Pro Days have to be taken not with a grain of salt, but a truckload. That's not a new concept, and it applies to Lamar Jackson's Pro Day on Thursday at Louisville as much as it did for Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and every other quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft that’s now four weeks away.
Jackson’s decision not to run a 40-yard dash should also be put in its proper perspective, just as his decision not to run it at the NFL Combine earlier this month should have been. And to be fair to all the people who have dissected this already, most already get his point, understand it, agree with it and have no reason to hold it against him.
It's just not unanimous, as one NFL Network draft analyst proved, both on-air during Jackson's Pro Day coverage and soon after on Twitter.
I don’t know why Jackson elected to sit out on testing. Teams simply wanted to confirm his speed to help them compare his “explosiveness” to others (Vick, RG3, Wilson, Watson and Mariota). Helps scouts paint a picture in the meeting room.. LJ should always show off his strengths https://t.co/JfJOOjzUK3
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) March 29, 2018
This deserves as much ridicule as a sane-thinking football nation can heap on it. But for now, Jackson himself can answer it, as he did on the same network soon after he finished his drills: “I feel game speed will tell it all. Gotta catch me first." He chuckled, then added, "I'll prove that."
In games, that is. As a quarterback. Not at any other position, such as wide receiver.
That notion of what "other" position Jackson could play in the NFL has hung over his head for two years, since early in his Heisman-winning season in 2016. The benefit of that, though, is that over such a long period of time, the idea that he was required to let NFL evaluators entertain the notion of moving him from the position he played all his life and excelled at in college, has been discredited by more than enough people. Those who advocated for it the loudest — the Bill Polians of the world — have gotten roasted thoroughly, and their credibility has been dragged through the mud.
"Lamar Jackson, Wide Receiver" became a punchline in a hurry. That's either a sign of progress from the historical, habitual devaluation of certain quarterbacks because of their
"athleticism" or a depressing reminder that it still has to be rooted out of certain pockets of established thinking and exposed to the light of day.
The progressive thinkers didn't have to yell that loudly about Jackson's disinterest in opening the door for a narrow-minded observer to speculate about how he's got wide-receiver speed. The perception, at least, is that the Jackson-is-a-quarterback crowd is in the majority.
Of course, the reality is it only takes one team to insist he's a better "fit" in the league catching passes than throwing them.
And, as Brooks proved, the reality is Jackson wasn't going to escape being compared to Michael Vick or Deshaun Watson, or any of the other targets of the traditionally lazy, superficial comparisons that infect every sport, but which are amplified during NFL Draft season.
As all that was unfolding, meanwhile, the topic of Jackson not employing an agent emerged. That may or may not be creating an obstacle as the draft draws closer. For instance, it's certainly plausible Jackson did not find, or has not yet found, an agent who agrees with him about downplaying the position-change angle by any means necessary.
If someone that involved with the next stage of his football life were to hint that, hey, teams want to see you run, want to see your full set of skills … Jackson would have no reason to hire him. If the alternative is having no agent at all, you can see how it's worth it to him.
The talk about Lamar Jackson, Wide Receiver lasted too long. It wasn't put to bed forever by Jackson on Thursday. But it's not because he didn't try his best to end it.