Teams are usually deep into their draft boards and scouting reports midway into Day 3 of the NFL Draft. While draft ‘‘steals'' are common, it's also a matter of luck. By the latter stages of the draft, franchises are just looking for special teams contributors and depth, small-school stars, or raw developmental projects.
The New Orleans Saints have had resounding success with this strategy. Over the last 16 years, the Saints have unearthed several stars in the fourth round or later.
New Orleans stars like Marques Colston, Zach Strief, Jahri Evans, Jermon Bushrod, Carl Nicks, David Onyemata, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson were overlooked by the entire league until the later rounds.
With their sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the 194th overall selection, the New Orleans Saints picked DT/DE Jordan Jackson out of the Air Force Academy.
New Orleans has always valued versatility in their defensive players. Let’s see how Jackson might fit into the Saints defensive scheme.
JORDAN JACKSON, DT
A graduate of Bolles High School in Jacksonville, FL., Jackson saw little action as a freshman at Air Force. He was not only a starter by 2018, but made a huge impact with 4.5 sacks and a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss. His statistics dipped a bit in 2019 (five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks), but was still good enough for honorable mention All-Mountain West honors.
After opting out of the 2020 season, Jackson took full advantage of his extra year of eligibility. His 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss earned him 2nd Team All-Conference accolades.
Jackson is the second highest NFL draftee in Air Force Academy history. He is the only player ever drafted by the Saints from any of the three military academies.
If he makes the team, Jackson will likely be allowed to defer his four-year military commitment and will serve in the Air Force reserves.
An explosive and versatile athlete, Jackson played multiple positions along the defensive front. As an interior defender, he can be vulnerable because of an upright style and struggles to set a strong base because of his lean lower body. He lacks counter moves as an edge rusher and needs to be more decisive on his initial rush.
Jackson has a terrific burst at the snap. That explosiveness allows him to slice through inside gaps or get a blocker on their heels along the edge. He has impressive lateral quickness and upper body movement, giving opposing blockers a difficult target.
Jackson's non-stop motor allows him to be a factor on several plays. His hustle and speed creates big plays and make him devastating in backside pursuit. Once disengaging from blockers, Jackson closes on the ball in a blink of an eye.
A raw project, Jackson has the skills to excel in a one-gap scheme like New Orleans, with some developmental traits as an outside rusher. With the Saints defensive line depth, he has a chance to be a situational player as he develops lower body strength. Jackson also showed the ability to block kicks in college, giving him added special teams value.
Little was known about David Onyemata when the Saints selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft from the University of Manitoba. Onyemata's athleticism and physical abilities quickly transformed him from a raw prospect into a defensive star.
Jordan Jackson possesses many of those same attributes. Perhaps enough to be the latest New Orleans late-round draft steal.