By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) In a pass-oriented league, teams can never have too many cornerbacks. Three-receiver packages have become base personnel for NFL offenses, and thus a team’s nickel corner is a starter.READ MORE: Illinois Moves Into 'Bridge Phase' Of Reopening Friday
With elite NFL receivers being rare size-to-speed athletes, defenses have changed the profile they’re looking for in cornerbacks. Scouts are looking for physical cornerbacks with length, speed and agility who can play instinctively and challenge passes thrown in their direction.
Today we take a look at an intriguing cornerback who checks all the boxes yet has room to grow: Houston cornerback William Jackson.
CB William Jackson (6-foot, 189 pounds, Houston)
40-yard dash: 4.37
10-yard split: 1.52
Three-cone: DNP at Scouting Combine. 6.86 at pro day.
Broad jump: 9-foot-8
Arm: 31 3/4”
Bio: Jackson was a receiver and defensive back prospect out of Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas. He chose to stay locally and play defensive back at the University of Houston.
During his freshman season in 2013, he appeared in all 13 games, making four starts. He finished the season with 35 tackles and was second on the team with seven passes defended. He returned his lone interception for a 96-yard touchdown. He also forced and recovered a fumble.
In 2014, he again appeared in all 13 games, making 12 starts. He finished the season with 37 tackles and led the team with 10 passes defended, the second-highest total in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). He intercepted two passes, had one-and-a-half tackles for loss and one forced fumble and fumble recovery. He earned second-team all-AAC honors.READ MORE: Hard Rock Casino Opening In Gary Friday
In 2015, Jackson emerged as one of FBS’ top cornerbacks. His 28 passes defended and 23 passes broken up led the nation. He recorded 43 tackles, five interceptions, one-and-a-half tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. His two-interception performance in Houston’s 38-24 win against Florida State in the Peach Bowl earned him defensive MVP honors.
Despite playing only three seasons, Jackson finished his career second in school history with 40 passes broken up.
How he fits the Bears’ scheme: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme requires cornerbacks to play a lot of press-man technique, which Jackson excels at. He played primarily press and off-man coverage at Houston.
In press coverage, Jackson’s jam was inconsistent. But when it was accurate and tied together with his footwork, it jarred and rerouted receivers’ releases and disrupted their timing. When playing off coverage, he shows excellent route recognition and anticipation on underneath routes. He’s quick out of his break to either disrupt the pass or limit the gain after the catch.
On deep passes, Jackson’s ball production stands out. He displays elite recovery speed at the top of the stem and an ability to locate and high-point the ball in 50/50 situations. He can lose speed when he transitions from his shuffle or pedal and opens his hips to match a vertical release, but his straight-line speed typically erases any separation a receiver gains.
Jackson’s a physical tackler and a willing run support player. However, he has room to improve his tackling technique and form. He tends to approach ball carriers off balance and ducks his head on contact. He must learn to break down his lower body and wrap up at the next level, otherwise he’s going to miss in the open field and give away free yardage.
Jackson can also be overaggressive and guess on routes. Given his prowess to read and break on underneath routes, teams schemed against this by adding go routes to a typical slant or stop route. They’d get him to commit with a pump fake, then take it over the top for a bigger gain. This comes down to technique and reading the hips of a receiver to get his route keys.
Draft projection: Over the past three drafts, 21 defensive backs have been taken in the first round. Given Jackson’s combination of length, speed and ball skills, he projects as a top-20 selection.MORE NEWS: Man Fatally Shot In Grand Boulevard
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.