Editor's note: Eric Crocker is a former AFL/NFL cornerback who now specializes in the defensive back position. This is part of a series in which he'll be providing a unique perspective on DB options for the 49ers.
Josh Jackson - Jr, Iowa
Ht/wt: 6-foot-1, 192 lbs.
2017: 48 tackles, 8 INT, 2 TD, 18 PBU, FF
Arguably the best cornerback in the draft, Josh Jackson is a very intriguing player. His ability to read concepts from zone coverages and pick off passes is second to none in the 2018 class. His long frame and play-making abilities are worth a look for any team needing a cornerback.
Here’s a deeper look into Jackson’s strengths, weaknesses and how his skills translate to the San Francisco 49ers’ single high safety scheme.
Aside from the ball skills, the first thing that jumps out to me is how high he plays. Typically you want your cornerbacks to have a nice bend. It’s a lot easier to get in and out of breaks when playing lower. The taller you play, the longer it typically takes to react.
In zone it won’t hurt you as much because you play more of an area and not a specific guy. But in more of a man scheme, like the one the 49ers play, that will be something that Jackson will have to work on or he will have trouble against more precise route runners at the next level.
Here you can see his inability to stay on the receivers' hip because of how high he plays.
This is not something that happened often, but with how much press coverage the 49ers run this is something that jumped out to me. Bad technique. You never, ever want to do a speed turn on a one-step slant. It happened twice against Penn State, too.
In off-man coverage, Jackson did not look comfortable. It’s not something that Iowa ran a lot of in Jackson’s tenure. Here the receiver easily beat him across his face. More inside leverage would help Jackson.
I may be bigger on technique than most, but when having to cover more space in a shorter area, technique and anticipation are key to helping you be more consistent. You'll see a dropped pass here by the Ohio State receiver, but again, Jackson is playing extremely tall.
Now, enough with the negative. There’s lots to like about Jackson. I would love to see more of this. If the 49ers were to draft him he would be in a lot of these type of situations.
I love this rep here.
Outside pressed up on an island, Jackson does a great job of not getting upfield shoulder and breaking up the comeback route. Getting too far upfield leaves you vulnerable to slants, digs and comebacks.
Later in the game against Iowa State, Jackson got upfield shoulder allowing the receiver to come underneath him and the dig. This also caused him to speed turn. Jackson will need to be more consistent with his press in a man press scheme. Look at the separation the receiver created.
Jackson will make his money in a scheme that allows him to play off-zone, while having the freedom to make plays with his eyes. His zone coverage skills are comparable to Asante Samuel's. Iowa played a lot of Cover 2 against Ohio State. When you don’t let the receiver get an outside release, it makes the safety’s job much easier.
Here, Jackson took away the outside and sunk underneath the outside receiver. Jackson is a converted receiver. He flashes some of those skills here with a nice one-handed snag.
In off-zone coverage, he diagnoses plays very quickly. He was up and down with his tackling but was more than willing to get his jersey dirty.
Iowa’s base defense was zone, but at times Jackson was asked to match up with guys on the outside and in the slot. Here he’s able to undercut a quick out and make the quarterback pay for attempting a late throw.
Fit with 49ers:
Overall, Jackson is a talented cornerback but if drafted into a single high safety scheme he will need to clean up a lot of his technique, learn to play lower and be more consistent. I believe he will be more intriguing for teams that run more off-zone coverages where he really excels on a consistent basis, and how he made big-time plays for Iowa in big moments.
Media courtesy USA Today Images