Steelers Prospect Watch: William Jackson III

Could the Steelers target a corner early in the draft?

With free agency in full swing, the Steelers have begun to assemble their 2016 roster. Many teams have already shelled out millions in guaranteed money to players they think can lead them to a championship.

The Steelers, on the other hand, are busy bringing back their own talent from last season.  In the secondary, Willie Gay signed a 3 year $7.5 million contract earlier this week to remain in Pittsburgh.   Safety Robert Golden also was brought back on a three year deal.

But the Steelers are still left with holes in their secondary.  Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin remain unsigned while Cortez Allen could be released if he refuses to take a pay cut.

We have done profiles on some of the top corners in this year’s draft.  One name we have yet to mention is Houston cornerback William Jackson III.

Multiple draft sites and experts have Jackson going to the Steelers in the first round including CBS Sports and Mel Kiper.  And from what I’ve seen of Jackson, you can’t just help but fall in love with this kid for one reason: he’s a playmaker.

Jackson was the Defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl in Houston’s upset victory over Florida State.  He set a career-high in tackles that day with 10 and also added 2 picks and 2 passes defended in the win.  Breaking up passes became the star senior’s specialty in 2015.

After recording 17 break ups over his first two seasons, Jackson set the school record his senior year with 23, which led college football.  Jackson also picked off five passes in 2015, returning two of them for touchdowns.

His eye for the football is something secondary coaches covert in a player.  Jackson’s coverage skills and instincts also have coaches drooling.  He allowed only 40% of the passes thrown his way over the past 2 seasons.   In those seasons, he was named second team All-AAC.  

Even when he’s beat on a route, Jackson possesses great speed to catch back up with a receiver.  He ran a 4.37 in the 40 at last month’s combine, the third fastest time among cornerbacks.  Jackson has the speed to stay with the fastest receivers in the NFL, but he also has the size to compete with bigger receivers though he needs to be more physical at times.

This is especially true for Jackson in press coverage.  Going against those bigger receivers, he may get knocked around early in his NFL career.  Jackson should improve after his first couple of years in the league.

When the Steelers select at 25, Jackson will more than likely still be on the board unless he runs a faster 40 at his Pro Day.  A number of corners could go to the Steelers at this pick including Mackensie Alexander.  Mike Tomlin and other team officials personally interviewed the Clemson cornerback the day before his Pro Day.

But if the Steelers do go with Jackson on draft day, he has the potential to become a top cornerback in the league.