It seemed like it would be a heartbreaking night for Lamar Jackson. As the night stretched later and later, Jackson kept falling—including past teams he had been previously connected with. Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen all went ahead of him, and the Dolphins opted not to take a quarterback at 11 overall. The Patriots passed on Jackson for offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn at no. 23. The Ravens skipped Jackson at 25 overall to instead take South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, a soon-to-be-25-year-old former minor league baseball player turned tight end. Jacksonville opted to add to its defensive line depth and take Florida DT Taven Bryan at 29 overall. The Pats passed again on Jackson to take running back Sony Michel at pick 31. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and the biggest game breaker in college football was going to fall out of the first round.
And then, with the Eagles on the clock at no. 32, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walked to the podium and announced a trade. The Ravens, who had already been on the clock three times in the first round due to various trades, felt the fourth time was the charm and moved up to select Jackson.
The Ravens paid to get him. Baltimore got the 32nd and 132nd overall picks and sent away the 52nd and 125th picks in this year’s draft, plus next year’s second-rounder. That’s a confusingly high price to pay considering Baltimore could have taken Jackson seven picks earlier instead of Hurst … but who cares? Jackson, who might immediately be the most exciting player in the NFL, could replace Joe Flacco, who is definitely the least exciting player in the NFL. Post-2012 Flacco couldn’t do this in his wildest dreams.
To give you an idea of how Ravens fans are taking this, here is the reaction of my boss and Ravens superfan Mallory Rubin.
She waited, and waited, and waited....but in the end, @MalloryRubin's #NFLDraft dreams came true. #RingerNFL pic.twitter.com/NzF7N2sAmc— The Ringer (@ringer) April 27, 2018
Amid comparisons between Jackson and Michael Vick during Jackson’s 2016 Heisman campaign, an unlikely voice weighed in: Vick.
Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech....Enough said!! #future— Michael Vick (@MichaelVick) September 17, 2016
Flash forward 19 months, and Jackson will be playing in Baltimore under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who oversaw Vick’s renaissance in Philadelphia from 2009-12. Jackson is likely to sit on the bench behind Flacco, according to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Jackson needs to refine his footwork and improve his throws toward the outside hash, but he is a revelation in all of the areas Flacco is not.
Lamar Jackson: "The Ravens gonna get a Super Bowl out of me, believe that" [@gifdsports]pic.twitter.com/zl1PDALbT8— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) April 27, 2018
Baltimore fans can rejoice. Every other football fan can, too. This is going to be fun.