Josh Jackson's ball skills were too good for Packers to turn down
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers have built quite the pipeline from the University of Iowa.
They hope to have pulled out another winning draft pick from the Hawkeyes after selecting cornerback Josh Jackson in the second round with the 45th overall pick Friday night.
Jackson joins Micah Hyde (159th pick in 2013), Mike Daniels (132nd in 2012) and Bryan Bulaga (23rd in 2010) as recent Green Bay draft choices out of Iowa.
"Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde have been in contact," Jackson said. "I know those guys played there. I know those guys have a great work ethic and, coming from Iowa I also have a great work ethic. So I just plan to come in and work as hard as I can."
Jackson is unusual because he was a late bloomer in Iowa City.
He was recruited by Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz as a wide receiver out of Lake Dallas (Texas) High School. He redshirted in 2014 and then was switched to cornerback in the spring before the 2015 season.
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Over the next few seasons he played mostly as a backup, making only one start.
He played in 14 games in 2015, making eight tackles and breaking up two passes.
Jackson had 10 tackles and four passes defensed in 2016.
So almost nobody was anticipating an All-American season in Jackson's junior season last year.
"If you are familiar with Iowa football, that's how they do it there," Packers scout Alonzo Dotson said. "They bring those guys up through the ranks and they do it the right way as far as who is going to play."
Jackson led the nation with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed in 2017. Those eight picks also tied a school record. Five of them came in a two-game binge against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Against the Badgers on Nov. 11, Jackson returned both of his picks for touchdowns of 52 and 43 yards.
"A whole bunch of film study. A whole bunch of hard work," Jackson said about his big season. "Just prepare yourself for the opponent."
Jackson's coverage skills and Iowa pedigree make him a natural comparison with Hyde.
Hyde was the 2012 Big Ten defensive back of the year. He had a 40 time of 4.57, vertical jump of 33½, broad jump of 10-1 and 12 reps on the bench. His arms were 31½ inches and his hands were 9 3/8.
Jackson's numbers are 4.56 in the 40, 38 vertical, 10-3 broad jump and 18 reps on the bench. His arms measure 31⅛ and hands 9 3/8.
"Definitely the wherewithal to get that ball. Ball skills," Dotson said when asked to compare Jackson and Hyde. "I thought Micah did a great job tracking, that center-field type. Josh has the same skills; just so smart."
Jackson's football IQ was often cited in the pre-draft process.
"(It's) just a whole bunch of preparation, a whole bunch of focus," he said "Just working hard in practice. Not taking reps off."
Jackson's eye-popping numbers in his junior season had some NFL draft observers debating if he was a first-round talent or a one-season wonder.
The Packers thought the ball skills were too good to turn down.
"Uncanny ability to get out of those breaks and play down the field," Dotson said.
Dotson added that the team wasn't worried about Jackson's tackling ability.
"You might want to get on him because he's a leaner-built kid," Dotson said. "But the will and want-to to get players down is there."
Jackson was happy he landed with the Packers.
"It's a great organization, great defensive minds, great offensive minds," Jackson said.
He joins first-round pick Jaire Alexander (18th overall) to help infuse the Packers' secondary with some youth.
In fact, Jackson said the two newest Packers are friends.
He thinks the young cornerbacks' skills will complement each other.
"Great things, man," Jackson said. "We both have a great hunger inside of us."
JOSH JACKSON FILE
Position: Cornerback. School: Iowa. Pick: Round 2, 45 overall.
Height: 6-1. Weight: 196. Age: 22. Hometown: Corinth, Texas.
Lowdown: Jackson was a ballhawk for the Hawkeyes who led the nation with eight interceptions last season. He also was tops in the country with 26 passes defensed. Two of those interceptions came against the Wisconsin Badgers and both were returned for touchdowns in the Badgers' 38-14 victory Nov. 11. Jackson also had three interceptions in an upset win over Ohio State. His long arms (31 1/8 inches) help with his ball skills. At 6-0 3/8, 196 pounds, Jackson also has the size to joust with receivers at the line of scrimmage. However, a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash raised questions about how his speed would translate to the NFL. "Strong, smart and can jam you at the line of scrimmage with those long arms," Packers scout Alonzo Dotson said of Jackson. He came to Iowa as a wide receiver out of Lake Dallas (Texas) High School and redshirted in 2014. He moved from receiver to cornerback in the spring before the 2015 season. "It was the best thing for me. I thought I would be a better corner," Jackson said. Jackson was a backup for two seasons before his breakout season last year. He also finished 2017 with with 48 tackles, a forced fumble, and a blocked kick. He had a 38-inch vertical leap and put up 18 reps on the bench press. (Draft data via NFL.com).