Coming into the 2018 NFL draft, some of the biggest needs the Oakland Raiders must address are on defense. More specifically, however, it’s the holes in the secondary that need immediate attention.
Oakland has since cut cornerback David Amerson and fellow corner Sean Smith is still dealing with legal troubles and T.J. Carrie is currently listed as a free agent. The Raiders have loads of untapped potential in last year’s rookie Gareon Conley but after an injury-plagued season, there is no question he needs a consistent running mate moving forward. Enter, Josh Jackson.
The former Iowa Hawkeye standout has the necessary skills to provide an immediate lift to a secondary that ranked No. 24 in passing yards allowed last season. Much to the dismay of Raider Nation, Oakland’s defense couldn’t manage a single interception till a Week 12 matchup versus the Paxton Lynch led Broncos.
Jackson, however, has excellent ball skills as he tallied 27 passes defended and nabbed eight interceptions in his junior season. Jackson stands in at 6-foot-1 and has long arms to help get his hands on most passes thrown in his direction. Opposing passers completed a mere 41.3 percent of passes when throwing towards Jackson and he was able to make a play on the ball on 25.7 percent of his targets per NFL.com.
One of Jackson’s strong suits is the ability to high point the ball and win 50/50 balls. A trait Oakland could garner from as the team deals with a myriad of talented receiving threats in the AFC West. When it comes to the big stage, that is where Jackson shines. In Iowa’s upset victory over Ohio State, Jackson was a vacuum for the football as he intercepted three passes and returned two for touchdowns. Jackson’s coverage skills were on full display throughout the season and after Week 4, he didn’t allow a single touchdown, effectively shutting down one side of the field.
On the flip side for Jackson, he does possess weaknesses as well. Although one of his strengths is his aggressiveness and anticipation, Jackson can rely too heavily on his instinctive play and be fooled by route fakes at the line of scrimmage. There is also concerns with the inexperience of Jackson as he only has 14 career starts for the Hawkeyes.
Ultimately, if Jackson is available when the Raiders are on the clock in the first round, general manager Reggie McKenzie should be taking a long look at this stud corner from Iowa. Jackson may not be the most polished cornerback, albeit he has the size and length that NFL defensive coordinators drool over and opposing quarterbacks have nightmares about. Pairing Josh Jackson with Gareon Conley would create an exciting young cornerback duo that Raider Nation has been longing to see.