One of the best athletes in college football, Jackson has made plays at USC on offense, defense, and special teams. He started at cornerback and receiver as a true freshman against Notre Dame. He was named a Freshman All-American, Pac-12 Defensive Rookie of the Year, as well as honorable mention all-conference (49 tackles, 10 pass deflections, 10 catches for 138 yards, three receiving TDs, two kick-return TDs). League coaches named Jackson a first-team All-Pac 12 defensive back in 2015 (one INT, eight PBUs). He was a second-team pick as a returner and finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player contributing on offense (27-414, two TDs) and special teams (941 total return yards, two punt-return TDs). As a junior, Jackson won the Jim Thorpe Award and was named first-team all-conference and All-American after a strong season (five INTs, 11 PBUs.) He scored four times on returns, two on kickoffs and two on punts. In 2015 and 2016, he earned All-American honors in track. He ran a career-best 10.38 seconds in the 100 meters in the 2016 outdoor season.
Feel in coverage has improved substantially from his freshman season. Shows greater pattern recognition and is able to maintain coverage around the field. Has necessary hip flip and foot quickness to recover from mistakes in press and lapses in coverage in space. Plays in a variety of coverage techniques. Able to mirror and match from press. Features closing burst and takes playmaking angles to the throw. Excellent ball skills with well-timed leaps and aggressive tactics at the catch point. Good feel for when to defend a throw and when to take it away. Consistent tackler. When he gets there, he usually finishes his task. High-end return talent who can swing games in an instant. His eight career return touchdowns make him an immediate return man for any team that takes him.
Smallish for an outside cornerback. Might be limited to just work in the slot. Can be a little over-aggressive with pace of bail coverage when fearing speed. Has a very slight hitch in transition forward from his pedal. Allowed routes to leverage him too far out of the middle of the field when he had no safety help. Could have issues with big slots posting him up in space. Lack of size and run-support strength could make him an early target for teams who like to run out of 11 personnel (three wide receivers).
Sources Tell Us
"I didn't expect him to have the year he did in coverage. I saw ball skills and coverage ability that I didn't see last year. Those interceptions and return touchdowns will push him into the early second. That's my guess." -- South area scout for AFC team
There are two things teams love -- ball production from cornerbacks and return men who can play meaningful snaps on every down. Jackson fits those criteria. His lack of size and length are concerns, but he has the athleticism to step right in as a slot corner on the next level. His combination of coverage and return talent could make him an early impact player.