Late for Work 8/10: Is Lamar Jackson the Giannis Antetokounmpo of the NFL?

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Left; QB Lamar Jacson (Baltimore Ravens Photos/Shawn Hubbard); Right: Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Kay Adams: 'It's Absurd' to Think Jackson and Ravens Can't Win Super Bowl

"Good Morning Football's" Kay Adams said she was deluged with laughing emojis the other day in response to her assertion that the Ravens are a serious threat to go to the Super Bowl this season.

Adams reiterated yesterday that the Ravens could have the last laugh. She compared Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA.

Before Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the NBA championship this season, there was a perception among some NBA pundits and fans that the two-time league MVP would never get the job done in the postseason.

Critics of Jackson, the unanimous 2019 NFL MVP, have made similar statements about him and the Ravens.

"I understand that [the Ravens have had] difficulties in the playoffs in the past. I'm getting this very Milwaukee Bucks vibe from Lamar Jackson and from what's going on with this Ravens team," Adams said. "I mean, look at Giannis. 'There's holes in his game. He's Scottie Pippen; he can't carry a team on his back.' He was an MVP before the season.

"Don't get caught sleeping, because [the Ravens] can absolutely do it. [Jackson is] an ascending talent; he's still young; they added to his passing game. I just feel like it's absurd to me to think that they can't do it just because they have had some difficulties. It's too early to say that. I don't think we talk about them as contenders and I think it's wrong."

Adams' point is well taken. Jackson has only had two full seasons as a starter and is just 24. Moreover, the Ravens have one of the most complete rosters in the league, and their coaching staff and front office are regarded as among the best in the sport.

But we live in an era of knee-jerk reactions and hot takes. Jackson has always had his doubters anyway due to his unique skill set, so his lack of postseason success thus far fits their narrative.

However, as Antetokounmpo proved a few weeks ago, there's truth in the saying that the past doesn't equal the future.

Bucky Brooks: Jackson 'Is on the Fast Track to Canton'

Speaking of Jackson's critics, one of them seems to have done an about face.

NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, who suggested before this year's draft that the Ravens could consider selecting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and letting Jackson "graduate," placed Jackson at No. 5 in his rankings of players under 30 who are destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"The former MVP is on the fast track to Canton, knocking down records and piling up wins as an electrifying playmaker," Brooks wrote. "Jackson is the first quarterback in NFL history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, and he is the first player to log 5,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards in the first three years of a career.

"In addition, in his spectacular MVP campaign of 2019, Jackson joined Hall of Famer Steve Young and Cam Newton as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to produce at least 35 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores in a single season (Josh Allen followed suit last season). Considering the Ravens have reached the postseason in three straight seasons under Jackson while the QB has compiled a 30-7 regular-season record, the fourth-year pro is in prime position to make a run at a gold jacket."

Just as it's too early to suggest Jackson can't lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl, it's also probably premature to be talking about Jackson having a gold jacket in his future.

However, Brooks isn't the first pundit to say that Jackson could have a spot in Canton one day. NBC Sports' Chris Simms said a couple months ago that Jackson "is on a Hall of Fame arc."

Speaking of the Hall of Fame. Former Ravens wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr., as well as returner/receiver Devin Hester, are eligible for enshrinement next year. Will they make it in on the first ballot?

Rashod Bateman Is Dark Horse Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate

Praise continues to roll in for rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who has impressed his coaches and teammates, as well as observers, in practices.

Add Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash to the growing list of believers in Bateman. Treash named him one of four dark horse candidates to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

"Bateman was one of the more polished wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft. His release package and route running are at levels well beyond his years," Treash wrote. "He spent the 2019 season at Minnesota on the outside before transitioning to the slot for the 2020 season, but either way, he remained an uber-productive player.

"Bateman generated 3.60 yards per route run from the outside in 2019, the fifth-highest mark ever recorded by a Power Five wide receiver in PFF's seven years of collecting college data. And in the slot, he came away with 3.45 yards per route run and an 81.9 receiving grade in his five outings. It's also worth noting that he did the latter despite contracting COVID-19 and losing 10 pounds just before the season."

Treash went on to say that the Ravens got a steal by selecting Bateman with the 27th-overall pick.

"The former Golden Gopher really should have gone 10 draft picks sooner than he did," Treash wrote. "Bateman is simply a high-floor player who should make an immediate impact and have no issue separating at the NFL level."

Ravens Named Potential Landing Spot for Michael Thomas If He's Traded

There's speculation that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas could be on the trade block, and Baltimore has been identified as a potential landing spot for the two-time All-Pro.

CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin placed the Ravens at No. 3 on his list of possible trade partners for Thomas, behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers.

"They'd need to move some money around to make it work, but they've been sniffing around veteran receivers all offseason in hopes of helping out QB Lamar Jackson," Benjamin wrote. "Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins may very well help the aerial game alongside Marquise Brown, but Thomas would be the most natural target for Jackson, especially in a run-heavy, short-area passing attack. Baltimore is obviously also solely focused on winning now, and they reside comfortably outside of the NFC."

The Ravens are often named as a potential destination for star wide receivers (i.e. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown), but trading for Thomas, if he's available, doesn't seem likely.

As Benjamin noted, the Ravens would have to do some maneuvering from a financial standpoint. They also already have a crowded wide receivers room.

Thomas, who led the NFL in receptions in 2018 and 2019 and receiving yards in 2019, missed eight games last season due to ankle and hamstring injuries and one game for disciplinary reasons. Thomas reportedly underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his ankle in June, which will cause him to miss the start of the 2021 season.

Justin Tucker: From Undrafted Free Agent to the 'Mariano Rivera of NFL Closers'

The Ravens have a reputation for finding undrafted gems, and none have shined brighter than Justin Tucker.

NFL Network analyst Shaun O'Hara placed Tucker at No. 3 on his list of top 10 undrafted players heading into this season.

"Tucker is the Mariano Rivera of NFL closers, as he's eliminated the what-if factor in the kicking game," O'Hara wrote. "Go ahead and lock in points for the Ravens if they get within his range — and maybe even if they're a little bit outside of it. According to Pro Football Reference, he has converted 90.7 percent of his career field goals, the highest rate in NFL history. That's an incredible feat considering the four-time All-Pro has played his entire career in the daunting weather of AFC North cities."

On a side note, offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva was No. 8 on the list.

"After starting 90 consecutive games for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2015-2020, Villanueva is taking his talents to rival Baltimore and switching from left to right tackle. It should be a smooth transition for the two-time Pro Bowl selectee, a well-respected player whose mindset and style of play fits the Ravens' run-first offense well," O'Hara wrote.

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