The 2006 NFL Draft will be deeper at linebacker than any year in recent memory with players such as LBs A.J. Hawk (Ohio State), Chad Greenway (Iowa), DeMeco Ryans (Alabama), Bobby Carpenter (Ohio State) and Thomas Howard (UTEP) all mentioned as possible first-round picks. One name that gets lost in that conversation, however, is Maryland MLB D'Qwell Jackson, who is widely considered as the top-rated middle linebacker in the draft class.
Jackson was an all-state selection at Seminole High School in Seminole, Fla. in each of his last two years in high school, where he was a linebacker, fullback, quarterback and punter (talk about versatility!). The Florida native made his presence known in the high-profile Florida-Georgia All-Star game, where he led his team to a 40-13 victory with a game-high 10 tackles. He was heavily recruited by the University of Florida, North Carolina State and Louisiana State but chose instead to become a Terrapin.
In his first year, Jackson played in all 14 games, recording 51 tackles (No. 1 among freshmen) to go along with two forced fumbles and three hurries on the quarterback. In his sophomore season, Jackson started all 13 games on the inside while racking up 90 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and 7.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. By that time it was easy to see that the 6-foot-1 Jackson was NFL material.
In 2004, Jackson was an All-ACC selection as a junior while leading the team with 123 stops. He developed a deserving reputation as a fiery and motivated team leader, which led him to have an even more successful senior campaign. This past season, the former high school fullback was in on 137 tackles to go along with four sacks, two interceptions and 6.5 tackles behind the line.
A natural athlete, Jackson gives you the quickness and agility you need at the linebacker position. He does not depend on athletic ability alone though, as he also has fantastic instincts and is almost always one of the smartest players on the field. Though he played on the inside during his college days, he may project as an outside linebacker in the NFL due to his size (6-1, 233 pounds). Despite his size however, he does a nice job getting off of blocks in pursuit, especially on the fullbacks and tight ends. The former Terrapin is great at finding his gaps and being where he needs to be in the run game as well as hold his own in pass coverage. He has a nose for the ball and excels at getting penetration behind the line of scrimmage. Has nice technique on his wrap-up tackles and always has his shoulders square to the ball. He was also a very productive player at the college level.
Though he is a solid athlete, Jackson doesn't give you the size or pure speed you see in the dominant players around the NFL. He'll need to get a little stronger, but he does not have much of a frame to add more weight, which will be a problem. Jackson can get overwhelmed by the bigger offensive linemen if they lock onto him, mostly because of his size. While he has nice agility and fluid hips, he may be a two-down linebacker in the pros and have to come out on passing downs depending upon where he lands.
A solid showing at the Senior Bowl really helped out Jackson with his draft status. He will compete with Iowa MLB Abdul Hodge for the top inside linebacker spot in this draft class. His measurables may scare off some teams, but if someone looks past Jackson's physical limitations they will see that he has the potential to be a very solid player at the next level. Regardless, if he has a great day at the combine, he could sneak into the first round but will almost certainly hear his name called in Round 2. The Tennessee Titans seem to be the most logical fit at this point in time with their second-round pick (No. 39 overall).
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About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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