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Bengals host Louisville QB Lamar Jackson for visit in Cincinnati

The Bengals are bringing in Lamar Jackson late in the draft process, but how realistic is the idea of him being selected by the Bengals?

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is among the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. Many believe he is one of the best quarterbacks this year, while other think he would be better suited to change positions and play wide receiver in the NFL. Either way, it is surprising to see the Bengals have brought in the former Louisville quarterback for a visit. This shows the Bengals may have serious interest in the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Because Lamar Jackson went to Louisville, which is considered local, this visit is not an official top 30 visit, according to Ian Rapoport. The Bengals are also hosting about 40 local prospects on Tuesday for the team’s local pro day.

The Bengals and Marvin Lewis have constantly been 100 percent supportive of Andy Dalton through all of his ups and downs, and the idea they could draft Jackson in the first round really would be quite the shock. It’s safe to assume Jackson will be a first round pick. Although Dalton is arguably coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro, the Bengals have done nothing to indicate they will be moving on from the former second round pick. With that said, Dalton missed quite a few key throws last year that could’ve helped the Bengals win a few more games.

Jackson is a totally different quarterback from Dalton as well. Dalton is more mobile than people give him credit, but Jackson is a threat with his legs. It is something NFL defenses would have to account for. He also adds the dimension of being able to escape pressure and extend plays.

Jackson is an interesting quarterback prospect though aside from being an electrifying playmaker, it’s clear he isn’t the most polished prospect in this year’s draft. His accuracy is a little inconsistent and he has never completed more 60 percent of his passes. However, interceptions have never really been an issue for him. His final year at Louisville was the first time he threw 10 interceptions. That same year he scored 45 total touchdowns, so it is hard to say he didn’t produce.

In three years at Louisville, Jackson accumulated 619 completions (57 percent) for 9,043 yards, 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. That amounted to a passer rating of 142.9.

One major thing Jackson needs to learn at the pro level is how to preserve his body. Too many times, fans and analysts say running quarterbacks need to become pocket passers, but it is really more about learning when to slide, run out of bounds or even just throw the ball away. If you take away Jackson’s legs, you are taking away his most productive attribute. That’s part of why some have said he should switch to wide receiver in the NFL. Jackson has continued to say that’s not an option though.

“No teams have asked me to play wide receiver. I don’t even know where it comes from. I’m strictly quarterback,” Jackson said at the combine. “I’m not going to be at wide receiver tomorrow. Quarterback position.... I’m a quarterback. I don’t know anything about the rest of it.”

It is still hard to say if the Bengals bringing in Jackson is some sort of smoke screen or real interest. The Bengals could be trying to show interest so someone will trade up ahead of them allowing one of their coveted players to make it to them. The Patriots are one team that has reportedly shown interest in Jackson, and they just got an extra first round pick that happens to be two picks behind the Bengals in the draft. Though, it’s also very possible Jackson is gone long before pick No. 21.

The Bengals have shown interest in many quarterback prospects this year, but none who are expected to be first round picks, at least according to reports. The Bengals were in attednance for Kyle Lauletta’s pro day, as well as Logan Woodside’s, Nic Shimonek’s, Luke Falk’s and Cashe Burton’s at Ball State. They also have shown interest in Quinton Flowers out of USF, but potentially to switch him into a skill position player, not for the quarterback role.

Maybe the Bengals are looking to give Dalton a major kick in the butt as far as urgency to turn this around. It would be the first time the Bengals actually brought in competition for Dalton. No, drafting AJ McCarron in the fifth round wasn’t competition based and the Bengals have said as much. They could even allow Jackson a year or two to sit and learn the offense from Dalton himself. The Bengals may have learned that the game is evolving and a guy like Jackson can be very productive. I mean they saw first hand the effect Deshaun Watson had on the Texans last year.

We won’t know how real this interest is until draft day, but it is something we should all keep an eye on.