Ex-Hawkeye Jackson has just one question to answer at NFL Combine: How fast is he?
INDIANAPOLIS — Josh Jackson wasn’t buying the premise of the question he was asked Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Would a 40-yard dash time in excess of 4.5 seconds be damaging for the former Iowa cornerback?
“I’m aiming for 4.4, so I hope not to run a 4.5,” Jackson said, as if the matter was already settled.
It will actually be settled Monday morning at Lucas Oil Stadium. Speed is the only remaining question Jackson face, after his lone year as a Hawkeye starter resulted in eight interceptions, 18 pass breakups and unanimous all-American honors.
It’s also unanimous that he has the best ball skills of any cornerback in the 2018 draft. He projects as one of four corners likely to be chosen in the first round of next month’s NFL Draft.
There’s really only one question surrounding Jackson.
“He’s got to run fast. And that’s the concern there,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Jackson. “He’s a long press corner, but he’s at his best when he has his eye on the QB — when he can jump and be instinctive and go get the football.
“If he goes out and runs a 4.5 plus or minus, I think that’s a good time for him. … If he runs a 4.58, it’s a different conversation.”
The magic number for Jackson seems to be 4.5. At a sturdy 6 feet, 3/8 inches, 196 pounds, Jackson has great size for his position. The former high school high jumper can leap with anybody.
Jackson said he expects to perform well in all other drills Monday. He got a start Sunday by bench-pressing 225 pounds 18 times.
“I need a good run,” Jackson said, later denying that it was a make-or-break test for him.
“I wouldn’t look at it that way. That’s why I’m working hard for this. I want to be able to come out and just run fast,” he said.
The bench press number revealed Jackson’s upper-body strength, a trait he said he’s always possessed. He thinks that will help convince NFL teams he can play in press, man-to-man coverage and not just the zone scheme he primarily was in at Iowa.
“Being able to get your hands on and reroute receivers, it’s always good to be strong,” he said. “(NFL teams) want to see me just become a better man-to-man corner, get more hands-on and just improve my tackling.”
Jackson has been in high demand this weekend in Indianapolis. He had formal interviews with 14 teams already by the time he spoke to reporters late Sunday afternoon. He had 12 more scheduled for later that evening.
“I want to be able to show them I’m knowledgeable and that I know what I’m talking about in the film room,” Jackson said of those meetings. “I have the athletic ability, but I want to show off that I’m smart on the football field as well.”
Jackson was asked if he is the best cornerback prospect in the draft. (Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is considered his biggest competition.)
“I believe so,” Jackson replied.
“Whatever team I go to, they’re going to be able to rely on me to be accountable. I’m a playmaker.”
It’s time for him to make one more big play Monday.