Ravens Lamar Jackson makes an appearance on a pair of top quarterback lists

This time last year Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson wasn’t on anyone’s top 10 quarterback list but after a sensational sophomore campaign where he set the NFL landscape ablaze with his electric playmaking ability, led his team to a league best and franchise record 14-2 record and was crowned league MVP, he’s on everybody’s top quarterback list this year heading into the 2020 season.

Earlier this week he appeared in the top five of a pair of prominent lists. NBC Sports football analyst Chris Simms had him ranked fifth on his list of top 40 quarterbacks heading into 2020, up 25 spots from last year. While Jackson’s ranking on that list has come off as head-scratching to some, he did fair better on CBS Sports’ top 10 list heading into the 2020 season, ranking behind only Patrick Mahomes of the reigning Superbowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

In addition to the Superbowl MVP, Simms had Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, and Houston’s Deshaun Watson ranked ahead of Jackson. His infatuation with the ghost of Aaron Rodgers’ past is well-documented and both confounds and stupefies many pundits that dissect his rankings citing his personal bias over recent performance as to why he continues to hold the two-time league MVP to such high esteem even though his numbers have taken a precipitous drop over the last few years.

Jackson faced off with both Watson and Wilson last season and led the Ravens to commanding victories in two of their most impressive performances of the year. In both games he was not just the better quarterback that day, he was the most dominant player in both games. He’ll face off with Prescott for the first time this season in Week 13 when he takes on the Dallas Cowboys for the first time in his career on Thursday Night football.

Simms offered Jackson praise for his natural acumen as a passer but cited his lack of success in the postseason for the reason why he barely cracked the top five. The Ravens have been ousted from the playoffs the last two seasons with Jackson at the helm in debilitating fashion. They lost to the Los Angles Chargers in the Wildcard round 23-17 in 2018 and they had their promising championship run cut short in 2019 by the Tennessee Titans 28-12 in the divisional round. While Jackson struggled to find his footing in both outings, the same could be said for the team as a whole and the only reason they had a hope to pull from behind late was because of him.

“He is a natural thrower of the football. Now, is he a polished passer yet at this point of his career? No,” Simms said. “That’s something he needs to work on. … Two years in a row in the playoffs when a team does get a little feel for how to slow the run game down, this is why he’s No. 5 and not No. 2 or No. 3 to me. He can’t win games just automatically with his arm yet.”

Jackson led the league in passing touchdowns in 2019 with 36, including a league-leading 25 from the pocket. He also brings a dynamic dimension with his legs that no other player at the position in front of him on Simms’ list or in the entire league, so he doesn’t need to win games “automatically” with his arm.

CBS Sports’ writer Sean Wagner-McGough made a strong enough case for Jackson to be No.1 on his list but I believe the recency bias of the last NFL game we all watched being the Superbowl kept him from doing so. He doesn’t believe that the league will be able to come up with enough countermeasures to slow down Jackson and the Ravens, and with condensed offseason due to COVID-19 that has kept coaches and player around the league from communing together to try to impertinent new plays and schemes, I’m inclined to agree with him.

“While some have posited that Jackson could struggle next season now that teams have film on the Ravens’ offense, I lean the other way,” Wagner-McGough wrote. “I think he might still improve as a passer. This was Jackson’s first full season as an NFL starting quarterback in a new offense with young targets around him. The receivers, like Hollywood Brown and Miles Boykin, should improve in Year 2. Jackson himself should grow more comfortable in the offense. And offensive coordinator Greg Roman should continue to innovate the offense.”

Unlike Simms, Wagner-McGoaugh doesn’t put most of the blame for the team’s short cummings in playoffs on Jackson and he believes that the Ravens electrifying star signal-caller will be the bane of opposing defenses for many years to come.

“Don’t let one bad playoff game lull you into thinking the Ravens are a gimmick. Jackson is poised to terrorize the NFL for the next decade.” Wagner-McGough wrote.

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