Seahawks mocks: Playmaking CB Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson has become a trendy mock draft choice for the Seahawks in the first round. Is he a realistic target for Seattle?

This is part 5 in a series of posts on noteworthy 2018 prospects mocked to Seattle. We’ll evaluate the promising players and look at their potential fit with the Seahawks in the draft. We’ve previously explored the prospects of Marcus Davenport, Derrius Guice, Billy Price and Derwin James:

Superb DE Marcus Davenport

Powerful LSU RB Derrius Guice

Decorated OSU C/G Billy Price

Elite FSU safety Derwin James

Next up is CB Joshua Jackson, one of the top defensive playmakers in this year’s class. Like the players above, he is frequently mocked to the Seahawks in the early stages of the pre-draft process. By Matt Miller of Bleacher Report this week for instance, and Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com in January.

Say what you will about national draft analysts not understanding the needs & tendencies of individual teams. If there’s enough smoke (Seahawks draft hype), HawkTalk will build or put out the fire. Would Seattle ever consider drafting a CB in the 1st round? And if so, would Jackson be the top target? Let’s break it down:

Joshua Jackson, CB – 6’1”, 190 lbs – Iowa, rJR – grade: Top 15

Although the Seahawks have never drafted a CB higher than the late 3rd round under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, it’s easy to see why they would at least be interested in a player like Jackson.

He exploded onto the college football scene this year as the most dominant ball-hawk in the country. Jackson led the nation with 8 interceptions and 26 total passes defended, while forcing a fumble and scoring two touchdowns. That level of playmaking ability does not come around often, perhaps not since Marcus Peters three years ago.

However, Jackson’s 2017 emergence came after three years of relative obscurity for the Hawkeyes. He redshirted as a freshman after being recruited as a wide receiver, then transitioned to cornerback in 2015. Even then, Jackson started only one game over the next two seasons, as he was buried deep on Iowa’s DB depth chart. Though he blew the doors off in 2017, his status as a one-year wonder is a blemish on an otherwise appealing draft stock.

Take a quick look at his highlight at the top of this post, and it’ll come as no surprise that Jackson was a competitive track athlete in high school. He excelled in high jump, triple jump and long jump, and that explosiveness is evident on the football field. As are his outstanding ball skills, which he developed as an all-district receiver in high school.

I’m in the midst of evaluating the 2018 CB class (which is quite deep, and stronger than expected at the top), and will post my CB rankings next week. Here are my notes on Jackson, a top-two ranked corner:

Scouting notes on Joshua Jackson

  • Exceptional athletic profile. Great frame at 6’1” with decent length. Terrific short-area burst. Explosive leaper.
  • Played a lot of cover-2 zone for the Hawkeyes, but showed immense potential in deep zone coverage.
  • Instinctive playmaker with spectacular body control & ball skills. Weapon versus vertical routes & 50/50 balls.
  • Unanimous 2017 1st team All-American. Heavily targeted but made ‘em pay: 8 INT’s, 2 TD’s & 18 pass break-ups. Per PFF, he yielded a microscopic 35.0 QB rating on throws into his coverage, and a 44% completion %.
  • Concerns: 1) Only one full season with starting experience at Iowa. 2) Not as twitchy/fluid when changing directions. 3) Inconsistency in man &/or press coverage. 4) A little light on weight & tackling technique.

I’ve gone back-and-forth grading Jackson as either a top-15 talent or just below that as a clear-cut 1st rounder. The concerns listed in the last bullet are enough to knock him down to the mid-1st area, despite 2017 production worthy of a top 5-10 selection.

The combine will be determining factor for his stock, where he should perform well in the jumps and ball drills. Here’s a prime example of both (explosiveness & ball skills), on possibly the best interception in football this year:

I mean, that play speaks for itself. It’s freaking remarkable. He’s in a class of his own (among 2018 DB’s) when it comes to high-pointing the ball. However, it’s only one of the reasons why he’s the premier ball-hawk in this draft. Notice in the clip above how he presses his man in a cover-2 flat zone? It takes special instincts and ball-tracking to extend a flat zone that deep for the pick. And it’s a recurring theme when watching his tape. Here he is again with a tremendous interception in zone coverage (top of the screen):

That time he was in a cover-3 deep zone, which is Seattle’s preferred defensive coverage. While not as eye-popping as the one-handed snag, that pick was even more impressive in my books. It’s an extremely risky play to break off the vertical route which he was primarily responsible for. It took incredible instincts and timing to key the quarterback and break off the deep zone for that intermediate route.

Here’s a look at his potential in man coverage (which is still underdeveloped) with yet another display of his top-notch hands & playmaking (near side):

And lastly, an illustration of his short-area burst – in this case used to blow up a screen:

Is Joshua Jackson a realistic target for the Seahawks?

Jackson certainly checks a lot of boxes that Carroll and Schneider look for at CB, and in a high draft pick. He’s got the height they desire at 6’1”, possesses rare playmaking talent, and is a standout athlete. Nonetheless, drafting Jackson in the first round would be a departure from some well-documented tendencies at CB.

Here are all eight corners Seattle’s drafted under PCJS:

  • Shaquill Griffin – 3rd round, 32 ½” arms
  • Walter Thurmond III – 4th round, 33” arms
  • Richard Sherman – 5th round, 32” arms
  • Tharold Simon – 5th round, 33” arms
  • Tye Smith – 5th round, 32” arms
  • Byron Maxwell – 6th round, 33 ½” arms
  • Jeremy Lane – 6th round, 32” arms
  • Michael Tyson – 6th round, 32” arms

The Seahawks have exclusively picked CB’s in the mid or late rounds, relying on Carroll’s ability to develop low-cost DB’s. Griffin was the highest selection made at 90th overall, and that came last offseason when CB was an urgent team need. In contrast, the position is far down Seattle’s list of needs heading into free agency next month.

Cutting or trading Richard Sherman would change things, but players like Maxwell and Shead can affordably be re-signed to round out the CB room with Griffin, Tyson, and Justin Coleman. The Seahawks could still add talent in the draft in that case, but there are larger holes to fill on the roster. Given the lukewarm need at CB and their aversion to drafting them early, it would likely take an extraordinarily long and athletic corner to entice them in round 1.

Which leads to the next reason against a Jackson-Seahawks connection. He’s tall, but not supremely long. Does he meet Seattle’s apparent 32” arm threshold? Additionally, Jackson is a gifted athlete, yet not necessarily an elite one. The combine will obviously be telling, though there are several reasons to doubt the connection regardless. A trade down to the late 1st / early 2nd round seems likely, which would surely take Jackson out of Seattle’s range.

Alternative options at CB

As mentioned above, the Seahawks will likely have interest in re-signing Maxwell and/or Shead. There are also options galore in this deep CB class. Levi Wallace and especially Isaac Yiadom stood out during Senior Bowl week, and are potential mid-round targets. In fact, we mocked Yiadom to Seattle in our Seahawks Senior Bowl mock draft.

If the Seahawks defied the odds with an early pick at CB, I think Auburn’s Carlton Davis makes more sense than Jackson in the late 1st / early 2nd range. Here are a few more 2018 CB prospects who stand a good chance of measuring 6+ feet tall with 32+ inch arms:

  • Tarvarus McFadden
  • Kevin Toliver
  • Quenton Meeks
  • Isaiah Oliver
  • Holton Hill
  • J.C. Jackson
  • Brandon Facyson

We’ll go in to more detail on that group and more in our CB class preview next week.