Iowa offensive tackle Alaric Jackson enters the 2021 NFL draft process as another decorated and talented Hawkeyes offensive lineman, a school with a rich tradition of quality pros all across the offensive line.
Jackson began the 2020 season as an experienced starter at left tackle with 31 starts on his resume. He missed three games in 2019 because of a knee injury and missed one game in 2018, but he’s generally been a reliable player from a health standpoint.
He manned the left side of Iowa’s line again in the abbreviated eight-game season in 2020 and was on-brand with his level of play, which has some question marks as he makes the transition to the NFL.
Physically, Jackson is an estimated 6-6 and an evenly distributed 315 pounds. He has the necessary thickness in his trunk to anchor against power players but his length is a concern. He looks more like a guard than a tackle and it’s likely that his NFL future will be along the interior of the offensive line.
Athletically, Jackson possesses adequate linear movement skills but his foot speed isn’t on the level scouts want to see when it comes to consistently winning on the edge against speed players. He’s often in recovery mode in pass protection when he faces an opponent with a quick first step, which will be a weekly encounter in the NFL.
Jackson has the kind of strength that will make offensive line coaches excited about his ability to move defenders out of the way in the run game. He has a good initial punch that stuns defenders on contact and he’s a sticky blocker. Opponents have a difficult time shedding him once he’s locked in. Jackson is coordinated in space, too, and is a quality finisher on the second level. He’ll make a living in the NFL because of what he brings to the run game.
If protected by a move inside, Jackson will be an adequate pass-protector. He has the short-area athleticism needed to mirror oncoming pass-rushers and can redirect defenders who try to fool him with one too many rush moves. The protection he’ll have with a teammate on either side of him will allow him to maximize his experienced skill set as a well-schooled and technically sound offensive lineman.
Overall, Jackson is a Day-3 prospect who will begin his career as a backup in the NFL. His collegiate pedigree and starting experience offer enough value to make a team project him as a potential starter assuming he gets comfortable with a transition to guard. If he struggles with the move inside, his long-term career projection is murky. That said, I have confidence he’ll take to the move and eventually emerge as a player who gets starter’s reps on Sundays. Just don’t expect it to happen for a couple of seasons.
GRADE: 6.0 (5th round)