Cornerback Bennett Jackson, the New York Giants sixth-round pick in the recent 2014 NFL Draft, seems to have quickly become the most overlooked member of the team's rookie class. Even undrafted free agents like tight end Xavier Grimble and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles seem to generate more interest.
Maybe that is because the Giants loaded up on cornerbacks during the offseason and it is difficult to see Jackson's path to the 53-man roster. Maybe it is simply because that is the nature of being a sixth-round pick. Whatever the reason, let's give Jackson his due this morning. Jim Miesle, co-manager of SB Nation's Notre Dame web site, One Foot Down, took time to answer questions about the former Fighting Irish cornerback. Here is the result of that Q&A.
Ed: From most of what I read it seems Jackson was thought of as an early-round draft prospect entering the season, but had a disappointing senior year. Is that right? What happened?
Jim: I don't think Jackson was ever really considered a potential early-round draftee headed into 2013. I think there was a potential for him to move up draft boards, but the 6th round is probably about right based on his play over the past two seasons. Some even thought he might end up as an UDFA after the season came to a close.
I think after the way the Notre Dame defense played during 2012, everyone expected more of the same this past season--and when it didn't happen, the defense as a whole was thought to regress and disappoint. I wouldn't classify Bennett's senior campaign as a disappointment, as he had nearly identical production as his junior year in terms of tackles. To me, he didn't look 100 percent healthy out there last season--perhaps it was lingering affects from playing through the previous year with a bad shoulder.
Ed: Assess his ability/potential as a corner. He seems like a guy who has work to do from a technique standpoint.
Jim: Bennett's potential as a corner in the NFL will largely be based on the system he plays in. Under DC Bob Diaco, the Notre Dame defense was well known for its bend-but-don't break approach--something that doesn't typically highlight a corner's ability to play man-to-man. He wasn't asked to play up on receivers, which will be one of the biggest transition points for him in the NFL. He is a bigger body for a corner (and could probably add some additional weight), but has plenty of raw ability in terms of speed and quickness to develop into a solid nickel option and potentially a starter in a year or two.
Jackson was originally recruited as a wide receiver at Notre Dame (by Charlie Weis) and made the transition to defense after his freshman year. That is only 3 years of experience as a corner (and one of those with minimal reps), so he is probably behind in terms of development compared to a guy who has played corner for a much longer period of time. His development and contributions will likely be dependent on the quality of coaching he receives.
Ed: Special teams ability is key for a late-round pick in trying to make a team. What can Jackson bring to the Giants on special teams?
Jim: Bennett was named the Notre Dame Special Teams Player of the Year as a true freshman, when he was the primary kick returner and gunner on both units. During his first two seasons, he primarily played on special teams units and always seemed to be around the returner and making plays. If his chance to make the team comes down to special teams over another corner, I think Bennett will have an inside track on earning the spot.
Ed: Any memorable moments of Jackson's Notre Dame career, good or bad, that really stand out?
Jim: In terms of good, he did return on interception last fall for a touchdown --a play that basically iced the game against Purdue (one that was way too close for comfort).
In terms of bad, he was called for PI in the Michigan game last fall late in the game on a third and long. The PI was a little questionable and had it not been called there would have been a review on whether or not he actually intercepted the pass. Regardless, it was a momentum killer and was one play in a long list of bad defensive plays against the Wolverines last fall.
Ed: Tell us something about Jackson, on the field or off the field, that we can't find in a scouting report.
Jim: I think one attribute to Bennett's play was just how tough he was in playing through injuries. Sure, the scouting reports will tell you about his torn labrum, but notching 65 tackles over the course of 13 games thorough the pain (and probably a somewhat limited range of motion) really speaks to the kind of competitor that he is. I think he will fit right in with the Giants organization.