The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2022 NFL draft.
The Green Bay Packers need to improve the depth behind pass-rushing duo Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Luckily for Brian Gutekunst and the Packers the 2022 NFL draft is rich on talent on the edge.
An edge rusher that the Packers could target early in the 2022 NFL Draft is Drake Jackson. The USC edge rusher checks in at No. 5 in the Unpacking Future Packers countdown.
A four-star recruit, Jackson burst onto the scene as a freshman. The California native recorded 11.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three pass deflections in 2019. In just six games in 2020, Jackson recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception.
In nine starts this past season Jackson recorded eight tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception.
Pro Football Focus on Jackson’s progression:
“Before his late-season injury, Jackson proved that he had taken a significant next step in his development. He improved his 66.6 pass-rushing grade as a sophomore to 87.7 in 2021. ”
At 6-3, 273 pounds with long arms (looks like Gumby), Jackson looks like a prototypical edge rusher. He has a quick first step with long strides that chew up grass and he has explosive upfield speed. He has the flexibility to dip and bend the edge. Jackson plays with a low pad level and natural balance to work through contact. Once he wins the corner he shows great closing burst to the quarterback. He’s able to open up inside rush lanes for himself by getting offensive tackles leaning to the outside.
“His bend and flexibility are undoubtedly his biggest strengths, ”PFF’s Anthony Treash said. “He has a nasty speed dip and ghost move because of it.”
From the Athletic’s Dane Brugler on Jackson’s ability as a pass-rusher:
“Although his initial step can be better, Jackson rushes with outstanding flexibility, length and arc acceleration along with the instincts to capture the corner or fire back inside.”
As a run defender, Jackson shows outstanding range. He’s a high effort player and that motor shows up with his ability to chase down ball carriers from the backside. Overall, Jackson has his inconsistencies as a run defender due to his play strength. A team will be drafting him for his pass-rushing chops and we’ll have to be patient, as he develops against the run.
Jackson is a fluid athlete and looks comfortable dropping into space. At USC’s pro day, Jackson posted a three-cone time of 7.09 and a short shuttle time of 4.28.
“Drake Jackson’s greatest strength is athleticism off of the edge when getting to the quarterback,” Evan Desai, the editor of Reign of Troy, said. “His athleticism allowed for Todd Orlando to send him into coverage, of course. Orlando sent him out way too much and didn’t let him do what he did best (pass rush of course), but it at least did show that he had athleticism to where he can be used in different roles like that situationally. ”
It’s worth noting that the Packers hosted Jackson on a pre-draft visit. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the visit.
Great fits for Packers at top need positions in 2022 NFL draft
Fit with the Packers
Jackson checks all the boxes. He’s a good athlete. He plays a premium position and he just turned 21 years old.
The USC edge rusher has all the tools and it would not be shocking to see Gutekunst take the talented edge rusher with the 28th overall pick. It’s more likely he goes day two, but Jackson screams Gutekunst first-round selection.
“He’s likely a designated pass-rusher to start, ”Treash said. “He never really grew as a run defender and had a lack of playmaking in that facet throughout his career. He still has high upside as a pass rusher because of his tools. ”
The Packers have their two starting outside linebackers in place with Gary and Smith. Now, Gutekunst needs to add quality depth behind that duo.
Adding Jackson would give Joe Barry an athletic and talented edge rusher with all the tools to be a game-changer at the next level. Jackson has the frame and flexibility to disrupt the pocket on Sundays.
“Jackson is a twitched-up speed rusher with the upside to be disruptive in the NFL if he can develop his play strength and hand/power moves without sacrificing athleticism. He has the upside of an impactful NFL starter but has work to do if he wants to reach that level. ”
If Jackson were to land in Green Bay he could serve as a designated pass-rusher during his rookie season. Given his age and skill-set, the USC edge rusher could be viewed as the future running mate for Gary.