The draft is a month away now and the final steps of the process are under way. After the NFL Combine and Ohio State’s Pro Day, we have established the range of where all the Buckeyes will end up. Next on the list is Ohio State 3-technique defensive tackle, Antwuan Jackson Jr.
After attending Auburn his freshman season, he ended up taking the junior college route with a pit stop at Blinn Junior College in Texas. Jackson was a highly touted prospect out of the Juco ranks, and Ohio State brought him in as a long term depth piece. In his time at Ohio State, he participated in every game but one after the start of the 2019 season. As a player he was never one who garnered much of the spotlight, but provided crucial depth as well as production, playing a lot of meaningful snaps at Ohio State.
Jackson participated in Ohio State’s Pro Day and gained some traction with NFL evaluators after moving extremely well during position drills. He also improved his body composition and looked much leaner as he prepares for the role of an NFL 3-tech or 3-4 strong side defensive end.
Antwuan Jackson Jr. Draft Round Projection: UDFA
For Jackson to be successful in the NFL, he will need to establish an identity and excel in whatever role he is brought in to perform. Jackson has played both the 1-tech and 3-tech in his time at Ohio State, but he is likely to play as 3-technique in the NFL with his current weight in the draft process. Jackson was an explosive player off the ball and was one the better defensive linemen when it came to penetration in the run game for the Buckeyes. Overall, Jackson showed he has more athleticism than he might have shown on film and has the ability to make timely plays, which NFL teams will be looking for in the players they bring to camp.
At Ohio State’s Pro Day we see a much leaner and more explosive Jackson. In the Tweet below from Bucknuts’ Patrick Murphy, Jackson is doing a defensive line positional drill. Now this doesn’t look like much, but the coordination and explosiveness are on full display here. Even if this specific drill doesn’t really mean a ton in terms of draft position, this does show how athletic Jackson is as a player. In a position where explosiveness and athleticism is hard to come by, Jackson might be worth taking a flyer in the late rounds of the draft or as a UDFA.
Defensive tackle Antwuan Jackson literally running circles in d-line drills at Ohio State’s pro day. pic.twitter.com/ydJr1hhrAn— Patrick Murphy (@_Pat_Murphy) March 23, 2022
Run Game Penetration
In this clip, we get to see the little intricacies of how elite interior defensive line play can often go unnoticed. When Ohio State was taking on Michigan, the Michigan offensive line was able to create running lanes and take advantage of the Ohio State defensive line. Jackson in this situation doesn’t let that stop him. After an awesome get off, Jackson pushes the guard responsible for blocking him into the running back’s zone track. This forces Michigan’s running back to make a decision and cut back into the flowing defenders. This play shows the little things Jackson did well in his time at Ohio State, and his consistency at getting penetration in the running game is a solid tool heading to the next level.
Pass Rush Discipline
Discipline is something that is required for depth players in the NFL. If you are going to be a training camp or practice squad player, this is a major separating factor when it comes to earning those spots.
In the next play, Penn State has the ball on a huge third down play. Sean Clifford (No. 14) for Penn State is a known scrambler, meaning maintaining rush lane integrity is of the most importance. Jackson gets up field with his initial rush, but is able to plant his feet, spin, and get back into the play. Clifford tries to run through the middle lane, but Jackson is there to make a huge stop.
Scheme and Team Fits
Similar to the other defensive linemen on Ohio State’s roster, Jackson has a distinctive skillset and seems to be a potential 3-technique defensive tackle at the next level. This means he will be looking to join teams that run a traditional 4-3, but he could play as a strong side 3-4 defensive end in the right system. With his athletic ability this could lead to him being a versatile back up, playing multiple positions on the defensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals (UDFA): The Bengals already have quite a few Buckeyes on the roster, so one more would not be be anything out of the ordinary. After going through some turnover at the two interior defensive line positions, the Bengals will be looking to add depth. With his versatility he can be a great fit for a camp body and potential practice squad signee.
Jacksonville Jaguars (UDFA): After taking Davon Hamilton with a middle round selection, they could look to build depth with his former teammate in Jackson. Jackson brings a similar skill set and can provide practice depth at the position for a team that is looking to build out that room.
New England Patriots (UDFA): This roster fit is right in Bill Belichick’s wheelhouse. Jackson brings versatility and athleticism to a coaching fit that is looking for moldable players. If Jackson can find his way to New England, he can develop under the best defensive mind in the sport.
B.J. Hill (Cincinnati Bengals): Jackson is a player with a similar physical and athletic profile to B.J. Hill. Hill was drafted in the third round, which is not something many experts see with Jackson when it comes to his stock. This comparison is one that if everything goes right for Jackson, his ceiling can be a high end rotational defensive linemen.
Jarrod Hewitt (Seattle Seahawks): Hewitt had eerily similar production to Jackson in college, and he is in a position and role that Jackson can fit into at the next level. A fringe 53-man roster guy who will likely end up on the practice squad is the likely scenario for Jackson, just like Hewitt in Seattle.
Antwuan Jackson Jr. was never the focal point of Ohio State’s defense, but he was an important role player in his time in Columbus. He came up with timely plays and was a consistent player who gave you exactly what you expected every time he was on the field. As he looks to the next level, identifying the best role he can fit into on a team is his best opportunity to make a career for himself in the NFL.
Jackson can provide depth, fill out a practice squad, or even be a multi-year camp body. Regardless of if it’s the NFL or not, Jackson will have his share of professional football opportunity. With his size and athletic profile, many teams should be interested in him as a potential roster fit. If he can interview well and show teams he is coming to the NFL with more versatility than he has put on tape, he can make some noise in the lead up process to the draft. With all that being said he has the upside to become a 53-man roster guy for multiple years.
As an unheralded member of the last three Ohio State teams, Jackson will look to use his experience to make a name for himself at the next level.