The Iowa Hawkeyes have long been a factory for quality NFL offensive line play. From longtime starters like Brandon Scherff, Bryan Bulaga, and Marshal Yanda, to upstart blockers like Tristan Wirfs, the Hawkeyes continue to churn out talent. Can Iowa offensive tackle Alaric Jackson carry on the trend in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Alaric Jackson NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Iowa
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’5 5/8″
- Weight: 318 pounds
- Wingspan: 83″
- Arm: 32 1/2″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
Part of what makes Iowa’s offensive line development so impressive is the fact that they don’t always sign the top recruits. Wirfs and Scherff were both three-stars on ESPN’s board. Yanda was barely a Top-1,000 prospect. The same can be said for Alaric Jackson. He wasn’t a top recruit in his respective class, but he developed into one of the nation’s premier starters.
Jackson was a three-star recruit on 2016’s recruiting board. A product of Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan, Jackson attracted interest from a number of Big Ten schools. By the end of his recruiting cycle, Jackson had offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Purdue. However, an offer from Iowa presented the developmental opportunity Jackson had been seeking. He signed with the Hawkeyes, and enrolled later that year.
Alaric Jackson’s career as an Iowa offensive tackle
Entering a program with a rich repository of offensive line talent, Jackson knew he’d have to wait a bit to get his chance. The Detroit native redshirted his first season with the Hawkeyes. However, he didn’t wait much longer beyond that. Jackson started 11 games at left tackle in his redshirt freshman season, and was a first-team All-Freshman honoree in the Big Ten.
From there, Jackson would become a fixture on the left side of the line for the Hawkeyes. In 2018, the Iowa offensive tackle started 12 games on the left side, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Over the course of the 2019 season, Jackson started 10 games across from Tristan Wirfs, missing three due to injury. Nevertheless, he still took a place on the All-Big Ten second team.
Jackson’s final season with the Hawkeyes
After his 2019 campaign, Jackson contemplated entering the 2020 NFL Draft along with Wirfs. However, Jackson ultimately decided to stay in school, finish his degree, and give scouts one more season to analyze. The move paid off, as Jackson’s 2020 season was one of his best. He logged first-team All-Big Ten recognition for the first time in his career, and got past the 40-start mark, a testament to his longevity and experience.
After the season, Jackson announced his intentions to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. He also accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he’ll have a chance to separate himself, not just with his knowledge and experience, but with his physical traits as well.
Analyzing Alaric Jackson’s NFL Draft profile
The offensive tackle position has far more depth than offensive guard this year. However, there are a few tackle prospects who project well to the interior. Alaric Jackson is one of those players. Having said that, some think a move to the inside is necessary for Jackson. I don’t think it is necessarily required for him, but there is a lot of intrigue regarding that transition.
Let’s start with Jackson’s strengths because they’re fairly universal at both tackle and guard.
Jackson has a thick lower body, which generates solid explosiveness off the line. While he’s a bit choppy shuffling outside the pocket, he has enough lateral mobility to match most edge rushers. At the point of attack, Jackson is a strong, powerful blocker, and he also has a tangible mauler mentality.
Featured | Valdovinos’ 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
Jackson has an exciting combination of grip strength and leg drive as a run blocker. This allows him to escort defenders outside the hashes, and he occasionally puts them into the dirt as well.
Additionally, on top of his serviceable functional athleticism and natural power, Jackson also has exceptional awareness. In pass protection, he’s able to disengage quickly and take on two defenders in rapid succession. In his zone, he tunes in well to potential threats and reacts quickly to incoming blitzes.
He has the acute power to exert good amounts of power with quick extensions, and he can neutralize rushers with his grip strength. His strong base also helps him maintain good positioning when facing rushing threats from multiple angles.
What are the concerns with Jackson?
You may have noticed that Jackson’s length wasn’t mentioned in his strengths. That’s because Jackson is lacking in that department. The Iowa offensive tackle has a below-average wingspan for a blindside blocker. As strong as he is, his lack of length prevents him from exerting his power with maximum efficiency. Longer edge defenders can establish leverage against Jackson, and they also have a greater capacity for power transfer.
Jackson doesn’t have too many glaring flaws outside of his lack of length. His hands can be a bit faster and less winding on the outside, but he has a powerful linear strike. He also doesn’t play with excellent flexibility when absorbing an opponent’s power. Nevertheless, Jackson has enough athleticism and power to be a contributor on the line. However, if he wants to be a potential starter in the NFL, a transition to guard may be beneficial.
Jackson can still be good depth as a tackle. He put up a lot of quality tape at tackle in college, and his projected versatility gives him value no matter what. But in the NFL, edge rushers are longer and more explosive. The Iowa product could theoretically stay at tackle, but a move to guard would mitigate some of his length concerns, as well as his lack of elite athleticism. It would also fit his aggressive, heavy-handed play style, maximizing his displacement potential.
Alaric Jackson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Alaric Jackson is a relatively underrated offensive line prospect who has a lot of the necessary tools. His length is the one severe negative in his game. However, even besides that, he has the short-area movement skills and the natural power to be serviceable. Furthermore, he’d have increased potential at guard, where length isn’t as much of a trump card.
Jackson wouldn’t be the first Iowa offensive tackle to make that move. Marshal Yanda and Brandon Scherff are just a couple of Iowa linemen who switched to guard in the NFL, and they both benefitted tremendously. Jackson obviously isn’t quite at their caliber as a prospect. Nevertheless, he’s still a fairly solid athlete with the power, grip strength, and keen awareness to be a potential starter on the interior.
Where could Jackson make an early impact?
Overall, Jackson is an attractive prospect. He’s not necessarily a plug-and-play starter, but he has a lot of experience at tackle and a lot of upside at guard. That versatility gives him a ton of breathing room, in regards to fit. A team could draft him as quality depth at tackle, while also developing his skills as a guard.
In time, he could emerge as a starter on the interior. Round 4-5 is a solid range for him, but his upside at guard could move him up in this interior class, especially if he shines at the Senior Bowl. Teams with prevalent offensive line needs, like the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers, and Houston Texans could see the appeal in adding Jackson in the middle rounds.
Additionally, teams that need prospective starters at guard, like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams, could also benefit. Jackson’s best quality is his well-rounded profile as an offensive lineman. Teams can glean a lot of value from his skill set, and while he might not have the length to be a full-time tackle, there exists a role for him in the NFL.