William Jackson may be the best cornerback available in the 2016 NFL draft. With FSU star Jalen Ramsey more of a moveable chess piece on defense than he is a true cornerback, Jackson is at the top of the class and is likely to make a case for himself at the combine.
At 6-1 and around 190 pounds, Jackson fits the size and shape profile that NFL teams covet, in a draft where more than one of the other top prospects — Mackenzie Alexander (Clemson) and Vernon Hargreaves (Florida) — do not.
Jackson was PFF’s second-highest graded cornerback in coverage this season, and second only to Ramsey in overall grade when play against the run is thrown into the equation. He was targeted 93 times this past season, allowing only 46 catches (49.5 percent). He had five interceptions and 12 pass breakups, allowing a passer rating of just 57.9 when thrown his way.
Jackson does seem to have some mental lapses during games, occasionally seeming confused with motion and route combinations designed to force him into a quick decision. However, when he can just line up and play coverage against a receiver he demonstrates high-level ability and an almost limitless potential.
Some will question the level of competition he faced at Houston, but if one takes a look at just his numbers against Power-5 competition, his numbers actually improved. He didn’t allow a touchdown against any of those teams and the passer rating when he was thrown at fell to just 31.8.
Teams love cornerbacks that can be reliable in coverage down-to-down and bring value-added plays on the football. Jackson has a great ability to close passing windows and turn receiver when the ball is in the air, and in a draft of smaller corners, having that prototype body shape is going to shoot him to the top of some team’s boards.
His size is evident, but his speed shows up on tape. He has no fear of being beaten deep, and even when he bites on double moves he has the quickness to spin back around and the recovery speed to make up ground and quickly close the window for the throw. If he displays the kind of speed on the Lucas Oil Stadium field that he did on tape, we are going to be seeing his name featuring high on a lot more draft boards and mock drafts in the near future.