There are several traits that an interior lineman must possess. They have to be tough as nails, given that they’re in the trenches on every play. In addition to their toughness, they have to display a level of quickness out of their stance. They have to be in sync with the quarterback. Drake Jackson, a four-year starter for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, is an interior lineman that possesses all of the above traits.
In this summer scouting profile, we’ll take a look at how Drake Jackson got to this point, as well as breaking down some film on how his abilities will translate into the NFL. Finally, we’ll look at some of his competition in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Drake Jackson was considered to be a top high school prospect out of the state of Kentucky. Jackson was a consensus four-star recruit according to 24/7 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. 24/7 Sports had Drake Jackson listed as the 2nd best center, as well as the 2nd best overall in Kentucky. Drake Jackson was a U.S. Army All-American out of high school. Additionally, he was a two-time first-team all-state selection by the Courier-Journal and the Associated Press. His father played college football at Purdue, while his brother Dane is a center at North Texas.
Prior to selecting Kentucky, Drake Jackson had offers from the University of Florida, Ohio State University, and the University of Alabama. Jackson enrolled in January of 2016, as he graduated from high school a semester early. 2016 saw Drake Jackson taking a redshirt for the Kentucky Wildcats.
In 2017, Drake Jackson appeared in ten games for Kentucky, starting the final seven after an injury to the starting center. In 2017 and 2018, Behind Jackson, Benny Snell Jr. was able to earn All-SEC honors and two consecutive 1,000 rush yard seasons.
As we rolled into 2019, Drake Jackson was a First-Team All-SEC according to the Associated Press and Athlon for the Kentucky Wildcats. Additionally, Pro Football Focus had him on their second-team. Jackson was also named to the Rimington Trophy watch list. In 845 snaps in 2019, Jackson only allowed one sack.
This season, Drake Jackson has been named a Preseason All-American according to Athlon Sports, as well as being added to the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List.
What I Like About Drake Jackson
It’s time to get to the nitty-gritty as we finally get to breakdown some film on Jackson. I’ve included three clips that I feel best highlight what Drake Jackson does best for the University of Kentucky. For the first game, we’ll stay home as the wildcats host the University of Florida.
Quickness Out Of Stance
I really like what Drake Jackson does on this play. He explodes out of his stance and is asked to drive through two defenders. As you can see, he’s able to do so with ease. Had this run not bounced outside, there was plenty of room to run through the middle as Jackson created a heck of a lane.
Below, Drake Jackson is on an island tasked with blocking two defenders on this quarterback run. Had Lynn Bowden Jr., the quarterback, decided to remain in the pocket, I’m confident that Jackson would have been able to hold his own and cover the right side of the pocket.
Driving Through Defenders
While the end result isn’t what Kentucky wanted to see, they have to be pleased with Drake Jackson’s effort. He pops out of his stance quickly and attacks the interior defensive lineman. He’s able to establish leverage quickly and create enough room for the quarterback to run through.
What I Dislike About Drake Jackson
As with all of my scouting profiles, I like to highlight some areas that need improvement. Down below, I’ve attached two clips that I feel best do so with Drake Jackson. Once again, we’re at home here as the Wildcats host the Gators.
Short Yardage Situations
As is often said, football is a game of inches. In this short yardage situation, Drake Jackson has to deliver a solid hit and create a lane for the running back. Unfortunately, he fails to do so. His initial hit misses the target as the defensive tackle falls across the middle and ends and chance the Wildcats had of running this ball for a first down.
Aggressive Use Of Hands
As I watched Drake Jackson, I really wanted to see him use his hands more aggressively. Below, an initial punch to stun the defender would have given him the opportunity to keep the defender in front of him. Instead, the Kentucky offensive line is overwhelmed and the quarterback is taken down for a loss.
Drake Jackson has been a three-year starter for the Kentucky Wildcats, and an extremely consistent one at that. However, I just don’t see a pathway that gets him into the first round. In my opinion, I just don’t see a way that he competes with Creed Humphrey from Oklahoma or a pair of Ohio State interior offensive linemen in Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers.
Rather, I feel like Jackson’s strongest competition lies within his own conference. Trey Smith and Deonte Brown, from Tennessee and Alabama, are right there with Drake Jackson. However, with a strong showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and/or the NFL Combine, we could potentially see Drake Jackson sneak into the second round.
To close out this scouting profile, Drake Jackson is an intelligent center that plays with a level of toughness that NFL scouts will love. In addition, he hasn’t missed any time due to injuries, which will also stand out in his scouting report.
Jackson does well in most situations, such as run blocking and pass protection. However, he must improve in short yardage situations. Drake Jackson displays the ability to drive and steer through defenders to create space, but a more aggressive use of hands would make his job much easier. Nonetheless, Drake Jackson is the type of 2021 NFL Draft prospect that teams will love to build around.