Joshua Jackson Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Tremendous ball skills
Dangerous interception skills; a true ballhawk
Threat to take the ball away
Knows what to do with the ball after making an interception
Good route recognition
Can run the route with the receiver
Consistently prevents separation
Makes big plays in zone coverage
Smart covers up receivers in his area
Excellent length - 32.75 inch arms
Can jam receivers
Has some ball skills
Adept at taking on big receivers
Can outfight defenders on contested catches
Gritty, physical defender
Can play zone coverage
Has some quickness
Could have problems with deep speed
Doesn't have elite speed
Not impressively twitchy
Summary: Jackson had a bit of a long road to break out at Iowa, but it was better late than never for Jackson, who was one of college football's best players in 2017. He started out his collegiate career at wide receiver and redshirting. Iowa switched him to cornerback, where he was buried on the depth chart behind some good cornerbacks. As a sophomore and junior, Jackson totaled only 18 tackles with six passes broken up. Thus, his senior year explosion was a surprise around the country.
In 2017, Jackson dominated the Big Ten and was one of the best cornerbacks in the nation. In speaking with a director of college scouting during the fall, they had Jackson as the highest-graded cornerback for the 2018 NFL Draft. It is easy to understand why Jackson is held in such high esteem given his tremendous ball production with eight interceptions and 18 passes broken up to go along with 48 tackles. He had a massive three-interception game to help Iowa blow out Ohio State. Jackson then didn't skip the bowl game to protect his draft stock, but instead played in extremely cold conditions in New York City against Boston College. To end the game, Jackson made a game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter. It was so cold that I know some team executives who were on the sideline for that game before leaving during the first half because of the conditions.
For the NFL, Jackson has the skill set to be a No. 1 cornerback. He has superb instincts with phenomenal ball skills. Jackson has soft hands, and his background as a receiver shows up with him making natural catches and playing the ball extremely well. Jackson has good height and length to battle big receivers. He is physical and can jam them at the line. Being so instinctive allows him to thrive in zone coverage, and he is adept at picking up receivers who run into his territory. While Jackson isn't overly twitchy or fast, he does a nice job of running the route to prevent separation when in man coverage. Jackson also has been well coached as he is a disciplined corner. He is not a gambler who sells out for interceptions and gives up an equal number of big plays. Jackson is steady and reliable in coverage. He is versatile where he could play press-man, zone, or off-man coverage in the NFL.
While Jackson didn't run an overly impressive 40 at the combine or look great in the field drills, he is a pure football player who has functional speed in game action. His speed issues could give him problems with the extremely fast wideouts of the NFL, and he probably should not be matched up in man against the pure burners who take the top off of a defense.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson is one of the top cornerback prospects. He could go in the middle to back portion of the first round. While Jackson may not go high, in speaking with sources at multiple teams, Jackson is a consensus first-rounder. It seems very unlikely that he would slip to Friday night. I think he will become his NFL team's No. 1 corner and could be a player who racks up a number of Pro Bowl appearances during a productive career.
Player Comparison: Aqib Talib. Jackson is a bit of a poor-man's Talib. Talib is faster, more athletic and twitchier player. Jackson is a little less speedy and athletic, but Jackson is more disciplined and is not a gambler like Talib can be. Both of them have excellent instincts with tremendous ball skills and are true ballhawks to take the ball away. They also are tall, long, and smooth corners. Talib went in the back half of the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft, and Jackson could go in the same range. In the NFL, I think Jackson could be a less-spectacular but steadier version of Talib.
NFL Matches: Oakland, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Dallas, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Raiders and 49ers both could use more cornerback help from Round 1. One would have thought that going as a top-10 pick could be too high for Jackson, but it might not be. Oakland has shown a lot of interest in Jackson and has a huge need at cornerback, and he could form a dynamite tandem with Gareon Conley. Jon Gruden loved Talib coming out of Kansas and wisely drafted him for Tampa Bay. Jackson could remind Gruden of Talib.
Green Bay has used a lot of picks on cornerbacks, but it remains a position to potentially address for the Packers. Jackson could get consideration as a cover corner for them. In Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has had durability issues.
Seattle cut Richard Sherman and will need more corner talent for its defense. Jackson may not have the size to fit the Seahawks' system though. Dallas could use more cornerback talent, and Jackson could make sense for the organization in the second round.
In the 20s, there are a lot of options for Jackson. Buffalo could consider Jackson with its second first-round pick, as the defense has to find a replacement for Ronald Darby. The Vikings have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, while the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Jackson could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati. Atlanta could use a cornerback to replace Jalen Collins. The Saints have bigger needs, but they also might consider a corner if he's the best player available. Jackson could be a good partner for Marshon Lattimore.
The Patriots could consider taking Jackson with one of their first-round picks. Malcolm Butler left in free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year in Foxborough. Jackson' cover skills could make him a fit for New England. Philadelphia may not sign Darby to a long-term extension, and Jackson could be selected as a future replacement for the Eagles.