From a size, speed, position and program perspective, LSU defensive back Kary Vincent, Jr. and Colorado State wideout Warren Jackson could not be much different.
Over the weekend, however, they independently came to the same conclusion, however – that the COVID-19 pandemic is real and that rather than risk their own safety for amateur athletics they are opting out on playing college football in 2020 and instead taking their game directly to the NFL via the 2021 draft.
As a key member of the reigning national champion LSU Tigers, Jackson’s announcement is sure to draw more national attention than Jackson’s, though he is a star in his own right, ranking as the No. 1 NFL prospect by NFLDraftScout.com last week when the Mountain West Conference announced that it would be cancelling its fall football season.
That, of course, is not the case for the Southeastern Conference, with LSU tentatively scheduled to begin defending their title September 26, hosting Mississippi State, the conference announced Monday.
Besides their public announcements to forgo their remaining college eligibility, the duo share another trait sure to generate interest from the NFL – raw playmaking ability.
The 5-10, 189-pound Vincent started nine games at nickel cornerback and safety for LSU last year, finishing second on the team in interceptions (four) behind only Freshman All-American Derek Stingley, Jr. (six). Vincent’s eight pass breakups were third behind Stingley’s 15 and the 14 posted by Kristian Fulton, a second round pick by the Tennessee Titans this spring.
Vincent’s quickness, ballskills and willingness in run support could earn him looks at safety in the NFL. He led LSU’s cornerbacks (and ranked seventh overall for the Tigers) with 47 tackles on the year, including two for loss.
Vincent’s greatest attribute, however, is his straight-line speed. He not only was among the handful of fastest players on a speedy LSU squad, Vincent doubled in the spring the past three years as a track star, serving as the lead leg on a Tigers’ 4x100 meter relay that last year turned in a blistering 38.37-second time in the NCAA championships – the 14 fastest time in NCAA history.
Vincent’s explosive speed was just as impressive on his own. In 2018, he recorded a wind-aided 10.07-second time in the 100 meter dash – a time which projects even faster than the 4.27-second 40-yard dash posted at the 2020 NFL Combine by then-Alabama star and current Las Vegas Raider first round draft pick Henry Ruggs.
Vincent, in fact, has a real shot at challenging the 4.22-second mark posted by then-Washington wideout (and Cincinnati Bengals first round pick) John Ross, who, tragically is facing very real COVID concerns of his own with his three-year old son (and the child’s mother) testing positive for the virus last week.
While speed is certainly not a concern for either Ross or Vincent, it is a question certain to hound the 6-5, 219 pound Jackson, who earned First Team All-Mountain West Conference honors last year after catching 77 passes for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns.
Jackson has good build-up speed but lacks the explosive breakaway element some require outside. His great size and body control made him virtually unstoppable, at times, in the MWC and he showed an exciting ability to play well against top competition, as well, recording a combined three touchdowns in matchups against Alabama (2017) and Arkansas (2019) over his three-year career.
Vincent and Jackson make it eight prominent prospects who have opted out of the 2020 college football season with the publicly-stated intent of entering the 2021 NFL draft.
Unlike Vincent and some of the others on this list, Jackson's options were limited once the Mountain West opted out on the season. Many other players have looked into transferring elsewhere in the hopes of playing in 2020, however.
Ultimately, Jackson - and every other player facing a similar decision this fall - made the choice that he feels is best for him and his loved ones.
Though there has been some talk of delaying the draft should the ACC, Big 12 and SEC join the Big Ten and Pac-12 in pushing their seasons to the spring, it is currently scheduled to take place April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.