Consider the case of the national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Everyone knows Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram, quarterback Greg McElroy, linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive tackle Terrence Cody, wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback/return specialist Javier Arenas.
But TheRanchReport.com has learned that the Dallas Cowboys are extremely interested in another member of the Crimson Tide defense. According to a longtime NFL scout, the Cowboys have shown a high level of interest in Alabama's "other" cornerback, Kareem Jackson.
Arenas got the majority of attention in the 'Bama secondary, in part because his kick returns got him into the spotlight, but Jackson is the better NFL prospect, at least as a pure cornerback. At 5-10, 196, he's two inches taller than Arenas (and a pound lighter). He also is faster, having been clocked at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine last month.
Jackson was very productive with the Crimson Tide. In three seasons, he played in 41 games, with 159 tackles, 29 passes broken up and five interceptions, playing in a 3-4 defense designed by Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who has coached in the NFL and sent countless players to the league.
"We play the NFL-type defense," he said. "It shows my mental capacity is maybe a lot stronger than some of the other players in the draft, as far as learning a defense in the 3-4. I think it'll help me out a whole lot."
His decision to leave school after three years was one upon which he and his family agreed. Saban did not.
"It was one of those decision that, going into the year, I wanted to do everything possible to put myself in that situation to be able to make that decision at the end of the year," Jackson said. "I felt like I did that as a player and I proved myself as an all-around player that can cover and tackle. So I sat down with my family and I told them, ‘that's what I want to do," and they supported my on my decision.
"I had a couple of meetings with him. He thought I should come back, but I was pretty confident in my decision and I stuck with it."
Jackson can play in man and zone coverage, although his aggressiveness can leave him susceptible to big plays. But that can be corrected through coaching. He has had shoulder surgery in the past, but is a physical player who plays the run pretty well, too, and can contribute on special teams.
"I contributed on special teams too," Jackson said. "I also returned. I really didn't get a chance to show it because we had Javier Arenas. I also returned. I think that'll set me apart too."
Jackson, who is projected by many analysts to get selected anywhere between the second and fourth round, said he has yet to reach his potential as a player.
"I want to get better at everything I do," Jackson said. "As far as my game, as far as my technique. But I think my physicality will help me a whole lot, at the line of scrimmage. We played a lot of press-man; I think that'll help me a whole lot and be able to transfer from college to the next level."
No Longer "The Other Guy"
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