2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Drake Jackson

Drake Jackson

Drake Jackson has been a well-known name in this year’s draft cycle. He’s a player who once received top-10 hype; however, his stock declined mightily over the season while others rose. Now, with the depth in this edge-rushing class, Jackson finds himself in a very interesting spot. He’s most likely a Day 2 selection, but whether he’s talented for that has yet to be discovered. Let’s dive in. 

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Drake Jackson
Jersey: #99
Position: Edge Rusher
School: USC
Class: Junior 
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 254 lbs

Games Watched: Washington State (2021), Stanford (2021), Oregon (2020), Arizona (2020)

Major Injury History: None


Player Breakdown

Pass Rush Ability (12/15)

The tools are certainly there for Jackson, but he does have a good amount to work on. First off, Jackson has a pretty nasty spin move. However, he uses it on rare occasions, like his swim move. Jackson’s go-to is the ghost step. He feints outside and makes a sharp cut to the inside shoulder of the offensive lineman. This is what gets Jackson to the quarterback most, though he needs to show more variety in his moves to maximize effectiveness. 

Explosiveness (7.75/10)

Jackson has explosiveness that can be on and off. When it’s on, Jackson does well to get into his move and the pad level of the lineman quickly. When it’s off, Jackson relies on poor hand usage to try and get by. Jackson’s game almost runs through explosiveness. The flashes, and tools, we’ve seen are when he explodes best, allowing Jackson to get to the quarterback. 

First Step (7.5/10)

Jackson is often in sync with the rest of his teammates on the line in terms of reaction to the snap. This gets him around that average mark. With that first step, Jackson can use it to reach his maximum potential in terms of explosion. This sets up for a win on the rep and a potential hurry, knock, or sack once in the backfield. What you’d like to see is Jackson pair these two things (explosiveness and first step) up more. If he does this, that’s when we are looking at the difference between a raw prospect and a real pro. 

Bend (7.5/10)

Something advertised a ton in those “Way too Early” mock drafts back in May of 2021 was Jackson’s bend. This one just had to be someone sending out the false narrative because Jackson isn’t a player built on bend. Sure, it’s a good trait of his; however, not something to really write home about. Jackson has shown a nice ability to get skinny in between the guard and tackle when making his ghost step. Working outside, Jackson can get around guys with a combination of bend and moves, but he’s rarely going to bend under you, although that potential is there. 

Hand Usage (6.75/10)

We briefly previewed this trait earlier, but Jackson’s hand usage is probably his worst attribute. It all comes down to mechanics here, which aren’t great for Jackson. On the plus side, he does have some nice pop. No, he’s not knocking or stunning, a lineman with his hands, but they’re capable enough to get some strength out the gate. In terms of overall usage, Jackson really struggles with his counters. He seems to just be waving his hands at attempts to get by the lineman’s initial block, and it isn’t pretty. Thankfully, this seems to be something Jackson can be taught fast, as he has shown potential with his other pass-rush moves. 

Motor (9/10)

You can’t really complain about anything in regards to Jackson’s motor. He won’t get that 10/10 grade like an Aidan Hutchinson-type player will, but he won’t falter below the nine mark like some scouts say Kayvon Thibodeaux will. Jackson doesn’t bring much of an attitude that stands out in between snaps, but he is constantly working on trying to get to the quarterback. 

Tackling (8.25/10)

Jackson is normally a sound tackler; however, there are issues with his technique. The frame doesn’t allow Jackson to wrap guys up completely, though he tries to, which can result in an arm tackle. This gives ball carriers the opportunity to break free with ease and continue heading downfield. Besides the arm tackles, Jackson normally takes the correct angle but can slip up at times. 

Strength at LOS (8.25/10)

Again, the size comes into play when grading functional strength, but Jackson does well to fight with the bigger bodies. Jackson rarely gets completely pushed back during reps. There was one play against Arizona that comes to mind where he got folded by a double team, though other than that, he’s been fine. While he won’t be driven back, Jackson also will not be driving lineman into their quarterback. This is mostly due to the lack of size. By being able to not get dominated against the run, Jackson creates space for his linebackers, opening up the necessary gaps to shoot. 

Run Defense (8.75/10)

For a player who projects as a 3-4 edge rusher or smaller 4-3 defensive end, Jackson does very well in the run game. He’s only 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, but Jackson excels at using his length to keep distance from the tackle and shed the block. This is most effective when teams try to run on the outside, though we do see Jackson trying this technique on inside zone concepts as well. He won’t be the true edge-setting type guy, but Jackson has other ways to win in the run game, and using that length is his most underrated attribute. 

Versatility (4.75/5)

USC used Jackson in a multitude of sets. He played traditional 4-3 edge, came in as a 3-4 edge rusher, and even played a good amount of coverage. Jackson was even listed as a linebacker going into the NFL Combine, although that is definitely not where he projects. All in all, Jackson can lineup nearly anywhere in any scheme. If teams want him for a 4-3 set, he’ll have to add weight, which is still very possible. 

Player Summary

A once top-10 prospect, Jackson’s stock has gone down, and for good reason. The film doesn’t match up with the initial narratives; however, this is a player with tons of potential. If you look up “Drake Jackson highlights,” you’ll probably think this guy is a true first-rounder. The problem is, Jackson doesn’t make a constant impact on every down. The flashes are all over the film; however, almost everything about Jackson’s game needs work.

With development, we are looking at a potential solid EDGE 2 somewhere down the road for a team. He should be a 3-4 edge rusher, though he can play 4-3 if he puts on weight. Either way, Jackson is a player who must add some pounds. If he gets up to the 265-275 mark, then he’ll be able to hold his own with lineman at the next level because of that natural functional strength. Looking at draft projection, Jackson should go late Day 2 or early Day 3. Both of these spots are perfect for Jackson’s talent level, and hopefully, the team that takes Jackson will give him time to develop. 

Rookie Projection: Rotational Edge Rusher

Third-Year Projection: Low-End Starter with High Potential

Player Grade (72.5/100): Fourth-Round Pick

Pro Comparison: Olivier Vernon

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images


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