Drake Jackson Scouting Report 2022 NFL Draft
USC Trojans, EDGE, # 99
Drake Jackson Measurements
6′ 4″ / 250 lbs
When talking about edge players in this year’s upcoming draft, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeuax is the first name that comes to mind. After that, there is a group of players who have a realistic shot of being the next pass rusher off the board. The player who may have the best chance to hear his name called is USC’s Drake Jackson. The production and the athletic traits that jump out on the tape make it easy to understand why.
Standing at 6’4, weighing 255 pounds, Jackson possesses the frame to play as a defensive end in a 4-3 front or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 look. Jackson weighed 275 pounds as a true freshman at USC, so he has the opportunity to grow more into his frame if NFL teams see fit. It
will be fun to watch where Jackson lines up for the most part on the Trojan defense. Entering his third season as a starter he is arguably the best player on the defense. Jackson will be making some noise during his final year in college.
Drake Jackson Player Profile
A four-star prospect out of Corona, California, Jackson was one of the rare high-level recruits Clay Helton was able to keep home. Playing at Centennial High School, Jackson began showing the flashes that made him appealing to almost all of the Pac-12 schools during his sophomore season. He didn’t put up gaudy statistics immediately against tough west-coast competition, but he was making a name for himself, and the offers began rolling in.
As a senior, Jackson was named his league’s Co-MVP and was mulling offers between USC, Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington. As we know, Jackson ultimately committed to the Trojans where he would make an instant impact. He became a starter as a true freshman in the first game of the season. He wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste, as he burst onto the scene relatively
quickly. Jackson accumulated 11 starts, leading the team in TFL (11.5) and sacks (5.5). This earned him All-Pac-12 second team honors. You can find his complete stats here.
In his Covid-19-shortened sophomore season, Jackson proved his freshman production was no fluke and further established himself as one of the best players in the conference. Jackson registered 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and an interception in just 6 games. He played more of an outside
linebacker role as a sophomore, compared to playing more defensive end as a freshman. The expectation is Jackson further improves his game and shows the versatility to play multiple roles along the front.
Drake Jackson Strengths
Jackson possesses exciting versatility, showcasing the ability to rush standing up or with his hand in the ground. He also has been asked to line up on the interior, which makes him even more appealing as a prospect. Being able to line up from multiple different spots across the line will make Jackson hard to keep off the field. He’s going to be difficult for offenses to handle. He is also a freakish athlete, apparently holding 4.5 40-yard dash-type speed. Jackson has incredible bend coming off the edge and plays extremely fast. The change of direction and lateral quickness he displays on tape is tantalizing. It’s further proof there is a lot of potential to tap into at the next level. Jackson is also strong enough to hold up against powerful lineman when playing the run and doesn’t get out-leveraged often.
When you pair his physical abilities with a strong motor and a prototypical NFL frame, there is a lot to like when thinking about his role at the next level. The fact that he has even shown the ability to play a MIKE role and cover in space is extremely promising as well.
Drake Jackson Weaknesses
Jackson needs to harness his unique physical abilities and play with better technique more consistently. There are too many instances of Jackson failing to finish tackles or taking bad angles. He has shown the inability to finish wrapping up an opponent and sometimes missing the offensive player altogether. It could be because he plays so fast that sometimes it can be out of control. His game could slow down a little bit.
There is also room for Jackson to add to his pass-rushing arsenal with more go-to pass rush moves and counters. He relies on his strength too much rather than winning with speed. He has the athleticism to win a lot of reps just by using his amazing bend, but tries to use too many power moves. If he gets back to 275 pounds, there may be more of a case for Jackson to play this way. Becoming more of a technician with his hands could go a long way in Jackson taking the next step.
Final thoughts on Drake Jackson
The overall consensus as of now is that Jackson is the second-best pass rusher in the 2022 NFL Draft class. There is a strong chance he will hear his name called in the top half of the first round. The way he finishes his college career will go a long way in determining that. There is no doubting Jackson’s athletic abilities and his immediate production since he was a true freshman.
His body, play speed, and play style are comparable to those of Brian Burns of the Panthers. Burns came into the NFL needing to refine his game a bit, but there was no questioning the pure talent. Now, Burns is one of the premier young players in the league. Jackson fits the mold.