Considering Lamar Jackson as anything other than an NFL quarterback has racial overtones

Jay Asser 16:55 05/03/2018
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Lamar Jackson throws at the NFL combine. Picture credit: Twitter/@NFL

Forget the question of whether or not he’s a quarterback, Lamar Jackson may end up as the best prospect of any player at the position in this year’s NFL draft.

The 21-year-old had already proved his potential before the scouting combine even got under way in Indianapolis this past week, having put together a stellar college career that included the Heisman Trophy in 2016, but that hasn’t stopped unfair criticism from putting Jackson under the microscope.

Rather than focusing on what he can do as a quarterback, the rhetoric at the combine has centred on if Jackson should be playing an entirely different position.

The ridiculous narrative started when former Indianapolis Colts general manager and NFL analyst Bill Polian suggested Jackson would have to play wide receiver at the next level back in September, before doubling down on his claim in the lead-up to the combine.

Then, an NFL Network report surfaced on Friday that stated multiple teams had asked Jackson to work out as a receiver, but the Louisville product shut down the rumours and stood firm on his belief that he has one position and one position only.

“No teams have asked me to be a wide receiver,” Jackson said. “I don’t know where that comes from. Strictly quarterback.”

Plain and simple, the notion that Jackson should play receiver is an insult and one that comes with racial overtones.

The thinking has less to do with Jackson being better as a receiver because he’s fast and athletic, and more to do with him being an underwhelming quarterback prospect because of his lack of accuracy.

Jackson’s 59.1 per cent completion rate this past season was far from stellar, but it still topped Josh Allen’s mark of 56.3 per cent. And yet the Wyoming quarterback – who, as you can guess, is white – Is being hailed as the potential number one overall pick, while Jackson has to deal with countless questions regarding his position.

Allen is 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds. Why not turn him into a tight end?

This isn’t to pick on Allen or even suggest he shouldn’t be the first pick – it’s to show how laughable the Jackson criticism is.

It’s fine to think Jackson’s raw and needs further developing, but to suggest he play another position is a veiled attempt to stereotype quarterbacks.

‘Pocket passer’ or ‘cerebral’ are often code words used to describe white quarterbacks, while black quarterbacks are usually defined as ‘scramblers’.

Just because you have athleticism doesn’t mean you can’t also stand tall in the pocket, read the defence and deliver an on-time pass. And if you watched Jackson at all in college, you saw he has a range of abilities that make him almost impossible to game plan against.

With the way modern NFL offences are trending, a quarterback like Jackson has the potential to thrive under a creative offensive coordinator or head coach. If players like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton – three of the best quarterbacks in the league who also use their feet nearly as much as their arm – can dominate, why can’t Jackson?

Add in his leadership qualities and relatively clean record off the field and the only reaction the team that drafts him should have is excitement, not a desire to make him something other than he is.

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