Donte Jackson is a track star with burner speed. He has the speed and athleticism to keep up with any receiver in the NFL in one on one coverage and does not need help over the top. His movement in space is incredibly fluid and he turns his hips to the ball effortlessly. He is lethal as a blitzer off of the edge given his pursuit and is relentless in his pursuit of the ball. Jackson is a willing and aggressive tackler. His backpedaling is very smooth and he loses no speed in his transition. Quarterbacks may be enticed to throw at Jackson due to his stature, but his incredible speed allows him to break on balls and make plays on the football. Jackson has solid ball skills as well.
Jackson is undersized for the cornerback position. His 5’10”, 178 pound frame along with his short arms will limit his ability to play on the outside in the NFL. He struggles in his initial jam and punch, getting pushed off of the line with ease by bigger, stronger receivers. His instincts aren’t the best and he often guessed wrong on certain breaking routes, but he used his speed to recover most of the time in college.
He fails to anticipate routes and got beat by great route runners like Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk. His hands are weak and he often misses out on interceptions and pass deflections due to his hands. He is occasionally too high in his backpedal. Jackson has below average instincts in zone coverage and lacks awareness to contest routes behind him. He is a willing tackler, but often goes too high or too low on the ball carrier.
After losing Rashaan Melvin, the Colts’ cornerback corps lacks size and speed. Jackson will not help much in the size department, but would help immediately in the speed department. The Colts struggled to guard small, fast receivers last season, and Jackson would help greatly in that department. The Colts already have a capable slot corner in Nate Hairston, so they would likely relegate Jackson to the outside. His speed and athleticism could allow him to succeed there in the NFL, but he would need to add muscle to better play the position. The Colts could grab Jackson with one of their three second round selections.
Jackson has quite a few flaws that will hold him back early in his career in the instincts and size department. But, Jackson has rare speed, quickness and athleticism that NFL teams covet so greatly in defensive backs. The ability to not need help over the top allows defensive coordinators to do so much with their backside coverage, improving their defense as a whole. Jackson’s elite traits could allow him to go as early as late round one; he will find a spot as an early nickel corner on some team, and a potential eventual outside corner in the future.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.