Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes? The Debate Rages On
Manning or Brady? Jordan or LeBron? Ginger or Mary Ann?
These classic debates have raged on for years, and there's a new argument that appears destined to join them: Lamar or Mahomes?
The question of who the better player is between Lamar Jackson and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes began last year during the Ravens quarterback's historic season and has continued to be discussed this offseason.
This week, the question of who is the favorite to capture the 2020 NFL MVP award – 2018 winner Mahomes or 2019 winner Jackson – was debated by the "Good Morning Football" crew as well as NFL Network analysts Steve Mariucci and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Bleacher Report delved deeper into the debate. Rather than focusing on this year's MVP race, the website's NFL staff members participated in a roundtable conversation on which of the two quarterbacks they would rather have for the long haul.
Here are some excerpts from the discussion:
The case for Jackson
Ty Dunne: "Man, this is tough. Both are unique and both will rake in MVPs and Super Bowls but, for this, give me Jackson. … Just as LeBron James developed a jump shot and blossomed into the NBA's best player of this era (and No. 1 or No. 2 in history), if Jackson keeps improving as a passer, look out. He can have the same impact. Here's thinking, given his work ethic, he does."
Mike Freeman: "Mahomes is an excellent athlete, but Jackson is something unique. He may be the best pure athlete in the sport, and when things break down, or receivers are covered, that athleticism can change the game in an instant."
Brent Sobleski: "My initial gut reaction sided with Mahomes in what seems to be the obvious answer. Or is it? The more I thought about the possibility, the more I leaned toward Jackson. The reason is simple: Jackson's already an MVP, and he hasn't come close to reaching his full potential. As good as Mahomes is — and he's great — it's hard to see him improving upon the type of numbers we've already seen. Whereas Jackson hasn't come close to realizing his full potential as a passer."
The case for Mahomes
Gary Davenport: "After barely playing as a rookie, in 2018 Mahomes became just the second signal-caller in NFL history to pass for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season. His numbers dipped last year because of a knee injury, but Mahomes' 2019 campaign ended with a Super Bowl LIV title and the game's MVP honors. … Jackson was fantastic in 2019. But if Mahomes continues to play at the level he has the past two seasons, he will challenge for the title of greatest quarterback ever."
Brad Gagnon: "He then threw 10 touchdown passes and two picks en route to earning Super Bowl MVP honors, while Jackson struggled in a playoff loss for the second consecutive year. Mahomes' edge in the postseason and his larger sample of success give him a clear advantage over Jackson. The 23-year-old needs to prove he can sustain what he did in 2019 and become a bigger difference-maker in crucial January spots."
Matt Miller: "Mahomes' strength, vision, poise, experience and upside put him in rare company. The fact that at not quite 25 years old he's won an MVP award, a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP — and has thrown for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season — is unreal. Lamar is good. Lamar has a chance to be great. But for now, Mahomes is still the best."
Mike Tanier: "In football terms, maybe Mahomes and Jackson are nearly equals at the start of the game or when the score is tied. But even the best teams in the NFL find themselves trailing by two touchdowns at some point. Jackson hasn't proved yet that he's an upper-echelon pure passer who can bring the Ravens back when the option threat is taken away. As for Mahomes, that's pretty much all he did in the playoffs and Super Bowl."
For those keeping score, Mahomes won the Bleacher Report debate, 4-3. That said, there really is no wrong answer. If both players stay healthy, this debate could continue well into the 2030s.
The debate will certainly come alive again before their Week 3 matchup on Monday Night Football in Baltimore. Mahomes has come out on the winning side in his two meetings against Jackson (both of which were played in Kansas City).
On a side note, I'll go with Brady, Jordan and Mary Ann.
Ravens Receivers Are Ranked 25th In NFL by Pro Football Focus
While pundits understandably continue to rave about Jackson and the Ravens' running backs, praise for Baltimore's receivers remains elusive. The Ravens' receiving corps was ranked 25th out of 32 teams by Pro Football Focus.
The low ranking comes with a bit of an asterisk, however, given the run-heavy offense of the Ravens, who set a single-season rushing record last season.
"Considering that the Ravens finished the 2019 regular season as the NFL's most efficient offense, you would think their receiving corps would finish higher than 25th on this list," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote. "Their offense and the uniqueness of Lamar Jackson's game means they don't need a lot of high-level receiving talent, though.
"Marquise Brown appears to be poised to break through in 2020 after generating an NFL-high passer rating of 134.4 on his 65 targets in 2019 despite playing through injury. Mark Andrews also staked his claim as one of the top receiving threats at the position last season, leading all tight ends in receiving yardage from the slot by a wide margin."
As Jackson continues to grow as a passer, it's reasonable to assume there will be an increase in production from Ravens receivers.
In addition to Brown, don't be surprised if Miles Boykin has a breakout season in his second year. Third-round pick Devin Duvernay was described by one pundit as "an immediate matchup nightmare." Veteran Willie Snead IV's contributions as a blocker and sure-handed possession receiver (his 67.4 catch percentage ranked first among the team's wide receivers) shouldn't be overlooked either.
Andrews Omitted From Top 5 Tight Ends Rankings
In his second season, Andrews emerged as the top target on the NFL's highest-scoring offense, led all tight ends in touchdowns (10) and was named to the Pro Bowl, but did not make NFL Network's Bucky Brooks' top five tight ends rankings.
The tight ends on Brooks' list were: 1. George Kittle, 49ers; 2. Travis Kelce, Chiefs; 3. Zach Ertz, Eagles; 4. Jared Cook, Saints; 5. Darren Waller, Raiders.
There's no denying that Kittle and Kelce are elite players and the other three are very good. But it still feels like Andrews should be somewhere on the list.
Andrews was rated by PFF as the third-best tight end last season, trailing only Kittle – who was ranked No. 1 overall, regardless of position – and Kelce.
As noted above, Andrews was the leader at his position in receiving yards from the slot. His 852 receiving yards overall ranked fifth among tight ends. According to PFF, the 2018 third-round pick ranked second to Kittle in yards per route run (2.68), second to Kelce in deep receiving yards (224) and first in deep touchdowns (four).
"[Stretching the field] is where Andrews has been particularly excellent for a young tight end, as 24 of his 98 career catches have come 15 or more yards downfield," PFF's Michael Renner wrote.