IOWA CITY — First and foremost, as you probably expected, Josh Jackson will play in Iowa’s bowl game. With more and more players skipping their bowls and entering the NFL draft early, it’s a question you now have to ask.
Without hesitation, Jackson said he’s in for next week’s Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College (7-5) in Yankee Stadium.
“I think it’s their decision and they can do what they want to do,” Iowa’s all-American junior cornerback said Tuesday. “I want to play and it’s my decision. I want to go out and play another game.”
So, that answer was easy. The answer for the bigger question for Jackson still is up in the air. Jackson said he will decide on returning to Iowa or entering the draft after the Hawkeyes’ bowl game in New York next Wednesday.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” he said. “I’ll probably make an announcement after the bowl game. I’ve talked with coach a little bit about it.”
So hey, that’s at least a timeline. He added that it’s 50/50. But, yes, this seems elementary. Jackson will turn 22 in April, a prime draft age. He is set to graduate in May. Those off-the-field factors probably help push Jackson to the NFL.
On the field, Jackson is in even better shape. He tied for the nation’s lead with seven interceptions and leads the nation in passes defended with 25. Google whatever mock draft you want, do that thing with a grain of salt and realize that, yes, Jackson likely is a first- or second-round pick.
What kind of financials are on the line?
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According to spotrac.com, a website that closely tracks NFL salaries, this could turn out to be an $11 million decision. Last year, the Buffalo Bills selected LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White at No. 27 in the first round. The total value of White’s contract (four years) is $10.1 million. His signing bonus was nearly $5.5 million. For comparison (though probably not that accurate of one), White had two interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 16 passes defended (the latter two numbers were top 10 territory in the nation.
Four corners were drafted in the first round in 2017. The signing bonuses ranged from $9.3 million for Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore (11th pick to the Saints) to White’s $5.5 million.
“It’s definitely a decision he’s going to have to make with his family and do what’s best for him. He’ll graduate in May. He has something like nine or 12 credits left.” Iowa defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker said. “If he chooses to go, I’m happy for him and wish him the best of luck. If he stays, he’d probably be our best recruit on the back end.”
Again, let’s sift through the crucial factors: Jackson will be 22. He’ll likely be a UI graduate. Jackson was a consensus and unanimous all-American this season. If a team that needs a cornerback falls in love with him, we’re talking upward of $10 million.
And that’s another thing here. Jackson is a cornerback. He has the speed and size (6-1, 190) to fit in at corner in the NFL. Desmond King, a former Hawkeye who faced this same decision after the 2015 season, wasn’t a prototypical NFL corner. Teams didn’t know if they were getting a corner, safety or a nickel corner and so King’s draft stock took a dive, falling all the way to the fifth round (pick No. 151). The Los Angeles Chargers are definitely glad they drafted King, their most significant rookie this season (King has four sacks and a 90-yard pick six).
“Desmond was a different story,” Parker said. “He doesn’t have the same dimensions (King is closer to 5-11) and skill set that maybe Josh has, but Desmond has a lot more football instinct that maybe Josh has.”
King is a football player who found his place. Jackson probably is more of a pure corner. If the NFL agrees, that makes Jackson that much more valuable.
“He has all of the athletic ability,” Parker said. “It takes some time when you’re in the secondary with the different coverages and schemes, zone or man, and I think that’s really helped him. The more he was involved in the game plan and seeing it, he improved every day. I think he has a lot more upside.”
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If you think Jackson is walking around wringing his hands and just absolutely crushed by the weight of this decision, you’d be wrong. He seems to have a perfect handle on this and is taking it all in stride.
“It’s not stressful,” Jackson said. “I’m enjoying it. Trying to enjoy it and enjoy everything.”
Tuesday, he was asked why come back to Iowa?
“Finish my degree, play another year with my guys,” Jackson said.
Teammates are supportive. Jackson said he hears stuff every day, supportive stuff. And then, Jackson summed his journey up perfectly.
“I’m just trying to be where my feet are, trying to stay grounded and stay focused on what’s ahead of me,” Jackson said.
That is what got him here.
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