After a freshman season in which LSU cornerback Donte Jackson sparingly saw the field his sophomore campaign saw a full starting slate and ended with 39 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. Jackson expanded on that and was named All-SEC in 2017 with 45 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and an interception. Is he cornerback option for the Pittsburgh, and what round does he have value to the team?
Donte Jackson can flat out move. He is a very loose and fluid player who can turn his body a variety of directions while maintaining speed. And when it comes to that speed, he is likely the fastest of any cornerback in this draft class.
Over the top help is not too important to a player such as Donte Jackson. As shown in the play above, when it came down to an all-out sprint on the ball, Jackson breezed past his over the top help and the receiver when attempting to track down the ball.
Jackson has excellent closing speed which makes it a consistently tough decision whether to test him, even if the receiver has a step.
Jackson can also fly downhill in a hurry. This makes blitzing off of the edge and closing in to limit yards after the catch additions that Jackson can provide in the NFL. Jackson plays with a swagger and a fire to be a physical, high energy cornerback. This shows in his relentlessly quick pursuit of the football.
Jackson also has strong ball skills. In the play below he has the quick feet to match the receiver step for step down the field. He reads the receiver and knows when to turn and look for the ball. From there, he tracks the ball perfectly and knocks it right out of the receivers hands.
Donte Jackson is undersized. Being 5’11” is not great as it is, and while it appears to be a tight frame, weighing only 175 pounds is going to limit his upside in the NFL. There is definitely a question as to how much weight he can still put on.
While Jackson excelled on the outside in college, there were signs that showed he may not be able to consistently hang there in the NFL. Take the play below for example. He is immediately pushed off of the ball giving the receiver easy inside leverage for the chance at a quick completion.
Jackson is a very willing tackler, and his speed can build up enough momentum to make plays in the run, and running downhill to defend the pass. However, his tackling translating to the NFL is going to be under question. He tends to be reliant on snatching ankles to bring down ball carriers. He struggles to go high and has been brushed off very easily at times.
Jackson also lacks some feel in coverage. He can afford to guess wrong and recover, but there are going to be times where he gives up just one too many steps and pay for it.
Porter is undersized, he is a burner, with ball skills, and he can swap in and out of the slot. Porter came out of college at 185, and put on about 15 pounds, but was able to hold down a nine-year career with his combination of speed and ball skills. Switching in and out of the slot due to matchups should be how Jackson is viewed in the NFL like it was for Porter.
Fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
Another way to look at Donte Jackson is Mike Hilton with more ball skills. While the added ball skills would be nice, Hilton is coming off of an excellent season and has the chance to be a future starter in the slot. With his strong presence as an edge rusher, his size in terms of height, and his lack of strong ball skills, it is tough to justify ever sliding him away from the slot.
The Steelers would be far too undersized thinking long term with Jackson and Hilton in the same secondary, and the inability to blitz Jackson as often as Hilton would also hurt his value. Jackson is an intriguing prospect, but probably should be one the Steelers pass on into the later rounds.