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Wide receiver DeSean Jackson recorded 29 touchdowns in 36 games at Cal.


Cal receiver DeSean Jackson visited the Eagles and Buccaneers last week. He plans to visit the Rams and 49ers this week.

A little guy (5-10, 175) who is drawing big interest in the draft.

NFL general managers and scouts offer excitable contemplation mixed with nagging consternation on Jackson.

Draft series

NFL.com's 10-part series looks at each position in the draft.

Thursday, April 10: QBs | Rankings
Friday, April 11: RBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 12: TEs | Rankings
Sunday, April 13: OL | Rankings
Monday, April 14: WRs | Rankings
Tuesday, April 15: DEs | Rankings
Wednesday, April 16: DTs | Rankings
Thursday, April 17: LBs | Rankings
Friday, April 18: CBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 19: Safeties | Rankings

The good:

Explosive. Electrifying. Dual threat as a receiver and kick returner. Excellent hands. Projected that he could reach Carolina receiver Steve Smith-type output in style and production. A junior entry into the draft with compelling upside.

The bad:

A me-guy. Selfish. Not a good teammate. Not a coachable player. Too many questionable influences hanging around him and a hard time letting them go.

A 25-year NFL scout expounded:

"This young man has all of the ability in the world. He can be as good as he wants to be. But is he going to do the things necessary to get there? I had a scout tell me to watch him in workouts with the receivers and see if he is not the last one in the line for drills. So, I looked. He was the last one in line for drills. But there are issues and there are issues. He's not evil. He’s not robbing banks. If you draft this guy, you'd better have him on a short leash from the get-go. He seems to have always done just enough to beat those around him relying on the fact he was better than them. Well, at the next level, they are as good and better than him. His size is a concern. He goes no later than the second round. He could get in the bottom of the first round."

None of this rattles Jackson.

He has heard the scuttle. Teams discussed these subjects with him at the scouting combine in February. They asked him why he was benched early in Cal's New Year's Eve bowl game against Air Force.

They also noticed that once he entered, with his team trailing 21-0, that he quickly scored on a twisting, elastic 40-yard touchdown grab that spurred Cal to a 42-36 comeback victory.

"Me-guy and selfish?" Jackson asked. "I will never consider myself that. I got to Cal and at first we were losing. I only lost four games total in high school. It was just my competitive edge of adjusting and accepting that. Then doing something about it, which we did at Cal. I was benched for the start of the bowl game because I was late to a team meeting. I was working out with one of my teammates, left for practice, got stuck in traffic and was late. And was benched. That was not easy to accept, but I made the most of it.

"I am a competitor. That's what I bring to the football field. A very explosive, finesse route runner with great hands and ability to make people miss. Heart. The heart and will to score touchdowns."

NFL Draft: Wide receivers

Pat Kirwan's take: Two months ago, the wide receiver class of 2008 looked like a formidable one. In the past few weeks there has been a drop in the opinion of group.

The consensus opinion right now is that all the top receivers have some deficiency that could keep any of them from being a top-10 selection. There's a chance we will not hear a receiver picked in the top 15 picks, but soon after the midpoint of the first round and well into the second round, it appears that eight to 10 receivers will come off the board. Last year, Calvin Johnson was the second overall pick and Ted Ginn Jr. went ninth. Look for Devin Thomas to be the top pick this year, but with just 13 college starts there isn't a body of work to make this decision easy.

Photos ...
Top 10 WRs

This year does provide a number of big receivers to play the "X" position like Limas Sweed, Malcolm Kelly, and James Hardy. There are a number of "Z" receivers to go in motion, run the reverse, and work the strong side combinations with the tight end, like Thomas, Mario Manningham, Andre Caldwell, and Earl Bennett. The slot receivers for the three wide receiver packages feature speed and quickness with DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal and Dexter Jackson topping my list.

A couple of productive receivers ran slow times and their stock is in jeopardy, but as Anquan Boldin said to me this past week, "If a guy gets open on film, go with the film." Lots of teams mistakenly passed on Boldin; will they now pass on Early Doucett, Malcolm Kelly and others? In this class, is there a Dwayne Bowe, the third receiver taken last year who produced almost 1,000 yards and 70 receptions as a rookie? I think there is a rookie with the potential to do just that.

Is there a fear that there is another Robert Meachem in the first round that wouldn't even make it to the active roster once in the season? I hope not but there always is that risk. Two of the top receivers have already hurt their chances for an early draft entry with off the field issues and are now considered a risk.

As one GM said to me at the owners meetings, "There is a flaw in every one of the receivers. The question is: Who can overcome their issue and excel."

» Kirwan: Top wide receivers
» Miller: When scouting WRs, draft with caution
» Draft Tracker: Wide receivers in draft

Through the murkiness, that ability to score touchdowns stands clear.

That is one reason this receiver will not suffer a draft free-fall.

The rest? Apparently, he makes a few teams nervous. Others see manageable concerns.

After all, this 21-year old who grew up near 42d and Crenshaw in a challenging, resilient sector of Los Angeles scored 29 touchdowns in 36 games at Cal. He did it receiving (22), on punt returns (6) and as a rusher (1). He averaged 15 yards per catch and 8.3 yards per rush in his Cal career.

He ran a smoldering 4.35 in the 40-yard sprint at the combine. He has been tutored in recent weeks by eminent receiver Jerry Rice, who is part of the DeBartolo Sports and Entertainment management firm, which represents Jackson.

Rice is teaching Jackson route-running, how to manage speed and how to prepare for NFL-level competition.

Rice is teaching him much more.

How to be a professional. How to meet and greet people and leave a positive, lasting impression. How to choose friends and how to prevent friends and family from becoming too embroiled in his NFL business.

How to grow up.

"He has the explosiveness similar to Devin Hester, but he is further ahead than Hester as a receiver," Rice said of Jackson. "If DeSean gets out in front of you, there is no chasing him down. We've clicked. I tell him that everyone he meets, he will never know with some the impact he leaves on their lives. That's where I really come in here. Helping him focus on team. Getting him to take a close look at who are the people he is surrounding himself with. He's a good guy, and I'm not saying that because he is on board with our group. My reputation is on the line with saying that. So, I say it, I mean it.

"He can be a great player in the league because he has the talent, but he also has great heart and is hungry. That's the biggest thing in the NFL -- you can never measure the heart."

Cal lost its starting quarterback to injury midway of last season and that hampered his production as a senior, Jackson said. NFL teams have expressed concern about his size, particularly his weight. He said he weighed 169 pounds at the combine. He said he has gained six pounds since. He said Rice has given him plenty to ponder -- "You can't learn from anybody better than that," Jackson said -- and that the time is right for him to leap to the NFL.

"I’m ready to go and put myself out there with the best of the best," Jackson said. "My game -- I say I don't have any weaknesses. I know what I have to do on the football field. I see myself making great plays in the NFL. I see myself starting a business, maybe something to do with kids that helps kids. I want to give something back to my community."

While being constantly reminded that some of the greatest gifts -- maturity, dependability, accountability, teamwork, humbleness -- are ones he must give to himself.

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