NFL Executives Struggle to Rank Jackson in Top QBs Poll; Still Places Top 10
ESPN recently conducted a survey consisting of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to find out who are the NFL's best players at each position. According to Jeremy Fowler, the voters were asked to pick the best players heading into 2021.
"The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2021," Fowler wrote. "This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who's the best today? Pretty simple."
After the votes were tallied, Lamar Jackson was ranked the No. 8 quarterback. But of course, the ranking didn't come without a little flair.
"Still the toughest evaluation on the list, Jackson earned more top-five votes than [Dak] Prescott and [Matthew] Stafford combined, yet many left him off the ballot altogether," Fowler wrote. "He remains one of the game's most breathtaking playmakers, and his intangibles as a tough, vocal, team-first leader resonate."
Jackson's uniqueness tends to breed a lack of consensus and this survey demonstrates it. His irreplaceable abilities are noted, but ultimately, voters are unsure where to place the Ravens' star.
Coincidentally, PFF also released their quarterback rankings for the 2021 season yesterday and PFF's Bruce Gradkowski penned Jackson at No. 8, too.
"Regression is likely when coming off an MVP campaign, and we saw that from Jackson," Gradkowski wrote. "The Ravens' offense was less effective in the run game and the offensive line struggled at times this past season.
"Still, Jackson continued to prove he is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL, if not the most. If the Ravens can help him out with a more efficient and effective pass game tied into their run concepts, then I would expect Jackson to get back to MVP form. Baltimore has a tough schedule ahead compared to last year, so Jackson will have to shoulder the load to prove he can take the Ravens back to the promised land."
Ultimately, Jackson's regarded as both a top-10 quarterback and the most dynamic and breathtaking playmakers in the NFL. Not bad for a 24-year-old.
Greg Roman Working to Get Ravens Passing Attack Established
Going hand-in-hand with Jackson's quarterback ranking is Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman and his determination to build the Ravens passing offense. According to Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich, this has been a thorn in Roman's side.
"Greg Roman has managed to put together dominant running attacks as an offensive coordinator," Karpovich wrote. "However, he has struggled to get the passing game rolling over his career. In eight years as an offensive coordinator for San Francisco (four years), Buffalo (two years) and the Ravens (two years), Roman never had a passing attack ranked higher than 23rd for yards."
In Roman's defense, passing yards are not the greatest measurement to define a team's passing attack. Judging solely off passing yards lacks context. While the Ravens were last in passing yards in 2020, they were first in rushing yards. That said, it sparks concern when the Ravens were the NFL's only team to not eclipse 3,000 yards passing last season.
According to Fowler's ESPN survey above, the lack of success in the passing game may be due to the lack of talent supplied to Jackson.
"An AFC scout said Baltimore had failed in the past to surround Jackson with the same arsenal that in-his-prime Colin Kaepernick got in San Francisco," Fowler wrote. "That mobile quarterback who was also coached by coordinator Greg Roman had Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis."
Karpovich believes it's about finding balance and incorporating the new additions brought in over the offseason.
"The Ravens need to establish more balance with the offense to perhaps make a deeper run in the playoffs," Karpovich wrote. "Baltimore had the league's 32nd-ranked passing attack last season and made several offseason moves to improve that performance."
Ben Cleveland Is a Modern Day Paul Bunyan
One would figure those tales would be difficult to top, but not for the aptly nicknamed "Big Country."
According to ESPN's Jamison Hensley's latest feature, that was only the beginning.
Cleveland immediately wowed fans with his sheer size. Turns out, he was 6-foot-2 at just 13 years old and wears size-17 extra wide cowboy boots.
"At the dinner table, he once ate a half-dozen double cheeseburgers in one sitting," Hensley wrote. "As a teenager, he was known to down two whole pizzas during the few hours after football practice and before going to bed."
Both formidable feats deserve recognition, but they pale in comparison to what follows.
"When he was fishing at 11 years old, Cleveland caught an 85-pound stingray at Myrtle Beach," Hensley wrote. "He didn't want anyone to get hurt on the pier, so he cut the line and let it swim away."
While Fishing stories tend to be egregious and exaggerated, there's not a doubt in my mind the stingray Cleveland caught and released weighed any less than 85-pounds. Even if I did, I'm not going to be the one to confront him about it.
- Seven NFL teams above 85% vaccination threshold.