There are two sides to the first round of the NFL Draft: teams desperately angling for quarterbacks, and everyone else.
Quarterback prospects tend to be overdrafted because landing a franchise signal-caller can transform a franchise. The Chiefs discovered this when they moved up 17 picks to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017, and the Bills struck gold a year later when they took Josh Allen despite underwhelming production at the college level.
Sometimes, though, talented quarterbacks slip through the cracks. Most of the league likely regrets letting Lamar Jackson fall to the Ravens with the No. 32 pick, with the 27-year-old star now staring down his second MVP award and sitting two wins from a championship.
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Here’s a look back at when the Ravens drafted Jackson and which quarterbacks came off the board before the Louisville product.
What year was Lamar Jackson drafted?
The Ravens drafted Jackson in 2018 with the 32nd and final pick of the first round. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner now is finishing up his sixth NFL season.
Even at 27 years old, Jackson already feels like a staple of this era of the NFL. He led the Ravens to the playoffs as a rookie, earned MVP honors in his first full season as a starter and has made it through an extended contract saga with Baltimore.
With contract negotiations and injuries behind him, Jackson has played with a weight off his shoulders this season. But the campaign will ultimately be defined by whether he can take the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
Even for a rookie quarterback, Jackson entered the league young. He was 21 for the duration of the 2018 regular season, nearly two years younger than No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. That’s one reason why the future remains so bright for the Ravens, with Jackson already carrying plenty of experience into what will be his age-27 season later in 2024.
Which QBs were drafted before Lamar Jackson?
Four quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Jackson. Here’s a complete look at the five first-round quarterbacks drafted in 2018.
Pick Player Team 1 Baker Mayfield Browns 3 Sam Darnold Jets 7 Josh Allen Bills 10 Josh Rosen Cardinals 32 Lamar Jackson Ravens
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The race for the No. 1 pick wasn’t settled until very late in the process, when Mayfield became the consensus favorite to be the Browns’ selection over Darnold. Darnold was never expected to slide past the Jets, and New York made it official by taking the USC quarterback at No. 3.
After Darnold, the remainder of the top quarterback prospects were wild cards. Allen had as much raw talent as any prospect, but his shaky production at Wyoming concerned draft analysts. Rosen never reached his high ceiling at UCLA, and while he was built like a quarterback, turnovers popped up as a potential issue.
Still, the Bills took a chance on Allen, while the Cardinals settled on Rosen. No one gave Jackson an opportunity until the final pick of the first round, when the Ravens traded up with the Eagles to get the player they hoped could become their successor to Joe Flacco.
Here’s a closer look at why Jackson slid on draft night.
Why did Lamar Jackson fall to the Ravens?
Lingering concerns about Jackson’s accuracy and overall arm talent played a role in his slide to the end of the first round.
Jackson lit up the college football world at Louisville, electrifying with his mobility and earning Heisman Trophy honors as a sophomore, but he completed just 56% of his passes during his Heisman season and completed 57% over his three seasons with the Cardinals.
Accuracy remained a bit of an issue for Jackson when he first made his NFL debut, but he’s steadily improved in that regard while establishing himself as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the game has seen.
Durability was also a concern, especially for a quarterback who makes his rushing ability a major part of his game. Robert Griffin III had seen his career derailed by injuries before 2018, though Cam Newton was just three years removed from an MVP season at the time Jackson was drafted.
Yet while Jackson has dealt with a few ankle injuries, he has shown this season what he can do when fully healthy.