Chicago Bears First-Round Prospect: Houston CB William Jackson III

Film-based scouting report on Houston CB William Jackson III, a player rising up draft boards and one who could be a sleeper pick for the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears will head into the 2016 NFL Draft with a fairly substantial need at the cornerback position. 

The jury is still out on former first rounder Kyle Fuller, while Tracy Porter isn't a long-term option. The future of the position is in limbo, meaning GM Ryan Pace will very likely be searching for lock-down corners early in this year's selection process. 

With that in mind, here is my full scouting report on Houston CB William Jackson III, a first-round prospect some believe is the best player at his position. 

William Jackson, Houston (6-0, 189) Senior, Age: 23

Accomplishments

A JUCO transfer, Houston was a full-time starter for the Cougars the past two seasons. He had a team-high 12 pass breakups as a junior, then led the nation in 2015 with 23 pass breakups. He was named second-team All-American Athletic Conference both seasons. 

Combine Results

40-yard dash: 4.37
Bench press: 10 reps
Broad jump: 9-8

Pro Day Results

20-yard shuttle: 4.32
3-cone drill: 6.86

Positives

-Very quick feet and fluid hips. Transitions seamlessly out of backpedal. Can turn and run on a dime. 
-Good agility. Mirrors receivers well. 
-Great height and length.
-Changes directions well. Good closing speed and burst on balls thrown in front of him. 
-Quick to tackle after the catch. Doesn't give up a lot of YAC. 
-Opportunistic in turnovers. Always looking to strip ball and pull in the interception. 
-Attacks the ball. A grown man on 50/50 balls, where he's able to utilize his size and leaping ability. Always high-points the ball.
-Active, strong hands in press coverage. Physical at the line of scrimmage.
-Sinks hips in press. Quick bail and straight line speed allow him to recover and run stride-for-stride from a dead stop. Rarely gets beat deep, even when lining up heels in the ground at the line of scrimmage. 
-Likes to hit. Not afraid of contact. 

Negatives

-A little thin, particularly in the lower body. 
-Lacks upper-body bulk. His 10 bench-press reps show a need for more strength. Could struggle against physical receivers at the next level. 
-Poor head-on tackling technique. Drops head and throws shoulders far too often. Not afraid to hit but lacks tackling fundamentals. 
-Desire to strip the ball leads to bad missed tackles. 
-Too easily blocked at times. Will run around blocks instead of fighting through. 
-Doesn't excel in off coverage. Doesn't have ideal anticipation. 
-Can get flat footed against underneath routes in press coverage. 
-Aggressiveness and active hands when ball is in the air could lead to more interference penalties in the NFL. 

Is Jackson worth the 11th overall pick? 

Heading into the off-season, Jackson was considered a borderline first-round pick. He's tall but he's thin, which has led to concerns about his ability to support the run and lock up big, physical NFL wideouts. 

Like a lot of the "small-school" players, the level of competition he faced in college makes it harder to evaluate Jackson. He dominated at times, as his PBU numbers show, but he didn't face a lot of NFL-level receivers. 

That said, he did play very well against Florida State last season, and looked like he belonged in the ACC. 

Opinions of Jackson began to change after his performance at the combine, where he posted a blistering 4.37 40-yard dash, which was seventh fastest among all participants and third fastest at his position.

With Jackson, you have a player with legit size and length - his arms are nearly 32 inches - who has elite speed and impressive collegiate film. He wasn't facing off against SEC competition but other than that, there's very little not to like. 

Most of the current mock drafts still have Jackson falling into the 20s but a lot folks are starting to warm to Jackson. NFL teams surely see what we see, which is a cornerback with all the physical traits to be a No. 1 boundary defender in the NFL. Some teams consider Jackson the best corner in this draft, ahead of both Florida's Vernon Hargreaves and Ohio State's Eli Apple. 

But is he good enough to warrant the 11th overall pick? 

The lack of consistency as a tackler isn't ideal. He must be show better tackling form but in the NFL, where tackling only happens on Sundays, it's hard for collegiate players to improve dramatically as tacklers. Most likely, Jackson will always be a sketchy defender in run support. 

Yet in coverage, Jackson has starter potential. He's thin but he plays strong. Rarely on film is he ever out-muscled when the ball is in the air. He has a nose for the football and he's ultra aggressive when passes are thrown his way. 

He understands how to use his size to his advantage and has the straight-line speed to recover on deep balls.

Jackson is at his best in press coverage, which is the area in which Chicago's cornerbacks are weakest. A player with Jackson's skill set would give defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more flexibility in both coverage and blitz schemes. 

Ideally, the Bears will find a way to trade back 10 spots and then grab Jackson, yet there's no guarantee he's going to fall into the 20s. If Pace feels Jackson is the best corner in the draft, filling the biggest position of need on the team, then he's probably going to have to use his pick at 11. 

At the end of the day, you can make a legitimate case for Jackson as the cornerback with the best lock-down potential in this year's draft. If Pace believes that's true, then he can talk himself into taking Jackson in the first round. 


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