RB Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers
Leaving Northwestern as one of the most productive running backs in college football history, Justin Jackson now enters the NFL with a chip on his shoulder due to his late seventh round selection. Through four years, Jackson totaled an eye-popping 5,440 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns with an extra 858 yards in receiving. Jackson played a huge role in the Wildcat offense all four seasons, so consider the college production box checked. At the combine, Jackson showed well with an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump and 6.81-second three-cone drill. He is not physically overpowering or blazing past defenders, but Jackson is talented enough to be a viable contributor and make a significant impact for his team.
The Scout’s Notes
Jackson is a little light at 6’0” 199 pounds but does not ever run over defenders regardless. He shows a quick burst after the handoff and does a great job of quickly finding his running lanes. He avoids contact well with a variety of agility moves. He uses cuts, jump-cuts, and spin moves to elude closing tacklers and stay on his feet. Jackson is a twitchy runner who is comfortable between the tackles as well as bouncing the ball outside. Though he shows several positive traits, Jackson does have a few question marks heading into the NFL. He struggles to run through contact, often being taken down on first contact. Jackson needs to learn to become more patient in finding holes instead of taking the handoff and not taking time to analyze the defense. Despite having good burst, Jackson’s long speed is not great, and he is often chased down by defensive backs should he initially get by them. These concerns will somewhat cap his ceiling as an NFL running back but will not completely stop him from contributing.
Jackson was taken at the end of the seventh round by the Chargers, who already have an established runner in Melvin Gordon but nothing else behind him. Austin Ekeler jumped in and looked decent in a complementary role before becoming injured. Though he showed well in the few games he played, Ekeler is not the solution behind stud runner Melvin Gordon. Jackson will step in and immediately be the change-of-pace runner and occasional pass catcher. Barring an injury in front of him, Jackson is locked in to a backup role and will be for the entirety of his career. He will be a decent stash for dynasty teams and will have value as a handcuff to Gordon owners. Consider him a value play in the fourth round of rookie drafts with trade potential down the road.
The play beginning at 1:49 shows Jackson lining up on the quarterback’s right hip. The ball is snapped and a sweep, power concept is in motion. Jackson carries the ball behind the line, sees an opportunity to cut up the field, and uses two separate cuts to make his way past the first down marker. This is the element Jackson will bring to the Charger offense and will make him a viable backup running back for both the Chargers and all dynasty teams.
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