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Kareem Jackson (Alabama)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 192 40 Time: 4.45
The former Crimson Tide corner is entering the draft prematurely, much to the chagrin of coach Nick Saban. Some would say Saban's objections stem from a true desire to see one of his defensemen grow as a player. I think he's just upset that he's losing two of the best cornerbacks in the NCAA: Jackson, and his fellow teammate Javier Arenas.
Jackson is a player who should do very well in the NFL. He excels at press man coverage and, among other things, has better ball skills than most of the cornerbacks in this year's class.
In his 40 games at Alabama, Jackson amassed 159 tackles, 34 defended passes, five interceptions, two blocked kicks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Jackson is very good at the line, using his hands and long arms to jam the wide out at the line and confuse the timing of the quarterback. Once the receiver gets off the line, he has the speed to stay close and get in between the ball and the player.
He has a tendency to get tripped up by double moves or smaller, quicker receivers. But his long legs give him an extra burst of speed to recover and close in on the route. Those long legs cause him to come off his backpedal a little high. But he does have fluid hip movement and a good understanding of how to be an effective man press cover corner.
In zone, Jackson has good and bad tendencies. He is a physical player who uses his hands often to redirect the route runner. But, if that isn't toned down, it can translate into unnecessary flags in the NFL.
He has good jumping ability. He can plant his foot and reach the ball at the highest point, a rare quality that will come in handy at the next level where receivers are bigger than ever.
He's well coached, taking flawless angles in open field and finding a way to worm his through larger defenders at the line and become effective against the run game. He sets the edge consistently and uses his speed to force the runner to the inside.
What makes Jackson special is his physicality in open field. He is an excellent wrap-up tackler who may struggle at times against bigger runners, but never shies away from the big hit.
The former Alabama defender has a future in the NFL if he takes the time to learn and holds true to the discipline he's received from Saban. When he applied for his draft grade from the NFL advisory committee, he never read it. He gave the unopened envelope to his coach to hold onto until the BCS Championship game was over.
Look for a team like the San Francisco to use one of their many mid-round picks to take a gamble on Jackson. They stand a chance to lose Dre Bly and Walt Harris. San Fran's defense is already steeped in veteran leadership, some youthful athleticism could be a breath of fresh air for a 49ers team looking to make a rise in 2010.