One of the problems I have with how people receive mock drafts is that they take them too seriously. After reading five different unqualified mock drafts from their google searches, people believe they have a general idea about where corners should go and who should be taken in what spot ahead of which player.
I'm not saying mock drafts should be banned or that one should discontinue seeking them out. What I am saying, however, is that people need to keep perspective with these things. Just because a couple people who use other mock drafts and so-called analysts to model their own say Kareem Jackson is a second round pick does not mean Kareem Jackson is a second round pick. It means some people think he is.
It's very easy to throw out the phrase "In Smithiak We Trust" and attempt to use that to justify the reasoning behind a Texans draft pick these days. It's easy, because well, it's true. We hated the Cushing pick because we felt like Clay Matthews was better; that's what the mock drafts and analysts told us. They told us he was more fluid, a better fit for a system, a more natural football player. Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak believed otherwise, and they were right. They have a magnificent track record with draft picks, aside from a few missteps here and there, and that point has been stressed around here for a while now.
After reading through many of the comments on the official pick thread, I get the feeling that a large majority of the BRB faithful are upset with the choice to take Jackson over Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty. I get it. Kyle Wilson was projected higher in nearly every single mock draft. The same goes for McCourty. It is no coincidence that those two players were the most coveted by us here versus a guy who was projected by some to go in the second round. That is irrelevant though, because the guys up front who spent two months researching day in and day out believed Jackson was a better fit for the team than either of those two players (or anyone else still on the board at that point). That is the ultimate indicator of whether or not this was a good pick as we analyze it for the time being (obviously, the actual playing will be the only indicator as time moves on).
No, we as fans should not put blind faith in every single decision made by management. That isn't my point either. There does, however, have to be more trust than I feel we showed through comments last night (forgive me if I'm looking too much into that, but with comments like "WHAT A F****** REACH" summing up the general vibe of the posts, I feel it's a point that needs to be stressed once more). Smith and Kubiak know what they're doing. They have made mistakes, but the large majority of their decisions have been solid to great. We should give them the benefit of the doubt and not be quick to label the pick as a reach or a mistake based on others available at the time. Simply put, we do not know nearly as much about any player in the entire NFL draft than those two and the rest of the Texans front office.
End of rant and more on the actual pick itself after the jump.
I've read a lot of great things about Kareem Jackson after tonight's research. First let's get a quick recap on his career at Alabama courtesy of CBS sports.
Jackson played in every game -- 41 career games -- during his three seasons at Alabama and started 40 contests, registering 159 tackles (106 solo) with eight stops for losses of 24 yards … Deflected 29 passes and intercepted five others for 164 yards (32.80-yard average) … His 29 pass deflections rank fourth on Alabama's all-time record list behind only John Mangum (47, 1985-88), Fernando Bryant (31, 1995-98) and Jeremiah Castille (1979-82) … Deflected 13 passes in 2009 to rank seventh on the school's single-season record list behind John Mangum (24, 1989), Efrum Thomas (19, 1989), Marquis Johnson (17, 2009), Milo Lewis (16, 1999), Fernando Bryant (14, 1996) and Charlie Peprah (14, 2003) … Forced one fumble and recovered another for minus-9 yards … Added one quarterback hurry and two blocked kicks … Returned one punt for eight yards.
The thing that jumps out of that sparkling career recap is that he started 40 of 41 games at Alabama. Keep in mind, that means from the outset, as a freshman, Jackson started for one of the nation's best defenses. In fact, this past season, the Crimson Tide defense ranked second in the league in pass defense efficiency. Is it a surprise that Jackson was the #1 corner for Nick Saban's awesome defense? Not really. His track record seems to me to stand out more than anything else I've read about him so far. It simply can't be ignored.
Another word I keep seeing being tossed around with Jackson's name is "underrated". SI, ESPN, and others believe that he's overshadowed by other "big-named" corners like Wilson, but is arguably the most consistent corner in the draft. "NFL-ready" is another phrase that pops out at you. Does he have the interception stats Wilson does? No. But does Wilson have the pedigree of overseeing the nation's second-best defense as Jackson does? The WAC can't even be mentioned in the same breath as the SEC. Level of competition may seem small, but lining up and holding your own against the best players in the nation versus beating up on sub-par players can mean a lot come training camp. Jackson, to me, clearly is more ready to step in either opposite or in front of Glover Quin than Kyle Wilson or McCourty would have been, which is important when you consider the short-term goal of making the playoffs for the Texans versus building up uber-talented but arguably raw players. Consider also that Jackson comes from Saban's defense, which runs very similar to that of the Texans and we have ourselves a winner.
Unfortunately, Texans fans know the horrors of Frank Bush' semi-zone, semi man-to-man scheme. Though we wish the pain would end, it probably won't any time soon. With that being said, the corner drafted had to be solid at zone reads. Jackson clearly excels in that department. Here's some quotes from various sites summing up his zone potential.
Zone coverage: Although Jackson was used in man coverage a lot, he may be better as a zone cornerback. Jackson's anticipation skills are very good and he reads the opposing quarterback really well. Locates the ball quickly once it's in the air. Uses his physicality nicely in zone to move the receiver to make a play on the ball. - Mocking The Draft
Zone Coverage: Good awareness for zone coverage. A bit high in his backpedal and has some stiffness in his hips, but trusts his eyes and locates the football quickly. Savvy, physical player. Likes to use his hands to re-route the receiver. Has quick feet and a good burst out of his breaks to close. - CBS
I like what I see. From what I've come across he has great instinct and makes solid reads, which is a must in that horrid scheme Bush trots out there on a weekly basis.
Another must for Texans draft evaluators is the ability to help out with run support. The front office loves its players to be versatile. There are varying reports on Jackson's ability to do that. Here's some more thoughts from others.
Tackling/Run Support: More of a leg tackler, but does show he has the skills to wrap up and drag down. Plays stronger than he probably is. Struggles to shed blockers to help support in run coverage. Tries to be too flashy instead of being sound. - Mocking The Draft
Cons: Fails to wrap up but gets ball carrier to ground more times than not. Can get caught trying to make a play on the ball when should wrap receiver up for short gain but rarely. Takes too long to shed blocks. - Scouts Inc. (h/t goingforthecorner)
It sounds like he's not quite there yet in that aspect of his game, but the good thing is that reports of his physicality and strong hitting power are abundant. Jackson's definitely got the attributes to be a strong supporter in the run game, but that's something Bush will have to work on if he is to truly develop into the all-around corner the Texans covet.
Those are the main concerns with corners from the Texans' standpoint, but for your reading enjoyment, here is more analysis on Jackson from Sports Illustrated and WalterFootball. All seem to believe that he's a rock solid, consistent corner that can develop into a day 1 starter, i.e., just what the Texans need.
One thing I think we can all appreciate as fans is a players general love for the game of football. We saw it in Cushing on almost every play and we're going to see it with Jackson. Take this tidbit from CBS:
Intangibles: Highly competitive player that puts in time in the film room. Asked for his grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, but didn't read it upon receiving it. Jackson gave the unopened envelope to Nick Saban to hold until after the BCS National Championship game so that the contents wouldn't be a distraction.
Sweetness. He loves to play more than anything else. WalterFootball describes him as highly competitive. Wilson, McCourty, and Jackson are all players with similar talent levels. They can all either develop into great players or turn into Travis Johnsons. The thing that separates talented players is commitment and willingness to listen and improve. For three years Jackson did that in one of the toughest atmospheres and on one of the best defenses in the league. Wilson and McCourty can't say that for themselves because they weren't put through the same tests. Who knows, they could very well both end up being better than Jackson down the line. Any draftee has the potential to be better than him, but consistency is the key. With Jackson, there is a very, very low chance at a bust rate, with a high possibility of success (he was only a junior).
With the playoffs just around the corner, the Texans are in a position in which Jackson is exactly what they need. They don't need a raw guy with little pro-type experience that needs half a year to develop into a starting caliber player. They need someone who can provide solid coverage from day one. Jackson is that player. If Smithiak belives it, so do I.