The Philadelphia Eagles selected Tarron Jackson with pick No. 191 in the 2021 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about the Coastal Carolina defender, I reached out to someone who covered his college football career: Danny Kelly of Post and Courier Myrtle Beach.
1) Can you recap his college career?
Jackson was heavily under-recruited coming out of Silver Bluff High School in Aiken, S.C. Coastal Carolina was his only Division I offer, and at the time, CCU was an FCS school. He played just four games his freshman year before an injury forced him to take a medical redshirt year. in 2017, his redshirt freshman season, CCU moved to the FBS level as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.He had solid years in 2017 and 2018, but 2019 was where he really began to shine.
That season, Jackson was named to the All-Sun Belt first team, just the second Chanticleer to receive the honor at the time. That season, Jackson led the Sun Belt and set a new CCU single-season record with 10.0 sacks on the season. The 72 yards lost from his 10.0 sacks on the season was also a CCU single-season record.His senior season, he proved how prolific of a pass rusher he could be, as Jackson led the Chanticleers and was second in the Sun Belt in sacks with 8.5, and was first on the team and third in the conference with 14 tackles-for-loss. For his efforts, Jackson was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and was also named a Consensus All-American. Jackson was also a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist and a Bednarik Award semifinalist.
Jackson leaves Coastal Carolina as the program’s all-time leader in sacks (26.5), tackles-for-loss (44.5), quarterback hurries (34), yards lost from sacks (176) and yards lost from tackles-for-loss (227).
2) What are his strengths?
Jackson’s biggest strength is getting to the quarterback. He led the Sun Belt and set a CCU single-season record in sacks with 10 in 2019 and broke his own CCU record of quarterback hurries in 2020 with a whopping 18. As already mentioned, he is the Chanticleers’ all-time leader in sacks, QB hurries and yards lost from sacks, so if he gets a solid amount of playing time his rookie season, I will not be surprised at all to see him put QBs like Dak Prescott and Daniel Jones on their backs at least once.
3) What are his weaknesses?
His biggest weakness is arguably something he couldn’t control. Playing in the Sun Belt, Jackson did play some strong offenses such as Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State, but the average Sun Belt team obviously does not have nearly as many NFL-caliber offensive players as conferences like the SEC and Big Ten. Jackson did get to play against some high-quality offenses such as BYU and Liberty in non-conference play last season, but a big question mark is if he can replicate his record-breaking junior and senior seasons against NFL offensive lines.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
I thought Jackson could’ve gone anywhere from the fourth round to the sixth round, so to see him get drafted in the sixth was definitely at the tail end of where I thought he could be drafted. He was definitely a big name with all the postseason accolades he received and the stats he put up, but I’m thinking teams may have let him slide down the board a little bit because he played in a Group of 5 conference.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
I think Jackson could have a quality NFL career. He is a hard worker and knowing him, I know he will stop at nothing to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster this season. If given a chance, I think he could possibly become a starter in Philadelphia by his second year in the league. It is a little hard to predict though, I must admit, given that he played against a good amount of teams that lacked NFL talent. And then on top of that, the NFC East can be quite unpredictable, and I think the quality of the division over the next five years will play a big role in his success as well.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
This may sound like a cliche, but Jackson is genuinely one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I always enjoyed interviewing him and he was always extremely polite. His smile is infectious and he was beloved by all his teammates. One thing that sticks out to be about Jackson is at CCU’s Pro Day on March 23, he went around and individually thanked each and every NFL scout that came to watch him perform.
Jackson made a promise to his older brother, Daron, who died of leukemia at age 12, that he would make the NFL one day. Jackson wore No. 9 at CCU in honor of his brother because that’s how old Jackson was when his brother passed away. I also heard that Jackson is now wearing No. 75 with the Eagles because 7+5=12, and that’s how old his brother was when he died. It will be impossible for Eagles fans not to root for Jackson given everything he’s been through, his work ethic and his raw talent. They need not worry about any off-the-field issues with him in Philadelphia.
BLG’s take: The realistic best-case scenario for Jackson’s rookie season is he makes the roster as the fifth defensive end behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan. Thus, barring injuries to players ahead of him, he likely won’t be playing much in 2021. But with Graham the only one of those four players currently under contract beyond this season, there’s an opportunity for Jackson to contribute in the future. If he can eventually become a Vinny Curry-level player, that’d be a great outcome for where he was taken.