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Action Jackson: Combine effort might vault corner into top round

INDIANAPOLIS -- Outside of the interior defensive line class in this 2016 NFL Draft, NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock cites the cornerback class as this year's next best class.

Helping make the cornerback class even deeper was the rise of Houston's William Jackson III into prominence with a standout workout at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday.

The buzz around Jackson started when he dropped a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.

"William Jackson is going to climb. His tape is good and now he's a sub 4.4 (40) guy," Mayock said on NFL Network's broadcast of the combine workouts. "He had seven passes broken up versus Temple and also had five interceptions on the year. So, you want to talk about ball production and being around and making plays, this kid did it."

Jackson was not among Mayock's top five cornerbacks in this draft class.

"I'm probably going to pop up him into my top five corners," Mayock said. "Worst case, he's a second-round corner."

Best case, Jackson has moved into first-round consideration.

"Jackson might have pushed himself into the bottom of the first round with his workout today," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.

NFL Media's Solomon Wilcots -- who played six seasons as a defensive back in the NFL -- said that NFL teams will be going back to the game tape to see what Jackson did in games.

"I'm not sure the tape says first (round)," NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL Now Scouting Combine Live. "He could get into the top 50 picks."

Zierlein likes an AFC North team, which is typically a contender but fell on hard times in 2015, as an eventual NFL fit for Jackson.

"I think Willie Jackson would be a good fit for the Ravens. He made a lot of money here," Zierlein said.

Stay tuned for those updated, post-combine first-round draft projections. It will be very interesting to see which experts Jackson romanced into a first-round slot.

Hargreaves draws high praise

Despite the bombastic boasts of Clemson's Mackensie Alexander (who didn't work out Monday), it seems at the moment as if the status of "top cornerback in the 2016 draft" is a two-prospect tussle between Florida's Vernon Hargreaves and Florida State's Jalen Ramsey (that's if Ramsey would even be considered a corner, which he is in Mayock's rankings).

"If there is a plug-and-play corner in this draft, and say 'this is your side of the field', (Hargreaves) is the kid," Mayock said. "He's quick, he's fast and he's got ball skills. He has the best feet of any corner I've seen in years."

Hargreaves' 40 time was closely watched, and he didn't disappoint.

"All the scouts want to see from him is his long-range speed. That (4.50 40 time) holds up," Wilcots said. "That's what they wanted to see, and he went out and did it today."

Zierlein mentioned the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders as franchise fits for Hargreaves.

Something to prove

Clemson's pro day is slated for March 10, which might be too soon for Alexander to put forth an on-field workout for NFL scouts. Hence, a personal workout date might be in order for the cornerback.

He'll have plenty to show to back up his talk.

"He's gotta have more substance than style," Wilcots said. "After playing in 27 career games at Clemson behind that defensive front with the likes of Shaq Lawson out in front of him, and then to have no sacks, no interceptions, what we call splash plays. Scouts really question his ball skills."

Despite Alexander's feeble interception total, Zierlein suggests watching the Orange Bowl to get a good look at Alexander's ability.

"For all the negative stuff we're going to hear, let me tell you something: He went out in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma and shut Sterling Shepard down," said Zierlein, who compares Alexander to the Atlanta Falcons' Desmond Trufant. "I mean shut ... him ... down! So, I do think he does have some cover corner skills and press man skills."

'Poor man's Earl Thomas'

Like Alexander, West Virginia safety Karl Joseph was forced to sit out the combine workouts due to injury recovery.

"Karl joseph is a bullet and I wish he could run (at the combine)," Mayock said. "He reminded me of a poor man's Earl Thomas."

In a candid on-field interview with NFL Network's Deion Sanders, Joseph credited his quick feet to playing soccer. That makes sense. Joseph also went as far as to proclaim himself the best football player in this draft class.

Wilcots likes the Minnesota Vikings as a team fit for Joseph, and that teaming Joseph with Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith is "exactly what they need."

Another safety for the Vikings to consider

The height (6-foot-2), weight (209 pounds) and speed (4.34 40) combo presented by Clemson safety T.J. Green got people excited in Indy.

And, Wilcots presented another safety for the Vikings to consider in the draft to team up with Smith.

"The Vikings go from an average secondary to an excellent one if they would pair Harrison Smith with T.J. Green," Wilcots said.

Quick hitters

Here are some more takes from NFL Media experts on some defensive backs at the combine:

» Ohio State CB Eli Apple: Wilcots sees the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins as franchise fits for Apple, who made a real nice one-handed catch on Monday.

"I can see Miami at (pick No.) 8, but I don't think he gets past Oakland," Wilcots said.

» Northern Iowa CB Deiondre Hall: "His length is ridiculous; kind of like a long-legged spider," Mayock said.

» Southern Utah S Miles Killebrew: "This Killebrew kid has got some juice to him," Mayock said. "I've never see a safety hit more offensive players and seen those players go backwards. He's got a heavy thump to him." #HeavyThump.

» Iowa S Jordan Lomax: "He's probably going to have to play special teams to hang on to a roster (spot)," Mayock said.

» Ohio State S Tyvis Powell: Powell ran a 4.46 40, which Mayock said was "a really good time for a safety."

"Tyvis Powell reminds me of a broke Brian Dawkins," current NFL Media analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor said on NFL Now Scouting Combine Live.

» Southern Utah CB LeShaun Sims: "Three Southern Utah defensive players are going to get drafted. This is one of them," Mayock said.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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