2022 NFL Draft: Drake Jackson Scouting Report

Drake Jackson NFL Overview

Position: EDGE
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 254 lbs
School: USC

NFL Combine Data:
Vertical Jump: 36.5
Broad Jump: 127

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Drake Jackson 2022 NFL Draft Profile

Jackson lined up as both a defensive end and outside linebacker in the Trojan’s defense. As a true freshman, he played at nearly 275 lbs but slimmed down to roughly 255 lbs by the time he was a junior in 2021 due to USC’s change in defensive schemes. After skipping his final year of high school football to prepare for college, the 2018 U.S. Army All-American made an instant impact in his first season with the Trojans. Jackson became the first true freshman to start a USC season-opener on the defensive line since Everson Griffin in 2007 and was named a 247 freshman first-team All-American after finishing the season with 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and three pass defenses. He took a step back during the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season but returned to form in 2021. Jackson finished starting six of the Trojans 11 games in 2021 and finished the year racking up 8.0 tackles for loss, five sacks, and one interception. He was awarded second-team All-Pac 12 honors at year’s end behind just Keyvon Thibodeaux. 

There is a lot to like about Jackson’s overall game but he is a very unrefined prospect at this point in his evaluation. He has great length for a 6’3” EDGE and he pairs that with a ton of burst and speed off of the snap. His ability as a speed rusher is always apparent as he is able to turn straight ahead runs with good bend and ankle flexibility into immediate opportunities to get to the quarterback. Jackson lacks any real counters but he will occasionally use his athleticism to dip and dart his way through the interior of the offensive line. He is also great at tracking and chasing down the ball carrier in the run game. However, Jackson badly needs to add playing strength and rarely looks like he has a pass-rushing plan other than using his athleticism and speed to beat offensive tackles. While he was always a solid player at USC, it would have been nice for Jackson’s production to see a leap between his true freshman and junior seasons. 

Strengths

  • Still just turned 21 years old and will heavily benefit from a single scheme and proper NFL coaching
  • Experienced as a defensive end in both odd and even fronts
  • Twitched up athlete who is incredibly quick off the snap
  • Can beat tackles using his pure speed and ability to dip his shoulders and swim inside
  • Great ankle flexion allows him to bend the edge and change direction in the middle of the field when dropping into coverage
  • Has a good radar that allows him to keep an eye on the ball through contact

Weaknesses

  • Can be overwhelmed by bigger tackles and badly needs to add play strength
  • No real counters in his arsenal even though he will throw the occasional spin move
  • Lack of a power rush despite his ideal frame and length
  • Takes very wide angles when adjusting to offensive line blocking schemes mid-play
  • Production has stagnated since arriving as a true freshman

NFL Comparison: Markus Golden

Teams with need at the position: Atlanta FalconsArizona CardinalsBaltimore RavensChicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Detroit LionsHouston Texans, New York JetsPhiladelphia EaglesSeattle Seahawks

Projection: Late second-early third round

Bottom line on Drake Jackson

Jackson is going to be an interesting evaluation for a lot of NFL teams. While he has shown he has great athleticism, his high-end plays simply do not come out enough. There are games in which he looks like the best player on the field and others in which he is struggling all game to disengage from offensive tackles. However, there is a strong possibility that Jackson’s untapped potential was a product of having to fit multiple defensive schemes and changing weights at USC. It is also important to remember he is still just 21 years old. Whichever team selects Jackson needs to be aware that he will require a lot of coaching up. He will likely end up as an outside linebacker in an odd front. Jackson will not be an early contributor in the NFL but has a lot of pass-rushing upsides and could be a mid-round steal if a team is able to unlock the potential he flashed as a true freshman at USC.

Games watched: Stanford (2021), Washington State (2021), Utah (2021), Arizona State (2020)

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