Insider analysis: Darrell Jackson

The 49ers spent more than $130 million during the offseason on free agents, but their most important newcomer may be Darrell Jackson, who enters the season as the No. 1 WR San Francisco has been lacking in recent years. Does Jackson have what it takes to fill that role with his new team? Seahawks expert Doug Farrar spends some time at SFI to tell us everything there is to know about Jackson.

Doug Farrar, Seahawks.NET: Darrell Jackson has been the Seahawks' most prolific receiver through the new millennium, leading the team in receptions in four different seasons (2001, 2003, 2004, 2006). Though he only played 13 regular-season games in the 2006 season, he finished third in the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 10. He has caught 441 passes for 6,445 yards, a 14.6 average, and 47 touchdowns since his rookie season in 2000.

However, while Jackson has been productive when healthy, he's never been especially efficient, and the reason for that is very simple – an infuriating inability to catch the ball consistently. He's a regular at the top of the dropped passes per season lists whenever he's healthy enough to play a full or near-full season. In 2006, he tied for second in drops with Green Bay's Donald Driver with 11, behind only Terrell Owens, who posted 17.

Ironically, though Jackson has become Seattle's most notable receiver over the last few years, the franchise's best season was 2005, a season in which he missed nine consecutive games – and the Seahawks won every single one of those games. Not to imply that Jackson's absence caused the Seahawks to have a more reasonable chance of winning, but the increased efficiency of Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram did help the offense with drive success and overall consistency.

Jackson is very adept at moving through traffic, and when his concentration isn't an issue, he's a good route-runner. His deep speed, though not what it used to be, is certainly acceptable. And for whatever negatives I've discussed here, I think the 49ers got a great deal in giving up a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Jackson's services – IF he comes into the season healthy. The very fact that the Seahawks couldn't get more than a fourth-rounder for a player with his productivity should be a red flag.

The Seahawks very obviously had other ideas regarding their premier receiver when they traded their 2007 first-round pick to New England for Deion Branch last September. Fourth-year receiver D.J. Hackett teams with Branch to form a potentially formidable combo.

What will Jackson be for the 49ers? Well, he could be the first real average-plus receiver that Alex Smith has worked with in his pro career. You know your receiver corps is in need of an overhaul when you claim to run a vertical offense and your tailback leads the team in receptions.

Jackson isn't Reggie Wayne, but he's a dead-solid huge upgrade over the likes of Antonio Bryant. If he can stay on the field, maintain his focus, and his contract unhappiness is a thing of the past, the 49ers got a steal in a player who still has a few good years left. However, those are a lot of "ifs", and Jackson has a history of not always living up to his considerable potential.

Craig Massei's take: Darrell Jackson was the best thing to happen to San Francisco's receivers corps when he was acquired via trade on draft weekend, and he's the best thing to happen to that unit now as the season is set to begin. Quite simply - even though he seemed to pace himself throughout the summer and often gave the impression he wasn't working as hard as he could be - Jackson clearly has established himself as San Francisco's best receiver and Alex Smith's go-to guy as the season approaches. The thing about Jackson is he sneaks up on people. He's sneaky fast, and despite not possessing premier size or speed, he is able to dupe defenders and find ways to get open in zones and the seams of defenses. He can turn around more athletic cornerbacks just with his wily moves and experience. He's a smart receiver who has learned his craft well. Dropped passes have always been an issue with Jackson – he has had his share of those for the Seahawks against the 49ers – but he has displayed solid hands and good concentration since joining the team, and he also has been a stand-up guy in the locker room. The 49ers need a wideout who can get open and produce when the game is on the line, and while Jackson has yet to actually prove he can do that with his new team, he gives San Francisco the best chance to get that from a receiver since Terrell Owens left town after the 2003 season.

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