Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: An Open Letter to Lamar Jackson

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Lamar Jackson is not doing himself any favors in the draft process. Are Gronk and the Pats headed for splitsville? And Aaron Donald shows off a training regimen any magician would love to master. All this and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.

   

1. Dear Lamar Jackson…

The first thing you need to know is that you are extremely well-liked by almost everyone I talk to in the NFL.

They say you’re bright, grounded, decent and a leader. They believe you will be an excellent quarterback.

Some of them have interviewed you. You were polite and knowledgeable. One scout remarked to me that you reminded him of his son. 

In other words, there are a lot of people in the NFL rooting for you.

Some of those same people, however, think you are making a terrible mistake in not having an agent. Or, at the very least, a skilled publicist.

At the scouting combine, you said your mother was your agent (I was there). I love my mom, and she’s a brilliant lawyer who served her country for the National Security Agency for more than 30 years. But I wouldn’t want her to be my agent (sorry, Mom).

As great as moms are, no non-agent or non-publicist mother (or father) is equipped to navigate the shark-infested waters of the NFL.

The predraft process is when an agent or publicist would serve you best, Lamar, and right now you’re seeing the pitfalls of not having one. A writer for Sports Illustrated remarked that teams at your recent pro day were having difficulty getting your mom, or anyone in your camp, to return calls. An agent or publicist would have made him- or herself available to teams on your pro day.

Is this a big deal? Not, perhaps, in the grand scheme of your career. But in the here and now, an agent would be helpful. He or she would help counter any false narratives or negative storylines that arise.

An agent also would have helped you score better on the Wonderlic test. We’re not going to repeat the reporter score here because the test, in truth, is garbage and the scores are unconfirmed. It isn’t a true test of intelligence or football acumen. It is, however, a measure of how you prepare.

I took the test once after studying for it for weeks. I scored in the 30s, and I’m an idiot.

The Wonderlic has little value when it comes to football, but it can be used as a weapon, and my guess is no one made that point clear to you. A poor test result would be used by teams, media and fans already predisposed to not like you as a reason to say you are not smart. An agent likely would have helped you avoid a poor score.

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Above all, an agent—at least a good onewould fight for you, and at no time is that more important than now, amid the gossip and information warfare that dominates the weeks leading into the draft. I hear from the agents of other draft prospects, and, let me tell you, they work like bots relentlessly promoting their clients (often off the record). To be clear, they are far from perfect. But they remind me of a scene from Alien vs. Predator in which two characters are discussing whether to bring a weapon when one says it’s better to have one and not need it than need it and not have one. Same thing goes for agents.

Think of it this way, Lamar: What if a negative story breaks in the days leading up to the draft? Or on draft day? Do you want your mom out there taking the heat for you or an agent?

In the end, there’s no substitute for protecting your image.

Good luck, dude.

— Mike

   

2. And the best QB in the draft will be…

David Stephenson/Associated Press

Jackson. At least that’s what I was told by one scout, who said, “Lamar will have the best career.”

The reason? His versatility. Some teams believe that Jackson’s fluidity as a passer and runner makes him a more viable player in 21st century football. To some scouts, as league rules increasingly legislate significant swaths of the violence out of the sport, mobile quarterbacks will become even more dangerous.

Defenders, the thinking goes, are already nervous about hitting quarterbacks due to the fear of being penalized. As those fears increase, less physical football will lead to unprecedented scoring.

And that could make Jackson one of the most prolific weapons of this coming era.

   

3. Don’t laugh off those Barkley rumors

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30:  Saquon Barkley #26 of Penn State Nittany Lions runs with the ball against the Washington Huskies during the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm HaNorm Hall/Getty Images

I continue to hear from people that I trust across the league that Cleveland is still considering drafting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick.

As I always warn, everyone lies around draft time. But I’ve been stunned at how much I keep hearing that Barkley is a possibility at No. 1. The reasoning is the Browns believe the Giants will take Barkley at No. 2 and that they can still get one of the quarterbacks they want at No. 4.

It will likely happen the opposite way. The Browns will probably take Sam Darnold first and then Barkley because it’s the safe thing to do, and I don’t think this front office wants to take a lot of chances.

   

4. Are Gronk’s days with the Patriots nearing an end?

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

People I speak with on the Patriots believe Rob Gronkowski will return to the team and play next season. Still, there is definite tension between the star tight end and Bill Belichick. It’s not beyond repair. But it’s real. And that’s why, though improbable, it’s far from impossible Gronk could be dealt.

Belichick has never shown hesitation in trading a talent, even one as superb as Gronkowski. The list of players sent packing, as noted by ProFootballTalk.com, is long and includes Randy Moss, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins, Mike Vrabel, Deion Branch, Drew Bledsoe, Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.

Could Gronkowski be next? Keep an eye on this one.

   

5. Would the Ravens take the plunge?

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

Colin Kaepernick remains the best quarterback option available. He’s probably still one of the top 10-15 quarterbacks in football. Would that be enough to convince a team in need of QB depth to sign him? The short answer is no. But in a recent article, ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley argues why it makes sense.

For the Ravens (who considered signing Kaepernick last season), Kaepernick would offer the best combination of skill and price. He’s also far superior to the some of the uninspiring talents who have been signed this offseason, such as Brock Osweiler, or remain unsigned, like T.J. Yates.

Signing Kaepernick would also effectively end his collusion grievance against the NFL. Put it all together and a marriage between Kaepernick and the Ravens makes all the sense in the world. Which, of course, means it won’t happen.

     

6. Cutting edge

I’ve seen players train with all kinds of objects but never with fake knives.

Until now.

In case you missed it, here’s a video of arguably the best defensive player in football, Aaron Donald, training with plastic knives. It’s a technique I’ve never seen before. There’s a danger here, obviously, if one of those knives gets loose and pokes Donald in the eye.

Next up: Defensive backs train with chainsaws.

      

7. Please come back, Marquette King; we need you

Punter Marquette King, to many, is one of two things: a hot dog or entertaining. I’m definitely in the latter category. The outgoing King, the now-former Raiders punter, is good for a sport that sometimes has a stick up its rear. He’s funny and enjoys what he does. He’s also a good punter.

King is not for everyone, and that became clear last week when Jon Gruden released King. NFL writer Bill Williamson of RaidersSnakePit.com reported that the move was made to send a “message,” while Jerry McDonald of the Mercury News reported King was cut for performance reasons. No matter, as Gruden is not the fun type and likely would have butted heads with King at some point.

That doesn’t mean Gruden was right to get rid of him. King will get another job, and when he does, let’s try to enjoy him. He’s fun and keeps the game fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

   

8. Flag day every Sunday?

Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Will the new targeting rule lead to an increase in the number of penalties called each game?

Barry Church, who played in Dallas for seven years and is now with the Jaguars, told the Dennis and Cowlishaw show that he believes it will.

“I don’t understand it because as a defender, when you’re going in for a tackle, your first instinctyou got to lower yourself to get your pads even with the player’s pads,” Church said. “So, you’re telling me if you’re a defender that needs to lower your pads to get more leverage on a player, and the running back goes low to protect himself, and you guys hit each other, hit him with the helmet or whateverare they just going to throw a flag basically every single play?”

Current and former players have expressed similar concerns to me. And if they prove right, we may be witnessing the start of a dramatic change in the way professional football is played.

   

9. A study in power

I watched a review copy of Paterno, an HBO movie due to air this month, and I’m fascinated by it. 

Al Pacino’s portrayal of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is sure to anger Paterno loyalists. Pacino portrays Paterno as a bumbling fool oblivious to (or ignoring) how lives were being wrecked around him.

The movie, which I’ve watched a half-dozen times, focuses, above all, on powerwhat people are willing to do to keep it and how people around the powerful ignore, or cover up, even the worst atrocities.

    

10. Sean Taylor’s dominance

The league paid tribute, via Twitter, to the late Sean Taylor on April 1, the day he was born. Home invaders murdered Taylor in November 2007. He was just 24.

What’s apparent in the video the league tweeted out was not just how talented the safety was but also how much he was respected and lovedcherished, to be accurate—by teammates and others.

Nice job, NFL.

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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