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2019 Miami Hurricanes NFL Evaluation Profile: CB Michael Jackson Sr.

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The gradual progression continues for a promising Canes DB

NCAA Football: Miami at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Jackson Sr. — The Birmingham, Alabama, native — has become accustomed to the references to the legend who shares the same name. Known more for his backpedal than his moonwalk, the Mike Jackson who spent the past four seasons at the University of Miami will attempt to carve out his own legacy. A six-foot corner that possesses ideal size and strength to match up with receivers of all sizes, Jackson has the traits of a coveted prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.

In 2018, MJ decided to return for his senior year with the Canes. While his senior year lacked the sizzle he cooked up after his junior season, MJ continued to illustrate the elevation of his game to help establish the Hurricanes as one of the premier defensive units last year. A physical defender that will scream into the backfield on runs, defensive coordinator — and current head coach — Manny Diaz had no reservations of sending Jackson on a blitz. But as a cornerback, you’ll ultimately be judged on how well you hold up in coverage.

At State of the U, we reviewed three games and some highlights from the final two seasons of Michael Jackson Sr.’s career at Miami. Here is what we discovered.

Film Watched:

Miami vs LSU (2018)

Notre Dame vs Miami (2017)

Michael Jackson Sr. highlights (2017 and 2018)

Wisconsin vs Miami (2017)

Strengths

  • A sound tackler that — at the very least — is able to make the tackle in open space. A cornerback that can make the tackle is invaluable at the pro level.
  • Does his best work trailing the receiver. Is able to use his length to position himself between the ball and its intended target.
  • Vision into the backfield allows him to make a play on the ball.
  • Fundamental tackler when the ball is in the air.
  • Great awareness to be able to keep his vision after the snap on the receiver and move his head around to locate the ball in man coverage.
  • Has experience blitzing from both outside and the slot corner. He’s a versatile pass rusher.
  • Limits the space between receiver and himself with the ball is in the air. On 50/50 jump balls, it’s rare to see MJ get beat for a reception.
  • Hand check down the field is very good. Is able to steer the receiver and avoids penalties.
  • Has the size and traits to become a safety at the next level.
  • Keeps outside leverage on run plays, using his big frame to create seperation from the blocker while using his free side to close in on the ball carrier.
  • Covered tight ends and wide receivers in the slot. Strong arms tight out of the slot. Using his arm length, Jackson throws the TE off his route, jamming up his release.
  • In press man coverage (Wisconsin) is able to force WR towards the middle of the field, ultimately taking him away as a viable option.

Weaknesses

  • Did not have an interception in 2018 after gaining four in the 2017 season. Calls into question of whether ‘17 was just good fortune or skill.
  • Throws his hands late in his press technique. Experienced WRs will use that to their advantage at the next level.
  • Struggles against redirection, especially when off the line of scrimmage. Susceptible to double-moves.
  • Susceptible to giving up big plays in zone coverage. An example of this would be in the 2017 game against Notre Dame. Lost the ND WR who found the weak spot in the zone coverage for the reception.
  • Pursuit on run plays in the middle of the field is somewhat painful.

If we take Jackson at face value, his look and highlights alone make him a first-round prospect. After digging into game tapes, you realize that — like any prospect — MJ has questions surrounding his game. Although he excelled in coverage in 2017, there were lapses in 2018, such as struggling in coverage against run-oriented Georgia Tech. In the Canes’ mid-season losing stretch, Jackson appeared to be off his game. Credited with six pass breakups in 2018, Jackson still placed himself in position to make a play on the ball. However, not being able to come away with a single interception is an odd occurrence.

For teams interested in Michael Jackson Sr., the question comes down to who they think the real man is the mirror is — sorry, couldn’t help it. MJ is a playmaking cover-corner that thrived in both man and zone coverage. Or is MJ a good cover corner who benefited from being surrounded by a talented cast on defense? The truth may lie somewhere in between. Given his humble beginnings with the Canes as a special team contributor, and then gradually working his way up the defensive back depth chart, Jackson’s fortitude and work ethic can hardly be criticized entering the next chapter of his career.

Given what he’s accomplished as a Hurricane, we and the rest of the NFL shouldn’t count him out as contributor to a winning culture.

What the Experts Have to Say

Jackson offers a good mix of length and speed with adequate instincts for the position, but savvy route runners will get him off balance. While he flashes an aggressive nature in run support, he needs to show better restraint in coverage. Overall, Jackson is a big framed cornerback with terrific straight-line speed and toughness, but his average twitch and discipline are concerns, projecting best in a zone or cover-2 scheme.

Round Projection: 5th round

Dane Brugler — The Athletic

Jackson allowed completions on 25-of-49 targets for 325 yards, 13 first downs and a touchdown in 2018, earning a 70.5 coverage grade in the process.

Pro Football Focus

Jackson looks the part with his excellent size and 4.45 speed, but his lack of coverage instincts and awareness in-phase are poor enough that teams could decide he’s either no more than a depth cornerback or a potential target for a position change to safety. He’s worth a flier since height and speed can’t be coached.

Round Projection — 5th round

Matt MillerBleacher Report

Big, strong cornerback with the dimensions to get excited about, but a lack of cover traits could get him beat unless he finds the right scheme fit. Jackson’s length and strength will be appealing for cover-2 teams looking for a banger who can drop and use his size as a deterrent against touch throws. He has some ball skills when he’s in the neighborhood, but may not be in the neighborhood often enough to become an NFL starter. Teams could transition him to a safety spot early in his career.

Round Projection: 5th round

Lance Zierlein

I love Jackson’s flashes of ball skills, as well as his patience and strength in press at the line of scrimmage. Still, he’s not fluid or athletic enough to recover if he gives up separation early on, and hard-breaking routes will lose him at the next level. Jackson projects well as a press Cover 3 cornerback with the ability to disrupt at the line and challenge vertical throws with his length, leaping ability and ball skills in zone.

Round Projection: Early 4th round

Jon Ledyard — The Draft Network

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