For a 21-year-old rookie playing at a new (old?) weight for the first time in a few seasons, Drake Jackson’s 2022 season went as expected. The 49ers selected Jackson at the tail end of the second round without expectations that he’d need to play right away.
Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam produced in Year 2 under Kris Kocurek. But both are free agents and figure to earn lucrative deals in free agency. Hopefully, the 49ers can bring back at least one of them.
Either way, the door is open for Jackson to earn significant more playing time during his second season. Pro Football Focus predicted five second-year breakout candidates on the defensive side of the ball, and Jackson was one:
There were a lot of underwhelming rookie edge rushers this past season, and Jackson barely cleared 300 snaps for the 49ers. He finished with just 16 pressures from 228 pass-rushing snaps, but he has rare physical ability for the position and the kind of textbook speed and bend around the edge NFL teams are searching for. Edge rusher is a position that can take a little time to adjust to, and the 49ers could still use a solid rusher in their rotation, so Jackson should get opportunities to show he can take a big step in Year 2.
Jackson batted four passes in 218 pass rushing snaps. He added three tackles for loss on 84 rushing snaps. His counting stats won’t wow you, but if you look at his production on a percentage basis, it’s easy to be intrigued moving forward.
As PFF stated above, Jackson’s athleticism was on full display when he stepped onto the field. Another year in the weight room will do wonders for his frame. One of the knocks coming out of USC was that Jackson struggled against the run.
That and the lack of depth at defensive tackle was the primary reason Jackson was inactive down the stretch and in the playoffs. But the former second round pick couldn’t ask for a better situation playing opposite of Nick Bosa.
I’ll be curious to see how aggressive the 49ers are this offseason when it comes to adding edge talent. They’ll need to sign/draft at least two players. The caliber of player they bring in will tell us how they feel about Jackson and his potential development. At the same time, you can never have too many pass rushers.
San Francisco came at opposing offenses in waves with their defensive line in 2022. So perhaps it’s not an indictment on Jackson if the Niners elected to spend biggish on an edge rusher during free agency.
What are reasonable expectations for Jackson next season? I’d say being as productive as Ebukam was last year.