The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
Redshirt Junior | 6’1″ and 192 Pounds | Born April 3, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Round 1
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.56 sec | bench reps: 18 | 3-cone: 6.86 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.03 sec | vertical: 38 in | broad: 123 in
Jackson’s ascension was hardly a typical process. Perhaps the draft’s best pure cover corner, the former three-star recruit was originally slotted to play receiver, but he switched to the other side of the ball prior to his redshirt freshman season. After spending two years as a contributing backup, Jackson took his starting role last season and promptly led the nation with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended. The first team All-American’s elite combination of size and production has unsurprisingly vaulted him into the thick of the first round in almost any mock draft you’ll find.
The Hawkeyes’ were deep enough at corner to limit Jackson to fewer than 300 snaps during his first two seasons playing defensive back. Iowa finished last season with an 8-5 record and didn’t always show up against elite competition, but this was hardly due to Jackson’s performance.
- Wyoming: 5 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass deflection
- Penn State: 5 tackles, 1 pass deflection
- Ohio State: 3 tackles, 3 interceptions
- Wisconsin: 3 tackles, 2 pick-sixes, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble
- Boston College: 1 tackle, 1 interception
Jackson didn’t allow a single touchdown after Week 4 and became the only player in Big Ten history with two interception returns for a touchdown in a conference game. Last year quarterbacks had just a 35.0 passer rating when throwing into his coverage, which was good for a top-five mark (Pro Football Focus). It’s fair to have concerns regarding whether or not Jackson is a one-year wonder, but his situation is unique in that he was forced to learn a new position in a relatively short period of time.
Taller corners have become more common in today’s game thanks to their ability to match up physically with some of the league’s more-freakish receiving talents. Jackson fits this mold, regularly utilizing his long arms to control his man and make plays on the ball.
Jackson did it all at Iowa, as he was regularly used on blitzes and in slot coverage in addition to playing primarily as an outside corner. His ability to shadow in man coverage is what has NFL teams drooling, and his instincts in zone are also fantastic. The best-case scenario for Jackson is in the NFL is to play a Richard Sherman-esque role in a base cover-3 defense, but it’d be foolish for his future employer also not to use his lockdown abilities in shadow coverage on the opposition’s best receiver.
The main question Jackson still has to answer is whether he has the long speed necessary to stay with some of the game’s track stars at the next level. His tackling ability isn’t great either, but both concerns are largely mitigated by his unrivaled ability to blanket his opponent. There have been at least three cornerbacks to stand at least six-feet tall drafted in the first round in each of the last three drafts. The likes of Marshon Lattimore, Jalen Ramsey, Marcus Peters, and Xavier Rhodes have all used their size and ball skills to give receivers of all shapes and sizes fits. Jackson possesses the physical and technical ability to join that lofty comp group, and he could feasibly give fantasy opponents headaches sooner rather than later depending on his eventual scheme.
In our most recent mock draft, we have Jackson going to the Raiders at No. 10 overall.
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