One of the more polarizing players in the 2016 NFL draft is William Jackson III.
PFF cannot say enough great things about him. They rank him as a top ten player and as the second rated cornerback on their board. They believe he is the most pure cover corner there is in this year’s draft.
In their opinion, Jackson fits a man-heavy scheme who can play zone but will have to adjust to zone. Only allowed 46 catches and two touchdowns in 2015 but there seem to be mental lapses which may necessitate a slower acclimation to a new playbook. PFF believes the Saints may choose William Jackson with their first pick. PFF’s draft guide can be purchased here
Led NCAA and set school record for pass breakups in 2015 with an incredible 23. Also added five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Reason he’ll rise in draft: The need for longer corners is high, and more teams are playing man coverage in the league these days. He can press, flip his hips and run, with great makeup speed. Of all the top corners this year, especially with Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, there’s shockingly little ball production, but that’s not Jackson’s issue. He’s a playmaker, something that often translates well to the NFL.
Reason he’ll fall in draft: Jackson is a gambler who can be beaten on double moves, and he’s not an NFL-grade tackler yet. Plus, smaller, quicker receivers have given him fits, so he might be pigeonholed into a specific role in the NFL in a man-heavier scheme, which might eliminate a few teams, even if they feel they need a cornerback. Some clubs have high grades on him, but there’s a wide range of opinions on Jackson in NFL circles.
Scouting hot take: “I see why you like him, but you have to look at the big picture there. We drafted a kid similar to him a few years ago, and it took him a year, really two years, to figure it out. I wouldn’t be counting on [Jackson] starting Day 1.” — AFC college scouting director
Assessments of other sites
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com sees him as an eventual starter. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports predicts he will be picked in the first or second round. CBS pundits project him anywhere between the 14th and 25th pick. Usually going to either the Raiders or Steelers. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated sees not much difference between Vernon Hargreaves, Mackenzie Alexander and William Jackson with Jalen Ramsey remaining the head of the class. Jackson is taller than Hargreaves and Alexander.
Jackson does some great things at the catch point–working like a receiver. He is not completely polished but has incredible instincts that Peter Giunta and Aaron Glenn can develop. Will the Saints play more man than zone is a good question when it comes to Jackson? The other question is whether he can make it onto the first team rotation in his first year. I want to fall in love with a cornerback because there are so few good ones in the draft, and I think the Saints can wait until the second round for a player along the defensive line but I don’t think Jackson is the one corner you could select with the number one pick.