A 2012 three-star recruit, William Jackson III began his career at Trinity Valley Community College before transferring to Houston in 2013. He started 28 of 39 career games with the Cougars, missing this season’s game against Memphis with an MCL injury. Played for three different head coaches and two defensive coordinators in his three years with Houston. Primarily lined up as the boundary cornerback, however set a school-record with seven pass breakups against Temple; a game in which he was utilized as the field CB. Solid height and weight with an athletic frame and good athletic ability.
Estimated 40 Time: low 4.5s
In off coverage, Jackson displays good athletic ability by maintaining an angular body position throughout his backpedal before changing direction and exploding to the ball with an elite plant and drive.
Here’s a look at that athletic ability in action. Jackson gives a large cushion to the receiver at the top of the screen, but because of his tremendous awareness, play speed and change of direction skills, is able to make the stop before the WR can gain a single yard after the catch.
Solid mental processing allows Jackson to diagnose the pass/run and take the proper angles. In man coverage, he has a good ability to mirror the receiver from over the top or a semi-trail position, while leaving little room for the quarterback to place the football. In zone coverage, Jackson possesses very good awareness with the range and length to make a play on the ball. Elite ball skills as he tracks and creates turnovers as well as any college CB. He led the FBS with 23 pass breakups this season and also intercepted five passes.
How good are Jackson’s tracking skills? As you can see in the clip below from the Peach Bowl, he reads the route very quickly and turns to look for the ball much sooner than the wideout. The result is an interception.
He possesses the play strength to come down with contested passes, but also demonstrates solid competitive toughness by not giving up on plays when they don’t go his way.
Good football intelligence in the run game, he diagnoses the play quickly and takes the proper angles to protect the sideline and force the ball carrier inside. Displays the play strength to disengage from blocks before squaring up the running back. Physically tough, will lower his shoulder and punish the RB with a hard hit when given the opportunity.
Marginal play strength at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, failing to get his hands into the WR and disrupt the route. In man, whether in press or off coverage, he lacks the balance and instincts to defend double moves. Jackson attempts to aggressively jump the route on the first move and can’t gather himself quickly enough to recover.
The clip below is another example of Jackson’s aggressiveness getting the best of him. He lines up in press coverage, but bails at the snap. With a free release the receiver blows by Jackson and gets inside leverage. The ball is slightly under thrown, giving Jackson a chance to make a gain ground. Instead, his aggressiveness sends him out of control and he overruns the play.
In the open field, Jackson is only an adequate tackler. He too often goes for the highlight-reel hit rather than wrapping up and making a sure tackle.
Overall, William Jackson III is a starting cornerback in a Cover 2 defense in which he can win with his awareness, ball skills and ability to stuff the run. He’s not a CB who should be left on an island as a result of his struggles against double moves. Jackson certainly isn’t a first-round lock like Vernon Hargreaves III, Jalen Ramsey or Mackensie Alexander. With a clean medical report, Kendall Fuller should be a Round 1 pick as well. In what is a very deep pool of talented cornerbacks, it’s unlikely Jackson sneaks into round one. His tape depicts a second or third-round selection, with a solid Combine likely securing him a spot in round two.