Thanks to Jackson, the Ravens Aren't Finished. Not Even Close.
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Thanks to Jackson, the Ravens Aren't Finished. Not Even Close.

Scoot over New England. There's a new king of the AFC, and they're here to stay.

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Ravens QB and MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson running the ball against the Houston Texans. Ravens 41, Texans 7 (11-17-19)
(NFL on CBS)

I'm not here to say I told you so. I'm really not.

BUT I TOLD YOU SO

Here's how I watched the 2018 NFL Draft: The Browns selected QB Baker Mayfield 1st overall, and I didn't like the pick. Resembles Johnny Manziel's frat boy attitude too much for an NFL quarterback. Jets selected QB Sam Darnold 3rd overall, who they needed, but they didn't have much around him and still don't. Bills selected QB Josh Allen 7th overall, which was a pick I liked and might be starting to pay off. The Cardinals selected QB Josh Rosen 10th overall, who I also liked but apparently they didn't.

*Are you starting to see the trend, though?*

Then come the only pick I really cared about: my Baltimore Ravens at 16th overall. Everybody knew we needed a plan for the future at quarterback, as Joe Flacco was getting old and had mostly lost the touch he had during their magical playoff run in 2012. And we selected...

Nobody. We traded back with the Buffalo Bills to their pick, which was 22nd overall. At this point I really had no clue what kind of magic General Managers Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta was doing with the draft. They just had me along for the ride. So when the 22nd pick arrived, I anxiously awaited as Roger Goodell announced that we selected...

Nobody. Yet again, we traded back, this time with the Tennessee Titans at 25th overall. I'm all for trading back in the draft and acquiring pick assets, but I was legitimately bored watching the latter half of this draft. When it FINALLY came to our pick...

Hayden Hurst, tight end, South Carolina.

I wasn't necessarily upset, as it filled a need that we had since Dennis Pitta retired from injury trouble in 2016, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a looming concern I had for the future of the franchise I have loved so dearly because Joe Flacco simply was not doing it getting the job done.

Then we traded back into the first round. Philadelphia had the 32nd overall pick after beating New England in Super Bowl LII. And that was the picked that changed the course of the Baltimore Ravens future.

Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville.


Lamar Jackson at the 2018 NFL Draft (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)


He ALMOST fell out of the first round because he refused to work out as a running back or wide receiver, but the Ravens took a chance on their future. He's been out to prove doubters wrong ever since. He had a phenomenal start to his career after replacing Joe Flacco when he was injured, leading the Ravens to a 7-2 record and an AFC North title before losing in the playoffs against the Chargers. The loss aside, it seemed like the Ravens were confident in Jackson's ability when they traded Joe Flacco to the Broncos.

They were right. He just needed a little assistance.

DeCosta went out and signed Mark Ingram away from New Orleans and drafted Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) and Miles Boykin (Notre Dame), which put more dynamic pieces into Greg Roman's system. Roman was promoted to the role Offensive Coordinator after being tight ends coach for two seasons. One of his first actions was to implement much of the playbook that Jackson ran at Louisville. This gave Jackson a real opportunity to demonstrate his skill set and do what he does best: be a pure, dual-threat quarterback. At the midway point of Jackson's sophomore season, he is:

• The MVP frontrunner (and it's not close)

• Youngest quarterback ever to achieve a perfect passer rating

• First player to pass for 250 yards and rush for 120 yards in a single game (9-15-19 against Arizona)

• Has the record for most perfect passer rating games in one season (2, with Ben Roethlisberger)

• On track to break Michael Vick's rushing yard record for a quarterback

• Had one of the most iconic plays in NFL history

Lamar Jackson Ridiculous 47 Yard Touchdown Run | Ravens vs. Bengals | NFLwww.youtube.com

And there's so many more. The Ravens beat Russell Wilson's Seahawks in Seattle handily. They beat Tom Brady's 8-0 Patriots. They routed Deshaun Watson's Texans and virtually eliminated Watson from the MVP race.

They aren't the perfect team. Don't think I'm saying that because there's always room for improvement. But the team has rallied from years of post-Super Bowl mediocrity. Free agency, team office management, and the importance of the draft have been escalated to a true level of legitimate contention.

And it all started with a draft pick. One Lamarkable draft pick.


Lamar Jackson running against the Bengals. Ravens 49, Bengals 13 (11-10-19) (Frank Victores/AP)

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