Lamar Jackson Vaults Back Into Top 10 Quarterback Rankings
One year after Lamar Jackson's shocking exclusion from ESPN's top 10 quarterback rankings, the Ravens star has regained elite status.
Jackson landed at No. 7 in ESPN's survey of NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players. He was No. 8 two years ago.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler noted that questions remain about Jackson's precision passing but he ranks second in the NFL in QBR since 2019 and posted a QB rating of 98 or higher in four of his first eight starts in 2022.
"Prior to the [knee] injury, he was doing some big things from the pocket as a passer [last year]," an NFL scouting director said. "Some of those early games, he was dialing it up. He's definitely evolving as a passer, taking it to next level. He's a smart runner. Teams want to peg him in that role, but he never really gets hit solidly. He knows how to elude and avoid big hits."
Jackson was ranked as high as No. 4 in the survey, but some voters left him out of their top 10. The quarterbacks ahead of Jackson, in order, were Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Joe Burrow (Bengals), Josh Allen (Bills), Aaron Rodgers (Jets), Justin Herbert (Chargers), and Jalen Hurts (Eagles).
ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum's biggest takeaway from the rankings was that Jackson's No. 7 placement was "way too low."
"He could have an MVP type of season," Tannenbaum said on “Get Up.” "Look out if Odell Beckham Jr. is anywhere close to where he was. Lamar Jackson's never had anyone close to his ability. So could you imagine? What are you going to take away on this Ravens offense? You gonna double him outside, it's going to open up Lamar to beat you with his legs. [Baltimore also has] a healthy J.K. Dobbins. I think the sky's the limit for Lamar Jackson and this Ravens offense. I think it's going to be a big story all year long."
One voter said that by hiring Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and adding weapons in the passing game such as Beckham, first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers and veteran wide receiver Nelson Agholor, the Ravens have given Jackson everything he needs to have a big season.
"He had excuses before. He won't have them now," an NFL personnel evaluator said. "Time to put it all together as a passer."
How Odell Beckham Signing With the Ravens Impacted DeAndre Hopkins' Destination
The Ravens' addition of Beckham did more than add a star target for Jackson. It also played a role in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins ultimately landing with the Tennessee Titans instead of the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills.
Prior to the Cardinals releasing Hopkins, the Chiefs reportedly had made progress in trade talks regarding Hopkins before Beckham's one-year deal with Baltimore for a reported $15 million "more or less blew that progress up.” It also had been reported that the Bills were interested in Hopkins but had “a price in mind they won’t exceed.”
Hopkins apparently chose to go to the highest bidder rather than take less money to play for a strong Super Bowl contender. The five-time Pro Bowler's reported deal with the Titans is for two years, $26 million.
Russell Street Report’s Nikhil Mehta weighed in how the Ravens giving Beckham a deal most pundits believe exceeded his market value impacted Hopkins' destination.
"Was this intentional? I wouldn't go that far – Eric DeCosta just did what had to be done to acquire Beckham's services," Mehta wrote. "But he did so knowing that even a slight overpay for OBJ would turn heads around the league and make it harder for the Ravens' cap-strapped competitors to add Nuk.
"Hopkins on the Titans isn't ideal – better if he stayed in the NFC – but it's certainly better than adding him to the Chiefs."
Before the Ravens signed Beckham – and even after – there was much speculation about the Ravens having interest in Hopkins. The Ravens and Beckham will face the Titans and Hopkins in London in Week 6.
"Even though player evaluation doesn't work this way – fans will certainly compare the performance of Hopkins and Beckham to see which veteran WR was really worth it," Mehta wrote.
Whether Ravens Can Avoid Injury Is Big Among Biggest Training Camp Storylines
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified the 10 biggest storylines for the Ravens heading into training camp.
Predictably, the new-look offense and expectations for Jackson were at the top of the list. Zrebiec's third-biggest storyline focused on a sore subject (pun intended): the injury bug and whether the Ravens can avoid it.
"This is a prominent storyline in all 32 NFL training camps. However, it hits close to home for the Ravens, who had a brutal year on the injury front in 2021, with many of those injuries extending into and beyond last year's training camp," Zrebiec wrote.
Zrebiec noted that "Baltimore is in a far better health situation this year."
"The expectation, though, is that most of the Ravens' roster will be on the field in some capacity for the first practice on July 26," Zrebiec wrote. "No team stays injury free throughout training camp. There will be the inevitable hamstring strains, groin pulls and ankle sprains that force players out of action for days or weeks. What the Ravens and everyone else hope to avoid is the major injuries to key players that sideline them for a chunk, if not all, of the upcoming season."
- Pro Football Focus began its countdown of the 50 best players in the league. Jackson (No. 41) and tight end Mark Andrews (No. 49) are the Ravens in the list thus far.