49ers' former top draft pick is running a dangerous risk of being cut

Time is running out for Drake Jackson, who isn't beginning his 2024 campaign off on the right foot.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95) / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Drake Jackson, the 49ers' top pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, has underwhelmed thus far and isn't off to a good start during the 2024 offseason.

The San Francisco 49ers have probably given up already on defensive end Drake Jackson, their top selection from the 2022 NFL Draft out of USC, selected at No. 61 overall.

But the Niners aren't going to admit that. At least not yet.

However, the signs are already pretty clear that Jackson is much closer to being off the roster than he is to securing a modest role on San Francisco's defense. Despite flashing some promise early his rookie season with eight passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, Jackson ultimately ended up being a healthy scratch late into the year and into the playoffs.

Then, a year later and in spite of a three-sack Week 1 opener (his only sacks from 2023), Jackson landed on injured reserve where he'd spend the rest of the season.

The 49ers could have activated him from IR but opted not to.

It's evident the Niners wanted other options. Earlier this offseason, they went after veteran pass-rushers and landed both Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos, the latter likely taking over for Jackson as a rotational option.

As for Jackson, now entering year three of his pro career, his time with San Francisco could be running out.

Things aren't looking up at the beginning of the 49ers' offseason workouts either.

"Drake isn’t healthy so he can’t go," head coach Kyle Shanahan said of Jackson at the start of organized team activities.

While OTAs aren't the end-all, be-all for determining the 53-man roster, Jackson's absence won't help his case whatsoever. If anything, it'll give other fringe defensive ends, such as Robert Beal Jr. and Austin Bryant, additional looks during practices. In turn, Jackson will be fighting a proverbial uphill battle once he's healthy enough to take the field.

Considering the Niners already cast him aside twice over the previous two years, that hill might simply be too tough to climb.

Being hurt to start the offseason only makes that a bigger challenge, and it might be too difficult for him to survive roster cuts this time around.

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