Career Recap: Jackson broke into the starting lineup as a freshman, completing 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That season he also ran for 960 yards with an average of 5.9 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns.
In 2016, Jackson set college football on fire while winning the Heisman Trophy. The sophomore was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
2017 Season Outlook: Jackson has an interesting schedule. There are plenty of weak opponents that Louisville should blow out, and he should put up some insane numbers against the likes of Purdue, Kent State, Murray State, Syracuse, Wake Forest and Virginia.
There are also some defenses that have a lot of NFL talent who will challenge Jackson. Clemson lost a lot to the NFL, but return a talented front seven with multiple NFL prospects, so the Tigers will still be a challenge in Week 3. To start October, Jackson will see a very good defensive line with N.C. State. The Wolfpack are very talented and are led by a possible first-rounder in defensive end Bradley Chubb. In late October, Jackson will see a Florida State defense that has first-round talent on the defensive line, in the linebacking corps, and at both cornerback and safety.
Jackson is going to see a lot of potential defensive early round talents for the 2018 NFL Draft during the 2017 season. Here is a list of those possible Thursday night selections he is slated to play against: Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Florida State edge rusher Josh Sweat, Florida State linebacker Matthew Thomas, Florida State cornerback Tavarus McFadden, Florida State safety Derwin James, Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry, Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor and Virginia defensive end Andrew Brown.
Skill-Set Summary: Jackson has the makings of a franchise quarterback with his skill set. He could be undersized at 6-foot-2 and just over 200 pounds though. My opinion on prospects pales in comparison to how NFL scouts and teams view players. Thus, it makes more sense to share how a scout who has done advance work on the 2018 players views Jackson. This is what that scout had to say on him:
"[Jackson] has huge talent and supreme toughness. His biggest issue is being consistent with his footwork because he's so physically gifted and he'll get away with a lot of stuff that bites him at other times. He has real arm talent. He's way more polished than Michael Vick coming out. Everybody's up in arms about his games against Houston and LSU without mentioning he had arguably the worst offensive line of any power-five school. Houston just exposed it as they were the first team to beat up on that [offensive] line. Versus LSU, Lamar was making Houdini escapes just to get back to the line of scrimmage. He had no chance in either game. His supporting cast was very average with just two NFL-caliber players in Jamari Staples and Cole Hikutini. Jackson can see the field and work through progressions. Watching him his freshman year to his sophomore season, his improvements from year to year were huge. Bobby Petrino is a very talented offensive mind, and Jackson had near-complete command of [Petrino's] system back in October, and that says a lot. [Jackson's Florida State] game was the most individually dominant performance of the season because that defense has multiple NFL players, including at least one first-rounder on every level, and [Jackson] looked like he was playing at a different speed than them.
"[Jackson's] upside is scary. His flaws are correctable compared to what he was his first year as he's already made a substantial jump. No reason to believe he won't make bigger leaps. His athleticism and speed are different-level-type stuff. I did Cam Newton coming out and know Mike Vick well; [Jackson] is more advanced in the passing game than either of them when they came out. [Jackson] will be fine sitting in the pocket and getting hit on the chin. It's the reason his toughness is seen already as arguably his best quality, because he forces himself to stay in there wanting to show he's a true quarterback.
"You don't know where [Jackson's] accuracy will top out just yet. He rarely threw the ball in high school. Thus, there is a long way for him to go to be a Russell Wilson type, but he's already made huge improvements. [Jackson's] biggest hurdle is putting on weight. He's borderline 6-foot-2. He might a tad under, and he needs to get north of 215 pounds.
"Quarterbacks depend on people's flavor as well of course. History tells us that quarterbacks with [Jackson's] skill set don't get outside the top 10. Critics outside the inner circle and some scouts will nitpick like they did with Deshaun Watson, Pat Mahomes or Russell Wilson, but top evaluators will love [Jackson's] play-making, leadership, explosiveness, the strain he puts on defenses, and his big arm talent. [Those] all need development, but [Jackson] has proven to be a fast study. He's already showing he can throw from the pocket, call audibles - a must in Petrino's offense -, and dial up hot reads. He makes just as many plays in the pocket as those other guys when you watch them all. [Jackson's] just noticed more for what he does outside of it because he's such a rare athlete for the position."
2018 NFL Draft Expectations: If Jackson can continue to improve his accuracy and add weight, he will really help his final draft grade. Continuing to thrive out of the pocket is necessary as well. In a league that has an insatiable demand for franchise quarterbacks, Jackson stands a good shot of being a first-round pick.