GREEN BAY – Patience has been a virtue for Josh Jackson throughout his football career, so why would the NFL Draft be any different?
The former two-star recruit, who waited three years for a place in Iowa’s starting secondary, sat through the entire first round and half of the second before finally hearing his name called inside AT&T Stadium Friday night.
Looking to remake their secondary under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Packers ended the 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback’s wait when they drafted Jackson with their second-round pick (45th overall).
Aware of the Packers’ apparent need at cornerback, Jackson wasn’t surprised when Green Bay called. He was just happy his long wait in the green room was over.
“I got drafted now so really my main focus is to come here, work hard and try to earn everything I work for,” Jackson said. “That’s the main thing I’m worried about. The round I was drafted doesn’t matter. Wherever I’m drafted, I’m happy and it’s a great opportunity. So I just want to come here and show what I’m worth. I know I can play ball. That’s the main goal for me.”
Coincidentally, Jackson is close friends with the other cornerback the Packers drafted, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, the 18th overall pick in the first round. The two met during the pre-draft process and even took a picture together during Thursday’s opening festivities.
View photos of Packers second round draft pick CB Josh Jackson at the 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas. Photos by AP and Perry Knotts, NFL.
Like Alexander, Jackson teased a move to receiver during spring football his redshirt freshman year before moving back to defensive back. Those ball skills were on display this past year when Jackson led the country with eight interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns against Wisconsin.
While considered one of the top cornerbacks in this year’s draft, Jackson only had 18 tackles and six breakups during his first two collegiate seasons.
After finally winning a starting job last spring, Jackson showed supreme playmaking characteristics in recording 34 tackles, 18 breakups and eight interceptions in 12 games as a junior.
Jackson split his time playing man and zone coverage with the Hawkeyes. Based on the film, the Packers feel he possesses the necessary physicality and toughness to be a press-man cornerback in Green Bay, with inside and outside versatility.
“Strong, smart, can get on people at the line of scrimmage with those long arms,” Packers college scout Alonzo Dotson said. “Has an uncanny ability to get out of those breaks and play down the field. So we really like what he can do with the press.”
Green Bay has a strong track record with recent Iowa draft picks. The Packers’ three most recent selections – Micah Hyde (2013), Mike Daniels (2012) and Bryan Bulaga (2010) – all blossomed into key contributors over the past decade.
Jackson said he talked to both Daniels and Hyde leading up to the draft. A former two-star recruit himself, Daniels was one of several Packers players to voice his approval on social media shortly after the Packers drafted Jackson.
Comparatively, Dotson believes Jackson possesses many of the same traits as Hyde when it comes to tracking the football and playing with instincts. Dotson quantified Jackson’s ability to produce out of zone and man coverage as “incredible.”
For Jackson, he credits his ball skills to film study, preparation and maintaining a chip on his shoulder at all times. As a one-year starter, Jackson believes he’s only scratching the surface of his talent.
“I know I can still improve,” Jackson said. “For me, the main thing was just making sure I’m getting my mental reps and learning while I’m working on the field. When I get on the field, I felt very prepared and I knew I was ready.”
A native of Corinth, Texas, Jackson had no desire to leave Dallas after not getting picked Thursday. Instead, he swapped out his suit and stuck around until the Packers called.
The story is reminiscent of second-year cornerback Kevin King, who stayed in Philadelphia for the second day of last year’s draft before the Packers selected him 33rd overall.
“I’m motivated in everything I do,” Jackson said. “I’m self-driven, I definitely want to come in to work hard and prove myself who I can be and prove it to everybody else.”