Lamar Jackson | FINAL EXAM With Steve Fairchild

Football lifer Steve Fairchild has been involved in coaching for over the past 35 years, as head coach of Colorado State (2008-2011), Virginia offensive coordinator (2013-2015), San Diego Chargers Senior Offensive Assistant (2012), Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator (2006-2007), St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator (2003-2005), Buffalo Bills running back coach (2001-2002) and numerous other coaching positions, which began during his time at San Diego Mesa Community College as offensive coordinator in 1982. Along the way, he has coached high-profile quarterbacks such as Marc Bulger, JP Losman and Dan McGwire. This season, Fairchild returns for a second stint in The Spring League, featuring Johnny Manziel, where he’ll be serving as head coach/offensive coordinator. Over the years, coach Fairchild has developed his own in-depth grading system which entails 15 different categories that projects how successful a quarterback prospect will be when transitioning from college to the pros. Each category is given a score from 1-10 based on film study of five-to-six games, with ten being the highest score (exceptional/elite) and one being the lowest (poor/inadequate). Coach Fairchild has agreed to put the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft through his ‘FINAL EXAM’ in an exclusive NFL Draft Bible series, which includes an overall grade (maximum of 150) and projection for each top signal-caller. First up is Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson, who ranks as the sixth best QB prospect in the draft, according to Fairchild.



School: Louisville | Number: #8 | Hometown: Pompano Beach, FL | Birthdate: 01/07/97 | Height: 6022 | Weight: 216 | Hand: 0948 | Arm: 3318 | Year: Junior


Quarterback Lamar Jackson had a decorated collegiate career, becoming the first player in school history and the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy Award in 2016 as a sophomore. The dual-threat signal-caller amassed over 9,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing, while accounting for 119 touchdowns in his career. Other accomplishments include winning the Maxwell Award (2016) and Walter Camp Award (2016), in addition to being named a two-time First Team All-ACC selection and unanimous All-American (2016).


Size & Athletic Ability

At 6-2, he is tall enough to be a NFL quarterback and has decent body build. Plays small when inside the pocket. However, he is off the charts with his athletic ability, change of direction and speed.  His athletic ability dominated college games throughout his career. GRADE: 8.0

Statistics & Production

A three-year starter at Louisville with good production throwing the ball. He had great production running the ball, with 4,132 career rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns, while averaging six yards per carry. Jackson is an extremely dynamic and explosive player with the ball in his hands. GRADE: 8.5

Arm Ability & Throwing Mechanics

Jackson possesses a sound upper body throwing motion. He’s fairly quick with the ball and does not have a lot of wasted movement from the waste up. He has decent arm strength but very poor lower body mechanics. His feet rarely match his eyes when he gets off his primary receiver, which results in inaccurate throws. He isn’t compact with his lower body when he drops and sets up. Accuracy and ball placement will be an issue until he corrects his lower body fundamentals; his target alignment with his feet and his pocket movements. GRADE: 7.0


The Cardinals offensive system required Jackson to take nearly all his snaps from shotgun. There will be an adjustment for him under center, as he is not a lower body compact quarterback. He bounces at times on the setup and uses a big hitch to move up in the pocket. He sets up big in the pocket for a 6-2 signal-caller. His alignment is often poor when he gets past his primary look. GRADE: 6.5

Quick Game Performance/Accuracy (Three-Step)

Jackson possesses a quick delivery and is effective with the short passing game concepts. He is highly accurate on the slant throw. He operated these concepts well in the shotgun and in empty sets. Spreading the field by formation helped him, as it opened up running lanes and allowed him more primary throws. These types of patterns enabled him to make minimal reads/progression throws and he is most effective when he can deliver the ball to his primary receiver. This was a productive part of the Louisville offense. GRADE: 8.0

Quick Game Performance/Accuracy (Five-Step)

He threw the medium passing game well at times but needed a clean pocket to allow for his lower body mechanics. This was a strong part of the offensive system at Louisville and when he had protection, Jackson threw the ball decisively and with accuracy.  When the protection was compromised, he exited the pocket and was a dynamic player. GRADE: 7.5

Intermediate Throw Performance/Accuracy (Seven-Step)

Jackson struggled at pushing the ball down the field in the 15-to-20-yard range from inside the pocket.  This is a skill-set he’ll need to develop in order for him to be an effective quarterback at the next level. He relied, as he should have at Louisville, to take off and make his athletic ability the focus of the offense.  He was unable to stay in the pocket and let these types of route concepts develop. GRADE: 6.0

Deep Ball Performance/Accuracy (35+ Yards)

While he has enough arm strength to make the deep ball throws, his accuracy was inconsistent, as he tends to over-stride at times. He did throw outside fades and slot fade routes well but his ball placement overall was lacking in this area. GRADE: 7.0


There was plenty of timing and anticipation on quick game throws; these were always to his primary receiver. Once he was forced to work through a progression, he often tried to leave the pocket and thus his athletic ability took over, rather than the timing/anticipation of the pattern. He doesn’t see the entire field very well. Big hitches in the pocket hindered his ability—he was looking for escape avenues most of the time when his room to operate got tight. He rarely relied upon his ability to throw with timing from a compromised pocket. GRADE: 7.0

Designed Movement Throws

He was an asset when on the move, Jackson executed the sprint/naked type of throws with efficiency and possesses good body mechanics. He showed accuracy when throwing on the run and demonstrated an ability to go both right and left. Once outside the pocket and on the perimeter of the defense, he was always a threat to run and make a positive play. GRADE: 8.0

Pocket Demeanor & Movement

Jackson didn’t try to be a pocket passer when there was any challenge to his space.  He did show the ability and patience to stand tall in the pocket when it was clean. Anytime the launch point was threatened, he exited and relied on his speed/athleticism to take over, as this served him and the Louisville offense well. He has very poor subtle pocket movement and is more suited for radical movement or scrambling. He rarely negotiated a launch point and re-set his feet.  He was much more comfortable on the move. He operated big for a 6-2 quarterback, his hitch at the top of his drop is very large and he can get wide with his base. These are both bad habits that hurt his performance between the tackles, However, his ability to scramble and create was exceptional, as he made up for any lost opportunities in the pocket. GRADE: 6.0

Unique Throws

Lamar Jackson has demonstrated the ability to make a lot of unique/touch types of throws during his career at Louisville. He was effective throwing a number of different bubble and swing screen types of throws to both wide outs and running backs; he showed the ability to put touch on the short check-down passes. His aforementioned upper body motion helps this – when he eliminates his lower body he is a better thrower. GRADE: 8.0

Poise & Performance In Critical Situations

A prime-time player, he was very much the focal point of anything that the Louisville offense did. Teammates fed off him and he was able to create an explosive play at anytime from anywhere on the field. His game is not suited for the NFL two-minute offense, as he lacks the necessary pocket presence required. He made up for this with his legs at the college level. Same thing for third down; Louisville was a good third down offense because he could take off and use his athletic prowess to make a play. How this will translate to the NFL game remains to be seen, however there is no denying his play making ability. GRADE:  8.0


The Cardinals signal-caller did not force the ball into coverage and did not make poor decisions with where to go with the ball. His interceptions were due to poor accuracy and not decisions. His feet played into his decision- making, as he was very confident he could escape most situations and beat most defenders one-on-one. Jackson never felt a need to try force the ball, as his ability to run was always the better option for the play. At the NFL level, he’ll need to develop as a decision maker in the pocket. GRADE: 7.5

Ability To Scramble/Extend Plays

Jackson used his outstanding athletic ability and speed to leave the pocket often. He did exit early at times, as well as when it was necessary. He made a lot of explosive plays when operating outside the pocket, both running and throwing. This was a big strength of his, as he was usually the best athlete on the field, as well as being able to throw well on the run. GRADE: 9.5


This well-accomplished collegiate player possesses average size for an NFL quarterback and is off the charts when it comes to athletic ability. Jackson has the speed and change of direction ability to allow him to make plays at the next level both when he scrambles/creates and with designed runs. The volume of these types of plays in the NFL will depend on his durability and how much the coaching adapts the offense to his style of play. He throws a good ball and has a good upper body motion, to go along with above-average arm strength. His alignment of his lower body and his ability to be compact in the pocket must improve.  This can be corrected but will take time, as will the ability to adapt from under center. Jackson is a tremendous athlete but doesn’t demonstrate drop-back fundamentals that will make his transition to the NFL easy. He lacks the ability to stand in the pocket when it’s pushed and can move radically but he doesn’t show the subtle movement needed to be an effective NFL quarterback at this point in time. He’ll need to continue to develop as a pocket-passer with his movements and ability to progress through his reads. Jackson will have to gain a degree of comfort and become more compact in a tight pocket. There is no denying he is a dynamic athlete and a big-time play maker. The Florida native has a huge upside because of athleticism and possibly the ability to be a wide receiver. Jackson will definitely need time to develop as a quarterback. He projects as a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. OVERALL GRADE: 112.5


(Photo: Santa Clara)