run of play going?

Laying Waste

Jackson ranks second in the country in rushing TDs and third in rushing yards per game. Only Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes II has accounted for more total offense than Jackson through the first two weeks. According to Sports Reference, since 2000, only four other players have accounted for 500+ passing yards and 200+ rushing yards in Weeks 1 and 2 combined:

lamarjackson1

Although Jackson has completed just 55.7 percent of his combined throws in 14 collegiate games, as Steve Palazzolo from Pro Football Focus noted, “his adjusted completion percentage of 76.7 percent (last week) is a cleaner number due to his nine dropped passes.”

To get a better idea of how to view Jackson in a larger context, let’s stack him up against another dual-threat QB from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Deshaun Watson.

PlayerClassGamesComp. %PassYDsPassTDsINTsAY/AruATTsruYDSruTDS
Deshaun WatsonFR867.9146614212.1632005
Lamar JacksonFR1254.71840128716396011

Using these criteria, Watson was a much more efficient passer at age 18 compared to Jackson, but as a runner, Jackson was much more productive. Watson went on to explode in his sophomore season in 2015, leading Clemson to a National Championship game appearance, and is now in the first overall draft pick conversation for 2017.

While Jackson is a year younger, and not (yet) an elite pro prospect like Watson, we can see similar signs of development from year one to year two when looking at Jackson’s stats thus far this season against similar lower-level competition:

PlayerClassGamesComp. %PassYDsPassTDsINTsAY/AruATTsruYDSruTDS
Deshaun WatsonSO277.14425110.411390
Lamar JacksonSO259.76977112.8323186

As a true sophomore, we’re still another season from Jackson being draft eligible, making him a slow burn-type dynasty prospect at this point. If Jackson does make a leap in passing efficiency coupled with his game-breaking athletic abilities, we could be witnessing the making of another Watson-like QB prospect.

If that progression doesn’t happen and NFL scouts don’t believe in Jackson’s ability at the next level as a thrower, at the very least, we likely have a similar situation to Braxton Miller’s positional search from a year ago. In fact, the statistical similarities between Miller and Jackson are quite striking through their first 14 collegiate games as dual-threat QBs in high powered offenses:

PlayerClassGamesComp. %PassYDsPassTDsINTsAY/AruATTsruYDSruTDS
Braxton MillerFR/SO1457.115211657.9203101711
Lamar JacksonFR/SO1455.725371998.1195127817

It can be difficult making player-to-player comparisons, even on the prospect level,  as I’ve done here in this article, but I believe it’s necessary when attempting to grasp Jackson’s incredible statistical start. Could he bust and never play a snap in the NFL? Of course. But could he keep progressing and play QB in the NFL? I believe it’s in his range of outcomes to do so.

Stepping Into The Spotlight

NFL prospects aside, Lamar Jackson is firmly entrenched in the Heisman trophy discussion and is rapidly assembling an impressive resume in his sophomore season. Facing a very skilled FSU secondary on Saturday is a major step up in competition compared to his first two games, and one that should give us an idea of how far along Jackson is in his progression as a passer. Much like Johnny Manziel’s 2012 performance against Alabama, this could be Jackson’s launching point to postseason hardware. 

And if he keeps stacking up touchdowns at this rate, it may not even be close:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vam2eQR6-CQ

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