I have never been a scout or a NFL general manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, click here.
William Jackson III, CB, Houston - 6-foot, 189 pounds - senior - No. 3
Continuing to work our way through the top defensive backs in this draft, I finally get to a player who I know many of my colleagues in this endeavor have been talking up since football season ended. William Jackson III is the rare defensive back in this process who took the long way around to the top of the NFL draft, as this position generally is made up of former five-star high school recruits who have always been tabbed for stardom. But here is a former three-star recruit who decided to stay in Houston and had to attend a year of community college to get his grades right before becoming a Cougar. He is a bit older, too, as he will turn 24 during the upcoming season.
But, beyond that, there is very little to complain about as the prospect improved his play even more as the season went along and peaked late with an unbelievable performance against Florida State in Houston's big bowl win. Jackson is a big corner with blazing speed (4.37 in the 40) and that combination of size and wheels will no doubt put him high in the draft to begin with. Now, add to that a skill set where he can go get the football, too, and I am here to proclaim him as a player I don't think will be available very long on draft weekend.
Using the Florida State, Tulane and Temple games in particular, let's examine this very impressive kid from Houston.
What I liked: He is a corner you can put out there against anyone on the edge and he looks comfortable. He absolutely can get in your face and run with you in press coverage, but I actually like him quite a bit in zones, where he reads the quarterback and then breaks on the ball. He rarely misses tackles and usually comes up with purpose to execute secure stops. He can also run with anyone and is able to make up ground on longer routes, but without question his finest attribute is finding the ball and knowing what to do with it. He breaks up passes and also secures interceptions because he finds the ball much better than the other corners in this study, as he can press and still feel the ball coming in with instincts. It is quite clinical how he is able to do that. He also hits hard. And makes you think about the next collision. So, you have a player who is comfortable with things in front of him and things behind him, both in press-man coverage and zones. Additionally, he is willing to get involved in run support. His reactions are solid and, overall, he just looks like an ideal prospect for the next level.
What I did not like: There isn't much in this category, but it should be noted that there is some level of chicken-or-egg discussion when looking at cornerbacks. Many of the players on our list do not have many interceptions or passes broken up because they chase away all action from opposing quarterbacks. They are not getting any action through intimidation or technique and, therefore, cannot amass impressive numbers. Jackson is not that. Quarterbacks felt comfortable throwing at him, so he is able to fight off many attacks, but we must ask why his side of the field seemed inviting. Beyond that, I question his tackling technique at times because he lowers his head dangerously and often looks like he gets the worst of that. Also, he can be juked in the open field as his short-area quickness is not elite, and he occasionally is watching the quarterback and falls for the double moves. But, most all of this is nitpicking and fixable with a little work. I see a complete corner who is pretty much where you need him on Day 1.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: Having looked at all of the cornerbacks who are talked about for the first round, I am willing to say that William Jackson III is no worse than the second-best for me. He really was better than I expected to see when I first started this, and I really think he is capable of helping anyone in any scheme. I love his aggressiveness and his ability to be a ball hawk, as well as his ability to securely bring his man down. He is an older prospect, but that in no way takes away from his value.
If the Cowboys could somehow get their hands on a top corner, this is the guy I would love them to get. He would fit in that Cover 3 wonderfully, but I just don't see much of a scenario where he makes it to pick No. 20, let alone into Round 2. I know the media consensus is that Jackson is only the fourth- or fifth-best corner in this class, but like I said, aside from Vernon Hargeaves from Florida, I am thinking this will be my next-best corner. On corner skills alone, I am thinking Jackson is a better player at that position than Jalen Ramsey -- Ramsey is the better football player, but I believe he has a much higher ceiling at safety. We shall see.