With the No. 24 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Houston cornerback William Jackson.
With most of the top receivers off the board, the Bengals turn to another need and draft Jackson, a natural press boundary cornerback with the tools and skills to stand up to the fastest and most physical receivers in the league over time. Last season, he put up 34 solo tackles, five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 23 pass deflections to lead the nation in that category. He’s a do-it-all player at a key position, though he’ll have to get more efficient with his feet to avoid getting turned completely around by more savvy NFL receivers.
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Strengths: Has allowed 40% of his passes thrown to him to be completed over the last two seasons. Good-sized cornerback who plays bigger—Jackson brings an aggressive mentality to press coverage. Has the agility to turn the corner, pinning outside receivers to the boundary with inside position. Has the coverage chops to seamlessly send his aligning receiver into zone coverage while tightly covering his assigned receiver. Closes quickly with excellent recovery speed on targets running routes with quick back-end angles like curls and comebacks. Has an even stride to the seam on deeper routes. Mirrors to the corners of routes very well; has the consistent ability to track receivers at all levels. Shows a consistent ability to play bail and off coverage, closing in zone spaces. Attacks the ball with good timing and aggression—a primary reason for his high interception and deflection totals. Keeps his eye in the air on deep timing passes and has the mentality that the ball belongs to him. Good vertical and long arms give him an impressive catch radius. Good wrap tackler when he isn’t going for the kill shot. Showed good improvement in footwork and spatial awareness from year to year.
Weaknesses: Back-end speed is questionable, as he’s not a center fielder and can be outrun deep. Jackson could stand to be more efficient with his feet and overall positioning, and he can get turned around by quicker slot receivers and put out of place in open spaces. Needs to be less high in his stance at times to avoid losing ground against faster receivers running more complex route concepts. Less flexible in his hips than is expected from a top-level cornerback, he tends to flip to cover with athleticism instead. Could find himself out-muscled by bigger receivers when pressing at the NFL level. Not a blitzer or a run support asset at a high enough level. Needs to be more aware of screens and short passes. Can get too handsy at times, leading to penalties. Needs to be an outside corner at this point, since he isn’t tight enough in the slot to break into the lineup that way.