Chris Simms: Lamar Jackson 'Is on a Hall of Fame Arc'
Lamar Jackson didn't crack the top five in NBC Sports' Chris Simms' annual rankings of the top 40 quarterbacks, but the analyst was still plenty complimentary of the Ravens star.
In fact, Simms bestowed Jackson with the ultimate compliment a player can receive.
"He's on a Hall of Fame arc," Simms said on the "Chris Simms Unbuttoned" podcast.
Yesterday, Jackson said he needs to win a Super Bowl before he talks about his legacy. But Hall of Fame talk at just 24 years old is certainly noteworthy.
Simms placed Jackson at No. 6 in his rankings, one spot behind Russell Wilson. He hasn't revealed his top four, but the most prominent quarterbacks not yet ranked are Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson.
"We're still talking about maybe the most dangerous weapon in football in Lamar Jackson," Simms said. "The most dangerous weapon, maybe not the most dangerous pocket passing quarterback. First off, we know it's still in the class of the greatest running quarterback we've ever seen. Even though last year was less than maybe some of the years before, it's still phenomenal.
"The pressure he puts on you because of that skill set, you can't qualify it or quantify it. It's unbelievable what he does that way, and of course they've done a great job of putting people around him that help that out. But the other thing with Lamar Jackson, the stats won't say it, but Lamar Jackson improved as a pocket passer last year. … Every time I go back and watch it, the more and more confident I feel about that. He was better."
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus released its analytical quarterback rankings, and Jackson was No. 3, behind only Mahomes and Watson.
PFF based its rankings on a statistical technique that "can use the dynamics of the historical quarterback market and individual results to project their PFF grades and expected points added (EPA) per play." In addition to passing plays, the methodology also incorporates play-by-play grades for designed runs and the EPA generated on those runs.
"Adding rushing grades and EPA to the mix gives Lamar Jackson a strong projection, though it is not quite at Deshaun Watson's level," PFF's Kevin Cole wrote. "With Watson possibly out for this season (and potentially longer), Jackson is a surprise choice as the second-highest-ranked quarterback likely to start in 2021."
On a side note, in what has to go under the "no-brainer" category, Jackson was one of 12 players mentioned on NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt's list of players on rookie deals whose teams should never let them go.
"There aren't too many players in the NFL who can swing a game singlehandedly like Jackson can," Brandt wrote. "Think of how lost Baltimore looked during Jackson's brief absence against Cleveland in Week 14. Then think of how Jackson basically won the game by himself after his return, starting with a 44-yard touchdown throw on fourth down with 2 minutes left to play.
"Jackson's emergence as a singular offensive force kicked off the Ravens' latest run as an AFC powerhouse. They need to do whatever they can to keep him in purple for the long term."
The Ravens have made it clear that signing Jackson to a long-term contract is just a matter of time. He reiterated yesterday
Will Ravens Regret Not Re-Signing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue?
Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox identified every team's biggest potential offseason regret. For the Ravens, he said it was letting outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue get away.
"The issue isn't necessarily that Baltimore let either Judon or Ngakoue get away. It's that both left," Knox wrote. "The two were responsible for nine of the Ravens' 39 sacks in 2020. Losing Judon is particularly regrettable, though, as he was a defensive mainstay with 15.5 sacks and 63 quarterback pressures over the last two seasons."
Judon and Ngakoue are talented players with a combined three Pro Bowl selections between them, but it's probably unfair to say the Ravens let them "get away." It's more accurate to say the Ravens made business decisions.
Judon signed a four-year contract with New England for a reported $56 million including $32 million guaranteed, making him the highest-paid defender in Patriots history.
Ngakoue, had just three sacks in nine games after being acquired by the Ravens in a midseason trade last year and played a season-low 20 snaps in the playoff loss against the Buffalo Bills. He signed a two-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders for a reported $26 million.
To help offset the departures of Judon and Ngakoue, the Ravens drafted outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes in the first and fifth rounds, respectively.
There's also a chance Baltimore could sign a veteran edge rusher such as Justin Houston, who reportedly visited the Ravens in April.
Rashod Bateman 'Carries Himself Like a Pro'
Rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman has been limited in minicamp and OTAs due to muscle soreness and a stomach virus, but when he's been on the field, Bateman has shown why he was a first-round pick.
"Bateman missed the last practice of minicamp after falling ill with a stomach bug, but before that, he carried himself like a pro," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote. "He didn't make circus catches in the corner of the end zone or fly downfield like an Olympic sprinter. But he did show off the footwork that had Ravens evaluators gushing after they picked him in the first round. Bateman slanted quickly in front of defenders and zipped into his next move as soon as he caught the ball."
Russell Street Report's Adam Bonaccorsi said Bateman has "looked the part and then some."
"If I could sum up what I saw from Bateman, it's that everything he does is done with purpose," Bonaccorsi wrote. "He's not going to burn you, but every stride, every cut, and every action in his route is done with intent and an expectation of getting the ball. He didn't make false steps, cut routes short, or really jog at any point (even after a dead play). I know it's early and just camp, but that little glimpse gave me some serious excitement for his future."
All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey also likes what he's seen from Bateman. After Bateman beat him with a move, Humphrey said the rookie tapped him on the butt, and said, "'I've got a little wiggle, too.' So, I was like, 'I like that.'"
Walker wrote: "If you examine all the great receivers in history, refined technique and healthy self-belief are probably the traits that show up most consistently. It's way too early to say what Bateman will become for the Ravens, but he's working with the right tools."
Has Josh Oliver Taken Early Lead for No. 3 Tight End Spot?
It's obviously early, but Josh Oliver may have emerged as the favorite to win the No. 3 tight end competition, which is one of the more intriguing position battles for the Ravens this offseason.
"The No. 3 tight competition will play out in training camp, but if you had to anoint a favorite as of now, it would have to be Oliver," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Eli Wolf has flashed as well, but he's struggled at times with drops and he had another one Wednesday."
Oliver, a 2019 third-round pick who was acquired via trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars in March for a reported conditional seventh-round pick, is competing for the spot along with Wolf, Eric Tomlinson, and Tony Poljan so far. Fifth-round pick Ben Mason, a tight end/fullback, also is in the mix, and veteran tight end Charles Clay reportedly worked out with the Ravens last week.
"There haven't been too many wow moments from Oliver. … However, he's made a handful of catches each practice and at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, he certainly looks the part," Zrebiec wrote.
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer also took note of Oliver's performances in minicamp.
"Josh Oliver again showed why he might have been worth more than a potential seventh-round pick," Shaffer wrote after yesterday's practice.
Due to injuries to his back and hamstring, as well as suffering a broken bone in his foot that required surgery, Oliver has played in just four games.
The third tight end spot is meaningful for the Ravens, who have often utilized 13 personnel (one running back, three tight ends, one receiver) to their advantage under Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.