Tarron Jackson could be the Eagles’ biggest draft steal

Sun belt
ORLANDO, FL – DECEMBER 26: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers defensive end Tarron Jackson (9) during the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl game between the Liberty Flames and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on December 26, 2020 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

There’s a reason why Tarron Jackson is an outlier. Despite coming off a season where his Chanticleers finished 8-0 and first in the Sun Belt division, most overlooked number 9. Those that paid attention knew PFF’s 3rd best graded college football player in 2020 was bound for the NFL. After leading the entire draft class in pressures, Jackson waited until the 6th round to hear his name called.

It’s not every day someone from Coastal Carolina makes it into the NFL.

Ed Kracz

That was a good break for the Eagles. Although Jackson was projected as a 6th-7th round pick, it’s hard to imagine why a 6’2″, 260 pound First Team Associated Press All-American, 2020 Bronko Nagurski Finalist, and 2020 Bednarik Semifinalist that broke his school’s records for single season and career sacks and career tackles for loss lasted that long. In a COVID-19 stricken year, we saw teams stick to the big conferences and the names they knew. In a few years when we look back at this class, it could be peppered with draft steals — and Philadelphia got one in Tarron.

In 2020, Jackson led his team to the top of the conference and tallied 54 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks (tied for 8th in the FBS), 18 QB hits, and 3 forced fumbles. That pushed his career numbers to 195 total tackles, 44.5 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles in 48 games. Although he played against lesser competition, he was also the first name on opponents’ game plans. Watching film, there weren’t many plays he wasn’t double teamed, chipped or schemed away from.

There were certain games in his final year Tarron just simply dominated.

@ Georgia State: 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 FF
vs. South Alabama (Homecoming): 10 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 Sacks, 1 FF, 2 QBH
@ Texas State: 6 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.5 Sacks

The Coastal Carolina defense held the number two overall pick Zach Wilson to 19/30, 240 yards, 1 TD and 1 Int, in no small part to Jackson’s relentless effort. While 8.5 sacks may not jump off the page, Jackson’s 90 pressures are nothing to scoff at. Even if he wasn’t racking up stats, Jackson was constantly around the football or affecting the play.

It’s not just what the Coastal Carolina DE brings to the field that’s impressive. At 22-years-old, he already carries himself like a pro. A team captain, Tarron majored in Mathematics and was a semi-finalist for the William V. Campbell Award which honors players for a combination of academics, community service and on-field performance.

I found myself so impressed by his first interview as an Eagle. At times overcome by emotion, speaking about his late uncle who loved the Eagles and brother who passed away of Leukemia when Tarron was only 9, he continued to answer questions in a direct and concise way. This is a young man that has been through a lot in his life and has let that drive him to become better.

He spoke about how the brotherhood and culture of Coastal Carolina was what endeared him to the university. That team-first mentality was a token that Tarron shouldered up until his final season. When he found out he had been invited to the Senior Bowl, he reflected all the glory back on his team:

This is for us. I wouldn’t have been able to do none of this without y’all.

However, Jackson shines in his own right and the Senior Bowl was the perfect opportunity to show just how bright his future is. One of the biggest knocks on small school prospects, year in and year out, is lack of competition. The Senior Bowl is the perfect opportunity to silence the critics.

Ironically, the soft spoken Jackson’s performance was anything but silent. He won time and time again in one-on-one drills, besting some of the draft’s better prospects. Frankly, he took 49ers second round pick Aaron Banks to school — seriously, it was a clinic.

He proved that he can win on the outside:

And up the middle:

The new Eagle also displayed some nuanced footwork that he pairs with violent hands and a stout lower half. His bull rush habitually catches lineman off guard, no matter their size or stature. Meanwhile, if the opponent anchors down, Tarron has the speed to simply run around them. He’s got an effective swim on the outside and has clearly been working on his spin move as a counter. Even when he didn’t win on the outset, he keeps his motor running — something we saw constantly at Coastal Carolina.

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However, no sixth round pick is without their flaws. Jackson can get stuck on blocks and has a limited bag of tricks to disengage. His toolkit isn’t overflowing with counter moves, and he will need those when facing NFL linemen that he can’t simply outmuscle or outrun. Also, as impressive as an athlete he is, his bend is lacking and he often plays too upright for the next level. For that last point, Tarron had an immediate answer. In his first interview he told Dave Zangaro:

Every year I tried to improve my bend, trying to bend around the corner instead of rounding it.

For everything else, I’ll leave you with a quote I heard over and over again from announcers and coaches alike:

Tarron Jackson works harder than anybody.

Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire