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Adoree' Jackson is more than just an athlete, he's a playmaker

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The man scores touchdowns, period.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Adoree' Jackson has been one of the most electric players in the country since his freshman year at USC. In the last three seasons, Jackson is accountable on 15 combined touchdowns between offense, special teams and defense. Primarily a cornerback during his career, I was skeptical last year if he could play defense at a high level in the NFL. A year later, a lot of draft analysts hold a similar sentiment.

This claim is pretty bold, but it is a pretty commonly held opinion.

To be fair, when a guy can make plays like this:

Or this...

Or this...

...it is pretty easy to see how folks are so enamored with the idea of putting the ball in Jackson's hands. However, just because Jackson is such a dynamic athlete, he shouldn't be overlooked as a defender.

Jackson's first two years at USC, it would certainly be fair to say that he was more athlete than football player. However, after a junior season where Jackson collected five interceptions, 11 pass breakups and two tackles for a loss, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about what kind of cornerback he could be in the NFL.

The name of the game with Jackson is ball skills. His time as a receiver is very evident when the ball is in the air. He does a great job keeping his eye on the ball and attacking it in the air. His athletic ability translates to great vertical ability and closing skills. Jackson is very aware of his physical gifts and loves to bait quarterbacks into throwing bad passes. While he can pick passes off in phase, he will purposefully play a bit off and hope the quarterback takes a chance on the space he gives the receiver.

Here, Jackson allowed enough of a cushion to make Jake Browning think he could make a throw across his body. Jackson closed on the pass for one of his two interceptions during this game.

Similarly, Jackson baits Browning to throw this pass and uses his burst to come underneath the throw to create the turnover.

In short, Jackson is deadly when the ball is in the air.

This ends up being a touchdown.

The lesson here is that Jackson is incredibly good at tricking quarterbacks into making bad passes and capitalizing off it. This style of play leaves him open and susceptible to failing, however:

Jackson is slowing up initially to force Deshone Kizer to throw a pass for him to pick off. However, it ends up being a sluggo route and Kizer's pump on the fake slant leads Jackson to bite and give up a touchdown. Jackson is a risk taker on defense and that is undeniable. Jackson's style of play led to five interceptions his senior season and a 50% completion rate into his coverage, but it also led to him allowing six touchdowns.

So Jackson still has a lot of work, but it is not that he *can't* play cornerback, it is more than he has to temper how aggressive he is. He is actually a very intelligent cornerback and his cerebral defense is a big reason he was such a playmaker. However, he needs to cut down on the mistakes and, because he got better at cornerback every season at USC, it is hard to say he cannot get better.

Jackson has an obstacle in terms of his size. At 5-11, 185, he is on the bottom end of the spectrum for what the league wants from cornerback in terms of size. He can offset size issues with his ridiculous athletic ability, but he may need to bulk up a bit to help his transition.

Jackson is definitely a physical player, despite his size. While he is more of a pure cover corner, he still flashes a willingness to make an impact as a tackler.

This is a big third down stop for Jackson and his ability to drive a bigger receiver back on the tackle speaks to his strength.

Jackson is probably at his best when he is playing in press man coverage. He does a great job of playing the ball in phase and it cuts down the amount of risk taking he could take. Now, he can play more than that and likely will eventually become a a well rounded corner, but transitioning him to the NFL may require taking away some freedom in order to cut down on his mistakes.

NFL Comparison

Adoree Jackson's gambling style is incredibly reminiscent of Asante Samuel during his career. Like Jackson, Samuel was on the smaller end of the spectrum for NFL cornerbacks, but he was a great athlete. Samuel took a lot of chances at cornerback that led to a lot of touchdowns for the other team, but also 51 career interceptions and six pick sixes. Asante Samuel was one of the best playmaking cornerbacks during his era and I am sure defensive coordinators will trade a few touchdowns given up for playmaking ability at the cornerback position.

Jackson is not a perfect defensive prospect. He is smaller and his aggression in coverage can lead to big mistakes. However, his playmaking ability, incredible athleticism and the fact that he has gotten better every year at USC makes the thought of the 21 year old playing cornerback very attractive. This deep cornerback class may drive Jackson down a bit on team's boards, but he would be an excellent day two pick for any NFL team. For the Eagles, who do not seem to care about cornerback size, Jackson makes a lot of sense. His ability to play off coverage makes sense in Schwartz' defense and his ball skills would bring much welcomed playmaking ability to a defense in dire need of cornerback help.