The Minnesota Vikings sent defensive backs coach Jerry Gray to the University of Houston Pro Day, on March 25, to check out cornerback William Jackson. He is projected to be a first-round pick and his stock has continued to rise after he recorded a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He continued to impress coaches and scouts at his pro day and Gray shared his thoughts of the cornerback with the Houston Chronicle following the workout.
“Good football player. I think with the talent that he has, he could play against anybody in the NFL,” Gray said of Jackson. “There are some things he’s going to need to keep working on to get better. Our game is a little bit different; it puts a little more pressure on the player, to the individual. You’ve got to learn to study on your own. You’ve got to learn to do all those things. Coaches ain’t going to be there just to see you all the time, so that’s where he’s going to get most of his experience from.”
Jackson sat on his 40-yard dash time from the combine, but tried to build off it by doing some of the workouts he did not participate in earlier. He ran the short shuttle in 4.32 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.86 seconds. He also recorded a 37-inch vertical jump.
He measures in at 6 feet, 186 pounds, which is a size that a lot of NFL teams are looking for in a cornerback, especially if he is able to add a little more weight. Not only does he have solid size, but he also has blazing speed and has demonstrated the ability to be a shutdown defender. He recorded 28 pass deflections and five interceptions – two of which he returned for touchdowns – last season.
The Vikings used their first-round pick last year on cornerback Trae Waynes, so it’s little hard to see them taking another cornerback in the first round this year. It’s important to remember, though, that head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive backs coach at heart and he needs talented corners in place for his defense to be run properly.
Captain Munnerlyn’s contract is also up after this season, so it’s possible that they draft Jackson, have him sit and learn for a season and then insert him into the defense as Munnerlyn’s replacement.
There is a clear interest in Jackson if they were willing to send their defensive backs coach to his pro day. If the Vikings take Jackson, though, it would likely have to be with their first-round pick at No. 23 overall. And even then, it’s no guarantee he will be on the board.
While Jackson was the clear focus for the Vikings at the Houston Pro Day, another player could have caught the team’s eye as well. Elandon Roberts was a middle linebacker for Houston, who is currently projected to be a late-round selection, but his pro day performance could have boosted his stock.
Roberts measured in at 6-0, 234 pounds. He was clocked running the 40-yard dash with times of 4.49 and 4.53 seconds. He also recorded a 36-inch vertical, 10-foot broad jump and 25 reps of the 225-pound bench press.
The middle linebacker is a natural leader and his head coach even went as far as to say that he is one of the best leaders he has ever gotten to coach. Roberts is a strong presence in the box that loves contact and rarely misses when he gets his hands on the ball carrier.
The biggest concerns with Roberts come when he is forced to move out of the box and pursue ball carriers towards the sidelines. He does not move the best side to side and has slow acceleration when asked to stop and start up again, according to analysts. But he was able to impress scouts in his positional drills where he reportedly looked very mobile.
The Vikings are not in desperate need of a middle linebacker, but if they decide to select Roberts in a later round he could end up manning the middle of their defense in the future. That would then allow Eric Kendricks to move to the weak side, which fits his skill set very well.