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Lamar Jackson is more Randall Cunningham than he is Michael Vick

Could the rookie quarterback have as prolific of a career as the four-time All-Pro selection?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

While it is well-documented that Lamar Jackson has all of the speed, he also has a strong arm in the passing game. He was able to leverage both of those attributes to become the nation’s top college football player in 2016, winning the Heisman Trophy. Fast forward to the present, and Jackson is now the heir apparent to Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens.

Not surprisingly, Jackson has drawn many comparisons to Michael Vick for his running ability. Both players were dynamic runners in college, with Vick finishing his career with 1,299 rushing yards and Jackson ending his with 4,132. However, Vick has been adamant that Jackson is a more polished passer than he was at the time. In two college seasons at Virginia Tech, Vick had just 3,299 total passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a completion percentage of 56 percent and a passer rating of 150.6.

In comparison, Jackson threw for 9,043 passing yards, 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, and he recorded a 57 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 142.9 while at Louisville. Although their completion percentages and passer ratings look similar on paper, their production each season differed greatly. In 1999, Vick had a completion percentage of 57.7 percent and passer rating of 171.1. The next year, both stats declined as Vick posted a completion percentage of 54.0 percent and a passer rating of 127.4.

In contrast, Jackson continued to get better each season as a passer, going from a completion percentage of 54.7 percent in his freshman campaign to 59.1 percent in his junior year. He also saw his passer rating improve from 126.8 in 2015 to 146.6 in 2017. He recorded his highest passer rating during his Heisman Trophy-winning season at 148.8.

For his passing ability, Jackson is more akin to Randall Cunningham than he is Vick, at least coming out of college. Cunningham, a UNLV product, also continuously developed as a passer over the course of his collegiate career. He saw his completion percentage go from 52.2 percent in his first year as a starter to 62.5 percent by his third year at the helm.

His passing yards hovered from 2,847 yards in his first season to 2,898 in his final year. Cunningham’s touchdown passes would also increase year-over-year, from 17 in 1982, to 18 in 1983 and 26 in 1984. His passer rating also improved by 24.7 from his sophomore to senior season. Though Cunningham did not have the same rushing production of Vick or Jackson, he still utilized his speed to open up the passing game just as Jackson does now.

The key to professional success is to be able to develop and evolve at the NFL level. Cunningham was able to grow as a pro but not without adversity. He started in four games during his rookie season, throwing for just 548 yards, one touchdown and eight interceptions. He would not become the storied player that we all know today until 1987, when he threw for 2,786 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the Eagles.

Cunningham would end his career with 29,979 passing yards, 207 passing touchdowns and 134 interceptions. He also rushed for 4,928 yards and 35 touchdowns. Jackson now has the opportunity to learn from Flacco and mold his game into something similar to Cunningham’s. With more knowledge of the playbook down the line, Jackson could eventually even become a better quarterback than Cunningham.