In terms of non-Power 5 NFL pipelines, Colorado State has been relatively unheralded despite the talent that comes through Fort Collins. Clark Haggans, Mike Bell, Al Baker, and Joey Porter were guys that shined in the 80s and 90s in the NFL. Recently, however, Colorado State has become a notable hotbed for one position: wide receiver. In the last few years, the Rams have churned out Rashard Higgins, Michael Gallup, Olabisi Johnson, and Preston Williams. Fortunately for the Rams, their WR prowess won’t stop this year. The next stud on the Colorado State wide receiver pipeline is Warren Jackson.
Warren Jackson’s breakout season
Jackson is coming off of a 2019 season where he made first-team All-Mountain West honors and was named a Biletnikoff Watch List player. At 6’6, 220 pounds, Jackson averaged 14.5 yards per catch last year on 77 catches and racked up eight touchdowns. Jackson was a bright star on a struggling team, as Colorado State finished 4-8.
Jackson is a man amongst boys playing against Mountain West competition. His physicality and catch radius are often times too much for these defensive backs to handle. But he isn’t just a guy who buries inferior competition. Jackson caught two touchdowns against Alabama as a freshman and scored against both of Colorado State’s Power 5 opponents this season.
"I know you're on the No. 1 team in the country, but you can get Mossed too!" pic.twitter.com/eyxoGGYuZ0
— ESPN (@espn) September 17, 2017
His catch radius is simply overwhelming. At 6’6 with Go-Go-Gadget arms, Jackson catches everything thrown his way. In terms of ability in contested situations, Jackson ranks amongst the best. In this class, the only player I’ve seen in this class that I would say is better in those situations right now is LSU’s, Jamarr Chase. He does an excellent job of tracking the ball and using his length to pluck the ball out of the air with ease. Jackson demonstrated excellent coordination along the sideline as well.
Jackson moves fairly well for his size as well. He isn’t as great of an athlete as Gallup was at Colorado State, but Jackson can challenge deep and win downfield. Gallup ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at his pro day, and I think Jackson can be a 4.5 player as well. Overall, Jackson is a good athlete for his size but not a great one.
The positives and negatives surrounding Jackson
Jackson doesn’t often see press coverage and struggled when he did, so he faces a pretty significant question mark in his ability to separate off of press. He understands the fundamentals and has a good foundation for success in this area, but his athletic ability limits him. Jackson is relatively stiff and struggles to sink in and out of his breaks without losing speed.
Most of the time, Jackson saw a free release off the line of scrimmage, letting him build up and separate downfield. Jackson’s build-up speed allows him to stack on deep patterns, and he can attack safeties downfield. He has the frame, strength, and length to be an ‘X’ receiver but has to prove his release ability. Getting better with his hands and using his length effectively would go a long way in helping him out in this area.
Jackson isn’t excellent after the catch, but he’s also not often used in those areas. When he is, he flashes solid athleticism and physicality. He can turn upfield and gain yards with ease. Jackson isn’t as elusive after the catch as other receivers are, but he can certainly still pick up huge chunks if the defense isn’t careful.
Jackson will get compared to other Colorado State wide receivers by many. For my two cents, I think he’s in between the skillsets of Gallup and Higgins. He isn’t the raw athlete that Williams was in college, but he’s more complete. Gallup was better after the catch and a better route-runner overall, but Jackson is better adjusting and tracking the ball. Jackson is stronger and bigger-bodied than Higgins is, and a better athlete. He’s most similar to Higgins as a player in terms of one-on-one comparison, but he has the potential to have a more significant NFL impact.
All in all, Waren Jackson is a good receiver that can help an NFL team. He can be a starting wide receiver who can line up at ‘X’ or in the slot. Jackson projects well to win in the intermediate area of the field, as well as along the sideline and in the red zone. He shouldn’t be a team’s deep threat, nor should he be relied on for YAC. Overall, his size, play speed, and reliable hands can earn him significant playing time inside and outside.