49ers roster 2024: Drake Jackson inching dangerously close to being a bust

2024 might prove to be Drake Jackson's final chance to impress the 49ers after failing to do much over his first two seasons.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95) / Eakin Howard/GettyImages

Drake Jackson has largely failed to make much of an impact after two years casting doubts on whether or not the 49ers continue to invest in him.

In each of his first two seasons at the NFL level, defensive end Drake Jackson managed to provide periodic flashes that suggested the San Francisco 49ers had an up-and-coming pass-rusher who could be a legitimate defensive standout.

After the Niners made Jackson their top pick of the 2022 draft, taken in Round 2 at No. 61 overall out of USC, the rookie showed positive signs by batting down eight passes at the line of scrimmage while tallying three sacks.

However, a lack of conditioning ultimately led to the pass-rusher grinding to a halt toward the end of year one, and he remained inactive for two of San Francisco's final three regular-season games and was also inactive during the team's postseason run that year.

Then, entering 2023, Jackson appeared to have turned a page, showing up to training camp in noticeably better shape.

He started off the regular season with a bang, too, notching three sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.

Turns out, though, those would be the only sacks the 6-foot-4 and 273-pound edge defender would tally in 2024.





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The 49ers subsequently placed Jackson on injured reserve halfway through the season after eight games played, doubling down on thoughts of long-term upgrades by trading for pass-rushers Randy Gregory and Chase Young while opting not to elevate Jackson off of IR for yet another playoff push.

Even though both Gregory and Young departed via free agency, Jackson's future is murky after yet more transactions that cast shadows on his future in the Bay Area.

Drake Jackson is running out of chances with 49ers

Entering the third year of his original four-year deal signed after being drafted, Jackson is under more pressure than ever before.

The Niners added two other pass-rushers via free agency during the offseason, Yetur Gross-Matos and Leonard Floyd, to pair with All-Pro Nick Bosa. And they'll look to deploy second-year pro Robert Beal Jr. on a more consistent basis, too, creating a bleaker outlook for Jackson's chances of having a substantial role.

Bosa and Floyd figure to be San Francisco's top tandem on the edges, while Gross-Matos and Beal are now the prime competitors for Jackson entering training camp.

Should Jackson lose that competition outright, it'd spell disaster for his long-term prospects for staying with the 49ers.

Is Drake Jackson in danger of missing out on 49ers' 53-man roster?

Ideally, the Niners can still turn Jackson into a quality rotational edge rusher despite two underwhelming seasons so far. Even if he loses a competition with Gross-Matos and/or Beal during camp, Jackson can still maintain a roster spot if he shows notable improvement during camp.

That said, San Francisco won't hang onto an early drafted investment any longer than it needs to if things aren't panning out (just look at the quarterback Trey Lance debacle), and financially, it isn't overly committed to Jackson that much anyway.

According to Over the Cap, waiving Jackson would incur a dead-money hit of $732,688 this season with a cap savings of $874,328.

That's negligible in the grand scheme of things. And a roster spot for someone else of prowess might be more valuable to the 49ers anyway.

Still, Jackson's chances of making the 53-man roster are better than not making it, but he'll have to fully justify his presence by reacting to the pressure he's currently facing.

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