For Jackson, Does Size Really Matter?

One of the biggest surprises at the NFL Combine was the measurement of projected first-round selection WR DeSean Jackson. With Jackson's size in question,'s NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber wonders how effective of a receiver Jackson will be at the next level.

Electrifying. Explosive. Elite. These are three words that are commonly used to describe California’s all-world WR/RS DeSean Jackson. But what happens when you find out something about a player that was unexpected — almost hidden?

Since he was a freshman at the University of California, Jackson has received mixed reviews on his measurements. He’s been listed at 5-foot-11 or 6-feet and weighing between 165 – 172 pounds.

So, what are Jackson’s actual dimensions?

On a day where skill position players (QBs, RBs and WRs) held press conferences and talked with the media, Jackson entered the room and declared that he measured in at 5-foot-9, 167 pounds. With this mysterious revelation uncovered, it raises an unexpected red flag about Jackson, questioning his future as an outside receiver.

Jackson warms up before a game against Tennessee.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

“It’s not going to hurt me,” Jackson said regarding his size and how it will translate to the next level. “You can put on my film and actually see I play bigger than what I really am.”

The smallest receiver in the NFL who plays on the outside is Carolina Panthers All-Pro Steve Smith. Jackson has similar explosiveness as Smith, but Smith is a more polished receiver running routes, catching the ball away from his body and displaying toughness over the middle. Jackson lacks toughness and has trouble getting off the line in press coverage.

Playing bigger than you actually are is one thing, but not being big enough is another. Speedy, highly-touted receivers at the collegiate level are able to dominate the competition because they’re matched up against less superior athletes on the outside. Jackson was able to exploit the opposition with his tremendous jets, but that will change when he enters the NFL because he will face defenders who have similar quickness.

Speaking of quickness, Jackson will run and fully participate in all drills this weekend. He said he’s not sure how fast he will run the forty-yard dash, but stated that he will run a good time.

During his three-year career at Cal, Jackson proved to be a big-time receiver who possessed excellent vertical speed. He amassed 162 receptions for 2,423 yards (15 yards per catch) and 22 touchdowns.

This past season, Jackson was inconsistent and didn't show the same kind of game-breaking ability that he did during his sophomore year. Although he had a career high 65 receptions in 2007, he posted a career low 11.7 yards per catch and dropped easy passes.

Jackson's breakout sophomore campaign was highlighted by his 59 receptions for 1,060 yards (18 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. Despite his struggles this past year, Jackson believed that leaving school early was the best move.

“It was a big decision for me to come out early,” Jackson said. “I had a lot to think about through the process. My family was very supportive, Coach Tedford was very supportive of my decision and I just felt I had three successful years and I was ready to bring my game to the next level and compete with the best.”

One aspect of his game that translates well to the pro game is his dynamic ability as a return man. Chicago Bears RS Devin Hester changed the way teams view special teams and the way it can impact the outcome of a game. Teams are always looking to improve their return game by adding a duel threat who can provide instant offense on special teams and play a role on offense or defense.

Jackson returned six punts for a touchdown in three years at Cal.

“I consider myself a receiver first.” Jackson said. “That’s just an exception I can bring to a football team, the ability to return kicks and punt returns and just bring an electrifying air to the game.”

That exception, as well as his speed, will benefit Jackson’s draft positioning more than his receiving ability, especially with the truth being discovered about his size.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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