Iowa Football

After having the best 2017 of any corner on the planet, time for Josh Jackson's encore

The NFL will still have questions, but now it's Green Bay and all systems go

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Josh Jackson (15) intercepts an Ohio State Buckeyes pass on the one-yard line in the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Iowa won 55-24. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Josh Jackson (15) intercepts an Ohio State Buckeyes pass on the one-yard line in the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Iowa won 55-24. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

So yes, there’s no hiding the fact that Josh Jackson started just one season for the Hawkeyes.

He spent his first three years at Iowa playing behind two NFL corners, Desmond King (Los Angeles Chargers) and Greg Mabin (San Francisco 49ers). Because you can only get Gillooly’d in figure skating, Jackson had to wait his turn.

You saw what happened. The Packers certainly saw what happened.

Jackson fell out of the first round and was scooped up by the Green Bay Packers with pick No. 45 in the second round.

According to Spotrac.com, Jackson is slotted to sign a $6.2 million contract with a signing bonus of $2.6 million.

Not bad for a cornerback who played wide receiver as late as spring 2015.

Jackson was projected in the first round for virtually all of the draft’s silly season. After Ohio State’s Denzel Ward (No. 4 to Cleveland) and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 11 to the Dolphins), Jackson went into a second-tier group of corners. That included Louisville’s Jaire Alexander (No. 18 to the Packers) and Central Florida’s Mike Hughes (No. 30 to the Vikings).

So, Jackson went in the second round. When he put his first toe on the line of scrimmage last fall, he made his second career start for the Hawkeyes.

The one-year starter thing came up during Jackson’s journey to the draft. It came up more than you’d probably think.

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“I’ve had those questions. I told them I played behind some really good players,” Jackson said. “I played in the nickel my first two years as a freshman and sophomore. I had the opportunity this year and I just wanted to come out and show I’m ready to play and show we didn’t lose a step on the back end.”

Jackson did exactly that. The 6-1, 192-pounder led the nation with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended. He tied for second in the country with a pair of pick sixes (both vs. Wisconsin).

“One year wonder” would be one point of view. Another would be, “Wow, this dude did all of this and began the 2017 season with just one career start at corner and played wide receiver as late as spring 2015?”

Then, there’s the speed thing. Jackson was pinned with a 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Some of the teams on the Jackson bandwagon might’ve fallen off.

“He’s a one-year starter. Eight picks. Great balls skills. He’s got to run fast. And that’s the concern there,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said at the combine. “He’s a long press corner, but he’s at his best when he has his eye on the QB. When he can jump and be instinctive and go get the football. His ball skills are great.

“So if he goes out and runs 4.5 plus or minus, I think that’s a good time for him. He doesn’t need to run 4.38. His length and with his ball skills, I think 4.5 is where I have him. Is he that fast? I don’t know. If he runs 4.58, it’s a different conversation. And he might be. But I love his ball skills and his instincts.”

However fast Jackson ran against Ohio State and Wisconsin — Iowa’s heavyweight opponents in 2017 — it produced a combined five interceptions and two pick sixes. Jackson’s three interceptions — including a highlight reel one-handed pluck in the end zone that is now on a T-shirt — were critical in Iowa’s 55-24 stunner over the heavily favored Buckeyes.

After those two weeks, everyone who follows Iowa football intently forgot he was a one-year starter and wondered if Jackson would skip his senior year for the draft.

Tah dah.

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So, Jackson slipped a little. He was projected anywhere from No. 10 to the second round. Jackson was a 2-star recruit from Corinth, Texas. Before he was an all-American corner at Iowa, he was a wide receiver who was moved back to corner after dropping a long TD pass from Tyler Wiegers in the 2015 spring game.

Jackson already has the required shoulder chip. It grew last season when, as he wrote his brilliant resume, teams kept throwing at him.

“I’m glad they did,” Jackson said. “I was just trying to come out and play the best ball I can. They were throwing it to me and I was just trying to be the best corner and make them pay.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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