With a Heisman Trophy under his arm and two years of experience under his belt, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has at least one more year at the college level to improve his play and, thus, his appeal to NFL scouts.
One scout will be looking for Jackson to take a forward step as a passer in 2017 in the way that he believes Mississippi State's Dak Prescott did as a senior at MSU in 2015.
"Lamar is not really a passer .. yet. I think right now he's in the same stage that Dak Prescott was in around that age. You're an athlete, you're a running athlete that can throw the ball, now learn to be a passer," the scout told MMQB. "That's where Dak grew the most, between junior and senior year, and when you're looking at Lamar you're hoping he makes that same jump from this year to next."
But did Prescott, who's had an outstanding rookie season for the Cowboys, really transform himself as a passer in his final college season? NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein doesn't think so. And he doesn't expect that Jackson will even have the opportunity to develop in the same way that Prescott did.
"I thought Dak's jump as a senior was really largely due to the fact that they went to more of a shorter, controlled attack. They asked him to throw intermediate and deep a lot less. Statistically, he had a better year as a senior, but I didn't think he made substantial growth. I just thought they put him in fewer tenuous situations," Zierlein said. "Lamar Jackson takes shots down the field. (Coach Bobby) Petrino has to decide if they want to continue that. He made a big jump this year as a passer, and he was more comfortable in the pocket. I just don't see the same path for those two guys. I think Petrino's going to continue to allow Jackson to take more shots down the field and be the explosive athlete that he is."
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks' scouting report on Jackson recognized the sophomore's electric ability as a playmaker, but noted several areas in which he needs to improve to convince scouts that he's a franchise QB.
There is no question that Jackson drew the attention of NFL scouts this season, piling up nearly 5,000 total yards in the regular season and taking home the biggest individual prize in the college game. Next year, his explosive athletic ability won't sneak up on anyone; it will be expected, from scouts and opponents alike. But how he's perceived as a draft prospect will still depend heavily on whether and by how much he improves as a passer.