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Oh, Hey There! How to maximize Drake Jackson in Year 1

While he may not have been on many 49ers fans’ radars going into the draft, the Drake Jackson selection has been getting a lot of praise since Friday night. While many acknowledge Jackson’s excellent physical traits, the term “developmental pass rusher” frequently appears in his scouting report. On today’s Oh, Hey There! podcast, Javier Vega presented a plan to get the most out of the former USC Trojan in 2022.

“If they’re going to maximize Drake in year one, they’re going to have to figure out a package for him. I think situationally he’s going to be ideal in that role the first year because he is so raw. Hey, Drake, we want to you be our third-and-long pass rusher. We want you to kind of fulfill this Dee Ford role initially to where you’re in on third downs only, or second-and-longs, and that’s kind of where you’re going to be at for the first year...Don’t play the run, just rush the passer initially and then we’ll work everything else in there. Because the Niners right now are 12, 13 deep on the defensive line.”

In 2019, Dee Ford played in just 34% of the 49ers’ defensive snaps, yet he was still able to be incredibly disruptive during that time. In fact, the 49ers have been searching for a way to replicate that production ever since Ford’s back betrayed him following that season. It would be unfair to ask Jackson to produce at that level in 2022, but he will have several things working in his favor.

First, he’s going to be surrounded by incredible talent along the defensive front. There’s no question that said front is not only one of the deepest units on the team but also in the entire NFL. Jackson is going to benefit from being around those great players at the facility every day.

Second, he’ll be the beneficiary of any and all extra blockers going towards slowing down Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. That should help make his transition to the NFL easier than it would be for someone coming to a barren defense. As much as he’ll have to adjust to the speed of the game at the NFL level, in the right package things could be pretty simple for Jackson in year one: just beat the guy in front of you.

Third, Jackson is going to be tutored by one of the best position coaches in the entire NFL in, Kris Kocurek. Kocurek has routinely been able to get the most out of the players under his care, including those who may have underachieved on other teams. If he can do that with players that weren’t very highly touted, he should be able to help a second round pick be a solid contributor in year one.

Fourth, with any luck, game script will be Jackson’s friend. The 49ers are built to get a lead as quickly as possible, shut down the run, and force teams into becoming one-dimensional. If that happens the way the 49ers hope in 2022, opposing offenses will be in obvious passing situations more frequently, and that could give Jackson more snaps than he might otherwise see in a close game.

More than any other sport, careers in football are shaped by circumstances. Luckily for Drake Jackson, his circumstances could potentially put him in position to be a solid contributor for the 49ers in his first year on the job.