Workouts for the NFL Combine began on March 3. During that week, USC’s Drake Jackson weighed 254 pounds. A few weeks later, at the Trojans Pro Day, Jackson weighed 273 pounds.
During his post-draft media availability, Jackson said he intentionally cut weight as he was going to work with the linebackers. He knew being lighter would help him test better. Jackson added that he’s closer toward his freshman year weight now, which was around 275 pounds.
At 254 pounds, Jackson jumped 36.5 inches with a 10-foot-5 inch broad jump. During his Pro Day, Jackson did the shuttle drills, where he had a 7.09 3-cone and a 4.28 short shuttle. There aren’t many 265+ pound edge rushers at Jackson’s height/weight who post those types of short shuttles.
Look no further than some of the sack leaders in the NFL last year. For example, Nick Bosa, at 266 pounds, had a 7.1 3-cone drill. At 265 pounds, Robert Quinn ran a 7.13 3-cone with a 4.4 short shuttle. Matthew Judon, at 275 pounds, ran a 7.67 3-cone and a 4.52 short shuttle. The list goes on and on.
I’m not comparing a second-rounder to the best pass rushers in the NFL. I’m saying that Jackson surpasses the threshold needed for athleticism in the NFL. The player who Jackson compares the most to from a measurable standpoint is Frank Clark:
Clark: 6’3, 271 pounds, 34 3/8” arm length, 7.08 3-cone, 4.05 short shuttle.
Jackson: 6’2 5/8”, 273 pounds, 34” arm length, 7.08 3-cone, 4.28 short shuttle.
The arm length and 3-cone would put Jackson in the mid 70th percentile, while his short shuttle places him in the 80th percentile. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has to be smiling ear-to-ear, knowing that he has a shiny new toy to play with.
At this playing weight as a freshman at USC, Jackson was his most productive. He had career highs in sacks, tackles for loss, batted passes, and tackles during his first season at USC.
You can’t teach Jackson’s size, effort, or athleticism. However, his questions surrounding the technical aspect of Jackson’s game can all be improved on with reps and coaching. Plus, Jackson just turned 21.
Jackson couldn’t walk into a better situation than the 49ers, who have one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL, arguably the best edge rusher in Nick Bosa, and Arik Armstead, who played at an All-Pro level during the second half of the season.
Jackson’s weight fluctuated during his time at USC, which is why his production dipped. Heading into this season, some draft analysts pegged Jackson as a first-round pick and even as high as going in the top-10. Now that he’s back to his natural playing weight, the 49ers hope they’re getting a first-round talent.