The San Francisco 49ers finally got to submit a pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and they elected to once again bolster the defensive line by adding USC EDGE Drake Jackson.
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the San Francisco 49ers spending an early draft pick to bolster the defensive line.
It makes sense, however.
Dee Ford‘s career is essentially over, and he’s only on the roster for financial reasons, and Kerry Hyder is a stopgap option only.
The 49ers needed an answer beyond that and for that reason selected Drake Jackson from USC.
Jackson was announced as a linebacker, but make no mistake, he’s going to be an EDGE in the 49ers scheme. While he was once considered a potential first-round pick, his draft stock tapered off somewhat when he didn’t take the next step after an impressive freshman season.
Jackson had five sacks and eight tackles for loss this season to go with an interception and a forced fumble in 2021. The numbers are only merely adequate, but the Niners will be looking past that and towards his impressive physical skills instead.
What 49ers are getting in Drake Jackson
It’s hard to truly put together his speed, given Jackson didn’t run it either at the USC pro day or the NFL Combine, but Jackson reportedly was timed at 4.5 seconds during his Trojans career, which would be very good for his size at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds.
Jackson’s best asset is his athleticism, which he mixes with his pass-rushing moves to be a constant threat in the Trojans defense. He’s very twitchy at the snap and has a wicked burst on his first step, and his lateral ability allows him to move inside or outside offensive linemen.
The former Trojan needs some work on this, however, as he doesn’t have an extensive list of moves and can be guilty of relying too much on his athletic ability over technique. This shouldn’t be a problem, however, as he’ll be learning under Nick Bosa, who can use any single technique under the sun.
Jackson could also work on strength as well because he does sometimes struggle to set the edge in the ground game. He’s a great athlete who can chase people in space, but in the trenches, can get lost. A year in an NFL strength and conditioning program should help solve this, though. And in the interim, Jackson can be used as a passing-down specialist in 2022, which will allow him to play to his strengths.
This is a pick for the future, and while Jackson probably won’t be a three-down starter in 2022, this is a high-reward pick if the 49ers are patient and allow him to develop and eventually start alongside Bosa.
Should Jackson fulfill his potential arising from his physical gifts, the Niners will once again have an elite defensive line that’s essential to the success of their scheme.