INDIANAPOLIS – Lamar Jackson laughed off any suggestion he has been asked by teams at the NFL Scouting Combine to do on-field drills with wide receivers.
The Louisville quarterback insisted that's he's just that – a quarterback – during his press conference late Friday afternoon.
"No teams have asked me to play wide receiver," Jackson said of the report Friday morning from the NFL Network that "multiple teams" have asked to see him at the position. "I don't even know where it comes from. I'm strictly quarterback."
That’s a job he did exceptionally well at Louisville, winning the Heisman Trophy (as well as the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell awards) as a sophomore in 2016. That year, he went 230 of 409 for 3,543 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 1,571 yards (10th in the Football Bowl Subdivision) and 21 touchdowns on 260 carries. As a junior in 2017, Jackson went 254 of 430 for 3,660 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while also rushing for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. He won the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in both seasons.
Despite those gaudy numbers, some analysts – including Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian – have suggested that Jackson’s best position at the next level might be receiver, even though he didn’t make a single catch during his time at Louisville. The reason cited most often for why some feel Jackson should switch positions is his accuracy. He completed less than 60 percent of his passes the past two seasons, something he knows he needs to get better at in the NFL.
“I had a narrow stance in college. If you look at film, I notice that myself,” he said. “I’ve been working on it. I’ve been working on my accuracy. So that’s what I have to show off tomorrow. I feel that’s why they’re doubting me right now.”
It should be pointed out that not all (or even most) evaluators share that same feeling about Jackson.
“Yeah, I'm not much on that," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday. "I want to bring him in. Let's exhaust that other thing that we know he's good at and see. I'm just saying in general. This is a general statement: Let's get him in and let him wing it a little bit and see how he does.”
Asked what his reaction would be if someone did suggest he should be a receiver, Jackson said, “uh, I’m not going to their team. Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going. That’s strictly my position.”
Throughout all the questions about a possible position change, Jackson wore a big smile. If he was bothered by the idea, he didn’t show it.
“I have faced adversity throughout my whole life,” he said. “Just coming up with youth football and going to high school. They said you can’t do this and that. Got to college, was able to do it. I’m here now. I’m ready for it.”
No matter what suggestion was thrown out there, Jackson stayed true to his answer, as the following exchange from his combine transcript shows:
Q: Slash role?
A: “That’s basically another position! No. Like I said before, I’m a quarterback. I’m just sitting back and trying to learn as much as I can.”
Q: No Wildcat?
A: “No Wildcat. This is not the Dolphins. This is not the Dolphins with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. No sir.”
Jackson was asked whether he felt disrespected by the position-switch talk.
“That’s crazy. I thought I did a good job at quarterback!” he said. “But hey, they say what they want to say. They’re going to build a story. I’m here now. I’m at the combine. I’m happy to be here. I just have to show off my ability.”
That’s why Jackson will throw Saturday, but won’t run the 40-yard dash.
“I don’t need to show off my speed and show people I can make them miss,” he said. “I have to show off my arm. Because that’s where they doubt me.”
Asked who he had met with, the first (of many) teams Jackson mentioned was the Buffalo Bills. That’s not a surprise since General Manager Brandon Beane had indicated he would meet with all the top quarterback prospects in the class. There are other reasons Bills fans should familiarize themselves leading up to next month’s draft.
The offensive system he ran at Louisville – the Erhardt-Perkins – is the same one used by the New England Patriots. That’s significant, because it’s one Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll knows well from his time in New England.
“It’s a pro-style system and that’s the reason I ended up going to that university,” said Jackson, who added that Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino gave him a chance to start as a freshman, which he did for nine of 12 games.
Jackson was poised and comfortable during his 15-minute interview session, at one point jokingly correcting a reporter who mistakenly called him “Lavar.” He answered the usual “who have you met with, do you feel you’re the best player at your position, who do you compare yourself to” questions in addition to covering other topics, like why he hasn’t hired an agent.
“I know coming in as a rookie, an agent doesn’t really negotiate anything,” he said. “You’re going to get the salary you’re going to get. Or whatever. I decided I don’t need him. He’s going to be taking a big cut of my pay check anyways. And I feel I deserve it right now.”
Jackson admitted to being slightly nervous walking into the meeting room with teams, saying he expected it to just be the head coach and general manager.
“I saw the whole staff and I’m like, ‘oh man, this is something,” he said. “But it’s a fun process for me. My first time being in the draft. I just turned 21. I’m having fun. I’m enjoying myself.”
The reporters who took in his media session Friday left saying the same thing.