The New York Giants have pressing needs at center and right tackle this off-season. However they could also stand to find a potential answer at left tackle as well.
Two years ago they signed Nate Solder to a massive contract, but his age seems to be showing and he struggled with injury in 2019. His contract will likely keep him on the team through the 2020 season, but the Giants could start looking for a developmental tackle this off-season.
If they do, USC left tackle Austin Jackson could catch their eye. He needs development but he has the physical tools which tend to get scouts and coaches excited.
Prospect: Austin Jackson (OT, USC)
Games Watched: vs. UCLA (2018), vs. Fresno State (2019), vs. Utah (2019), vs. Iowa (2019)
Red Flags: none
Games Played: 39 (25 starts)
Best: Size, Frame, Athleticism, Competitive Toughness
Projection: A scheme-diverse developmental lineman with the tools to potentially start.
Austin Jackson is a big, athletic developmental offensive tackle prospect with the tools to potentially win a starting job in the NFL. Jackson has ideal size, weight, frame, and athleticism to be a starting offensive tackle at the NFL level or slide inside to guard if necessary.. Jackson shows good balance and mobility in pass protection, easily moving laterally to match pass rushers. He has the short-area quickness to mirror rushers or athleticism to run them around the outside of the pocket. Jackson hustles downfield on screen passes, frequently making blocks 10 or more yards downfield, and blocking with gusto when he gets there. He also shows good play strength to anchor and hold up against power rushers.
That play strength shows up in his run blocking as well, with the strength to create movement at the line of scrimmage when playing with leverage in power run schemes. His athleticism also serves him well in zone runs, letting him do his part in getting the defense flowing. As in screen plays, Jackson seems to relish plays that call on him to get out in space and afford him a chance to block linebackers or defensive backs in space.
Jackson struggles with consistency in multiple areas of his game. He has a tendency to let his base narrow, knees straighten, and bend at the hips, lunging at defenders. His punch is inconsistent, with his hands frequently going low and wide, failing gain inside leverage and giving up his chest plate to defenders. His awareness can also be inconsistent and he seems to lose track of defenders over longer reps. And finally, he is inconsistent at best as a reach blocker and can be vulnerable to inside moves from pass rushers.
Overall Grade: 6.0D - A high-ceiling, low-floor, “traits based” prospect. Has the tools to become an eventual starter, but will need development. A late-third or fourth round value. [Grading Scale]
Austin Jackson has the tools to be a starting lineman in the NFL. He certainly passes the eye-test with a prototypical frame, long arms, big hands, and plenty of athleticism to play either tackle position. He also shows the play strength and athleticism to be a scheme-diverse player who can execute both man and zone blocking concepts.
However, he is more potential than production at the moment. While Jackson flashes upside in almost every area of his game, he also flashes significant inconsistencies in almost every area of his game. He will need good coaching to even out his play and consistently play to his athletic potential. Improving his hand usage, in particular, will go a long way toward improving his play over-all.
The one area where Jackson is consistent is his competitive toughness. He hustles downfield to make blocks, and show a definite “nasty” streak when he gets there. He also had to work hard to get into shape for the start of the season. Jackson missed as he recovered from donating bone marrow to his sister, who is battling a rare disease. That toughness and dedication bode well for his development in the NFL, but whatever team drafts him will need a plan. It’s possible that a move inside could benefit him by limiting his responsibilities and how much speed he will face.