As we lead up to the NFL Draft here at 1500ESPN, we will take a closer look at the prospects who could end up as Minnesota Vikings. For this edition, we focus on LSU cornerback Donte Jackson…
Why the Vikings could draft Donte Jackson:
Offensive line is a major priority for the Vikings, but Mike Zimmer’s team is also short on corners. The blazing-fast Jackson has experience as a nickel corner at the highest level of college football. He would have a chance to step in as a starting slot corner and offer some help as a kick returner. Most mock drafts and rankings have him as a late first-round pick.
What experts are saying:
Cover corner with below-average size, but elite speed and athleticism. Jackson lacks instincts but has rare closing burst so there will be feast-or-famine games in his future. Due to his slight frame, teams are sure to test his resolve and durability in run support. Jackson’s athletic traits should ensure that he makes plenty of plays on the ball, but he’ll need to develop better route recognition and focus in order to reach his full potential. Jackson should find early work as a third cornerback.
Pro Football Focus:
“Donte Jackson has one of the most exciting athletic profiles in the draft, with elite speed and short area quickness. He is a slight build, but stands 5-foot-11 and could potentially play either outside or in the slot, giving NFL defenses the option of having him as a second or third corner early and kicking him inside to the slot in nickel packages. Hasn’t made as many plays on the ball as his athleticism should have dictated, but his potential is intriguing and he could become an excellent man cover corner at the next level.”
“Jackson is an undersized cornerback with rare twitch and make-up speed. LSU moved him all over the field in its scheme. He played inside, outside and even took some reps at safety. In press coverage, he’s patient, but I’d like to see him be more physical with his hands at the line of scrimmage. He usually plays out of a quarter turn (butt toward the sideline). He uses his quickness and speed to mirror wideouts underneath and down the field. He rarely gets caught out of position, but when he does, he has the speed to recover. From off coverage, he has a quick pedal and is a very easy/fluid mover. His instincts and ball skills are good but not great. He’s a willing tackler, but he’s not ultra-aggressive in run support. Overall, Jackson doesn’t make a ton of plays, but I believe his best football is ahead of him. He’s a special athlete.”
What the numbers say:
Over the last two years, Jackson was targeted 112 times and opponents only completed 56 of those passes. According to PFF, he played 270 snaps inside in 2017. He only had one interception last year, but deflected 10 passes that came his way.
Here are his Pro Football Focus grades in each area:
As you can see, Jackson is undersized, but nickel corners around the league aren’t generally the biggest, strongest or tallest, but he has rare speed, even for a position that features some of the quickest players in the NFL.
Normally it’s hard to find a college cornerback who could step right into the NFL as a nickel, but Jackson could be that player. If the Vikings see Mackensie Alexander as an outside corner or rotational player going forward, they could fill the spot with a player like him. Jackson’s special athleticism gives him a chance to make up for rookie mistakes and gives him a higher ceiling than most players at the position.
Watch Donte Jackson: