Drake Jackson - EDGE - USC
Welcome to the rookie profile for Drake Jackson. Jackson, a three-year starter out of USC, is an exciting pass rusher, mostly deployed exclusively on the edge as a stand-up player and with hands in the dirt. Explosive out of the stance with immediate acceleration. In the NFL we’ll more than likely see Jackson line up as a stand-up outside linebacker.
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 250 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.50s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: DNP
Broad Jump: DNP
Bench Press: DNP
Jackson had quite the high-school career, in his junior year he was named the All-Big VIII League MVP and was named the 10th best player across the state of California, earning him a four-star prospect status and receiving 12 college offers. Jackson narrowed down his options to USC and Arizona State, he actually recorded two versions of his commitment tape before National Signing Day as he was still undecided right up until the last minute, stating that the factor in his decision to commit to USC was ‘I know that I am going to be treated good here and they will make me the right man’ and the fact that he would become an immediate starter for USC Trojans.
USC stuck to their word as Jackson was named as a starter as of their season opener, safe to say that he hit the ground running as he put-up an impressive 46 tackles, leading the team with 11.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks as well as contributing with a forced fumble. This impressive start to his college career earned him second-team All-Pac 12 honors and an honorable mention for the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.
In a COVID disrupted sophomore season; Jackson did not disappoint as he continued his freshman form that we had seen in the previous year, well and truly putting himself on the map as one of the best defensive players in the Pac-12. Jackson started 6 games and registered 20 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 2.0 sacks and an interception. Most notably in the Trojans final game of the 2020 season against UCLA he was named the Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week after an impressive 5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss. Jackson received second-team All-Pac 12 honors for a second consecutive year.
Despite a late season injury, Jackson continues to impress across 10 games he featured in and went from a 66.6 pass-rushing grade in 2020 to an impressive 87.7 grade in the past season whilst racking up 37 tackles, 8.0 tackles for a loss, 5.0 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. An impressive final season with the Trojans had seen Jackson receive second-team All-Pac 12 honors for a third consecutive season.
Jackson has athletic prowess which makes him a threat as a lethal pass rusher off the edge and the interior; with a 40 speed of 4.50 seconds, explosiveness out of the snap, phenomenal change of direction and an excellent first step makes him an exciting prospect at the EDGE position. Combined with an excellent closing speed time and long arms to bring down quarterbacks by attacking the blind side or through the middle before they can escape, this is something that NFL coaches will love. His athleticism allows him to drop in coverage and hit the pocket hard.
Jackson has a good level of versatility; throughout his college career we have seen him lineup as an outside linebacker and as a defensive end – Jackson could easily play both positions in the NFL. He has shown that he has a good ability to rush either stood up or with his hands in the dirt. Jackson is best suited as 3-4 outside linebacker and can also line up as a 4-3 defensive end. Nimble footwork and good level of lateral movement allows Jackson to be able to operate in zone coverage and go one on one versus tight ends. Another promising sign is that Jackson can lineup as a middle linebacker and cover in space.
I am a big fan of Jackson; when you combine his versatility, athleticism and his prototypical frame for the position he has huge potential to be a big-time player in the NFL. Whilst not quite regarded as a ‘sleeper’ as such, but in the grand scheme of things with the quality we have in this year’s EDGE class, I think we could see Jackson have one of the most successful careers in the NFL from this year’s class. I guess that time will tell.
An area of concern for Jackson would be his tackling, this is something that will need to be improved on a lot in the next stage of his career. All too often he is seen unsuccessfully making a hit on a tackle, failing to wrap up and miscalculate tackles by taking really bad angles – an all too often occurrence.
Jackson’s height and athleticism is a gift, unfortunately he still hasn’t learnt to use every ounce of it to his advantage – no doubt NFL coaches will get this out of him. Often relies on his power to overpower opponents but due to his lighter weight for the position he does come out second best on too many occasions. Can look overwhelmed when reduced inside and his smaller frame will require more bulk and strength to make an even bigger impact as a 4-3 DE – something we witnessed before Jackson had an illness which saw him lose 25lbs, with the NFL dietitians this is an area that I’d expect to be improved quickly.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 2
The Arizona Cardinals will be looking at adding depth at outside linebacker. The Cardinals Chandler Jones could try his luck in the free agency market and force a move away, and they will also have Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck out of contract which will leave them a little short, it’s almost certain that we won’t see all three of Jones, Golden and Gareck return therefore Jackson would be a great addition. The Cardinals will love that Jackson played very well as a pass-rushing outside linebacker and has shown excellent speed rushing abilities, alongside good bend and flexibility skills – something that you simply cannot teach, you either have it or you don’t.
It’s a great time for the Cards to rebuild in the position as Jones and Golden will turn 31 this year and from a financial standpoint this could prove to be a savvy move – especially when you take in to account that franchise QB, Kyler Murray has only two years left of his rookie contract, if the Cardinals want to keep Murray then cutting costs like this make sense.
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Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports