The 2018 NFL Draft saw five quarterbacks get selected on opening night in the first round and only one — Josh Rosen — neither shined nor at least flashed promise during their first three seasons in the league.
Contrary to the recency bias that the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen sparked with his breakout campaign last season, the last signal-caller taken that night has proved to be the best of the bunch thus far.
That quarterback was Lamar Jackson, who the Baltimore Ravens traded back into the bottom of the first round to draft at No. 32 overall out of Louisville — where he dominated the collegiate level and won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016.
Shortly after he was officially announced as the pick by Commissioner Roger Goodell, he walked off the main stage where he conducted a brief interview with NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders. He instantly endeared himself to his new team and their passionate fan base with a promise that went viral.
Three years ago today, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft— Kevin Oestreicher (@koestreicher34) April 26, 2021
After this draft interview he would throw for 7,085 yards, rush for 2,906 more, score 87 total TDs and win an MVP, becoming one of the NFL’s best young starspic.twitter.com/ZY6rdNF4TW
While fans and media pundits are busy wondering and speculating if and when the former unanimous league MVP will receive a contract extension, that would make him one of the highest-paid players in NFL history, Jackson is focused on ensuring he makes good on his promise.
He emphasized as such while addressing the media on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m not going to lie to you; I’m not really focused on that right now,” Jackson said when asked if he preferred ink a new deal before training camp.
“I’m focused on getting me a Super Bowl. I’m focused on getting better. I’m focused on working with my teammates right now.”
Jackson has led the Ravens to two AFC North division titles and three straight postseason berths since becoming the full-time starter midway through his rookie year. However, the team has yet to make it past the Divisional Round of the playoffs over that span.
He was able to start and finish both of his first two playoff losses but had to watch from the locker room in the fourth quarter of the third, because he suffered a concussion on the last play of the third quarter. He got slammed to the turf on the first offensive snap after throwing a crucial interception on the previous possession. Bills’ DB Taron Johnson returned the pick-six 101 yards for a pivotal score in Buffalo’s 17-3 Divisional Round win over the Ravens.
“I’m still ticked off. I’m going to always be ticked off losing,” Jackson said. “I don’t care how old the game was – I really don’t – I’m going to always remember that loss more than a victory and what you did in a victory.”
The Ravens have ushered in a golden age of offensive success with Jackson at the helm and have won more than three times as many games (31-10) in the regular and postseason combined with him as the starter.
Both General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh have been adamant throughout the offseason that the organization is committed to Jackson as the face of the franchise long-term and that an extension will get worked out eventually. However, neither side is rushing to put pen to paper and is more concerned with achieving the ultimate goal of winning it all.
“Lamar is confident, and Lamar understands what’s important,” Harbaugh said. “Look at what he’s done. He’s going to get paid. He knows that. The question becomes, what’s he going to do? What’s his legacy going to be as a quarterback? That’s what he’s focused on.”
Winning a Super Bowl wouldn’t just cement Jackson’s legacy in both Baltimore sports and NFL lore and history, it’d be a life-changing achievement for him that trumps all the individual accolades he’s accrued and the records he’s broken.
“When they win it, it’s like your whole life just changed,” Jackson said. “The excitement I see, the feeling … like holding the [Lombardi] Trophy up and stuff like that.
“I’m always going to stress this until I get it – until I get me one. I’m trying to win a Super Bowl. MVPs and stuff like that, having winning records and stuff, that’s cool, but I want to bring me a Lombardi here myself.”
Jackson succeeded a former Super Bowl MVP and champion in former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who led the team to a magical run to win their second title in franchise history when he was in the final year of his rookie contract in 2012.
“Everybody else got one,” said Jackson. “The quarterback before me had one – Joe [Flacco]. He did a great job with the team. He won one. So, I want to come in and win me one, so I can feel accomplished and be like, ‘OK, we did that! I won me one. My teammates, we stepped it up. We did what we were supposed to do.”
“Then I can sit back when I have grandkids and stuff and be like, ‘Yes, we did that,’ and talk my trash like ‘old heads’ do – talk my trash to the young generation about what we did. So, that’s what I’m trying to do – win a Super Bowl. Then we can talk about legacy.”
Unlike Flacco, who needed a historic playoff run in 2012 to break the bank even though he helped guide the team to at least the AFC title game in three of his first five seasons, Jackson has already proved he’s worth a significant financial investment.
The Ravens roster and offensive scheme are built to accentuate his dynamic dual-threat skill set so getting a deal done is inevitable. The fact that Jackson and Co. are seemingly solely focused on the task at hand should ease the minds of their fans, even if it does result in less speculative clickbait content.