49ers roster: Drake Jackson in a perfect context his rookie year

Linebacker Drake Jackson #99 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Linebacker Drake Jackson #99 of the USC Trojans (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Drake Jackson, USC Trojans, 49ers
Southern California Trojans linebacker Drake Jackson (99) Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Why Drake Jackson makes a quick impact for 49ers

If you were to solely look at Drake Jackson’s collegiate numbers, you might not be all that impressed.

A mere 12.5 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss over three years with the Trojans won’t exactly jump off the page, and those stats nearly replicate what Nick Bosa did last year alone, albeit in 17 regular-season games whereas Jackson never played more than 11 in any given season.

Drake Jackson Defense & Fumbles Table
Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg PD FR FF
*2019 USC Pac-12 FR DL 11 26 20 46 11.5 5.5 0 0 0 3 0 1
2020 USC Pac-12 SO LB 6 8 12 20 5.5 2.0 1 10 10.0 0 0 0
2021 USC Pac-12 JR LB 10 23 14 37 8.0 5.0 1 0 0.0 1 1 1
Career USC 57 46 103 25.0 12.5 2 10 5.0 4 1 2

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 6/21/2022.

There are a few things to note here, though. For starters, USC’s defense during Jackson’s tenure there wasn’t particularly great, and a revolving coaching staff often asked him to play a multitude of positions, all of which required him to change his weight.

The inconsistency surely bit into his production, but it’s not hard to see why the 6-foot-4 and 250-pound defender could easily cut his teeth as a situational pass-rusher early.

Kyle Shanahan certainly thinks so, as stated through Niners Nation:

"The first time we watched Drake, he was like the 10th defensive lineman we watched, because we watched them based on where they’re projected to go. And his tape was better than the nine we watched before him. It shows the potential of a guy. Yeah, there’s some things as to why we got him at 61. But when you see the things that he’s capable of doing, and I’m not trying to put pressure on him or anything, but you see the ability to be one of those top guys. And to have that advantage at 61, those are the things that change teams."

This is a classic case where a team like San Francisco is banking on what Jackson could potentially become, not where he is right now.

Additionally, knowing Jackson isn’t going to be tasked with a Bosa-like role in year one should serve to allow defensive line coach Kris Kocurek to put him solely in ideal positions where he can maximize his current skill set while also continuing to develop into something more.

That’s advantageous. But it doesn’t always work out that way.