As expected, the Colts continued to address the defense with their sixth-round pick, drafting Western Kentucky inside linebacker Andrew Jackson with pick No. 203.
Jackson was the first pick of the Colts draft that addresses the run game and fits in as depth in the Colts' inside linebacker unit. Inside linebacker is one area where the current depth is rather weak, and the position is one that I've targeted as a need since the season ended.
So how does Jackson specifically fit in with the current Colts team? Right into a perfectly formed gap.
Andrew Jackson is a 6'1", 254-pound inside linebacker who started 34 of 36 games during his final three years at Western Kentucky. His arms are shorter than ideal at 32.5", but that's not as much of a problem with inside linebackers as it is with other positions. His weight and thickness are the keys for him, as he's a stout, well-built linebacker who can attack the line of scrimmage and take on blockers.
Jackson was incredibly productive at Western Kentucky, although he did drop off a bit during his senior year. During his sophomore and junior years, he had 231 combined tackles and 34.5 tackles for a loss along with 5.5 sacks.
As far as his traits in the NFL go, Jackson will struggle in space, he's not a very fluid athlete and he can't be trusted in coverage for extensive snaps. But Jackson does project as an exceptional run defender. He attacks the line of scrimmage with a passion and has the frame and strength to do so. While Jackson is a bit slow in space, he has quickness in small spaces to move laterally and close off running lanes.
There's a bit of a maturity question with Jackson. He was suspended for a game against Georgia State during his senior year for not complying with team rules, per The Courier-Journal (subscription required), and he was arrested in high school on attempted burglary charges, per NFL.com.
The Colts needed an inside linebacker with Jackson's skill set. In the 3-4, the linebacker who attacks the line of scrimmage in run defense is often labeled as a "hammer." The Colts really didn't have a hammer on the roster outside of guys like Kelvin Sheppard and Mario Harvey, both of whom disappointed greatly in 2013.
With the importance of the passing game in today's NFL, Jackson isn't going to be a high-snap guy. His limitations in coverage will likely make him too much of a liability to consistently be on the field. But against run-heavy teams or in goal-line sets, Jackson has rotational value. Long term, Jackson could develop into a starter who leaves the field in nickel coverage.
Jackson does have the ability to blitz and showed a knack for reaching the backfield at Western Kentucky. That blitzing ability may offset his coverage limitations somewhat, although he will still likely be kept in a two-down role.
In the Indianapolis locker room, Jackson's character concerns are minimized. The linebackers alone will be a strong influence on Jackson, with Robert Mathis and D'Qwell Jackson leading the group.
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