First, I'll start with a disclaimer: anybody who has been to this site for more than 16 seconds knows that my actual favorite draft prospect is Ole Miss MLB Patrick Willis. However, since my mancrush is apparent to anyone who reads this site on a regular basis, I thought I'd turn my attention to my favorite RB prospect: Nebraska's Brandon Jackson.
In a draft class that features such prominent runners as Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bush - not to mention future perennial Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson - Jackson has always stuck out as an intriguing prospect to me. Nobody knows too much about this kid - as a junior entry who spent his career in a very crowded backfield in Nebraska, there simply isn't much game film on him.
The Sporting News compares Jackson to Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson. At 5'11" and 210 pounds, Jackson ran an average 4.54 40-yard dash at the Combine. In his time at Nebraska, Jackson displayed good field vision and patience, and the ability to hit the edges of a defense despite his average speed. He is talented enough to hit the backside hole and runs pretty tough inside. While Nebraska obviously doesn't throw to their backs much, Jackson has displayed solid hands - though he is understandably very green in this area.
At this point, however, it seems the negatives outweigh the positives for Jackson. He is inexperienced. His average speed prevents him from making explosive plays. He has a tendency to run upright, making him susceptible to injury. His pass protection is anything but stellar; his technique needs a lot of work in this area. He also has some ball security issues and has never carried a full rushing load. The consensus amongst most league scouts is that Jackson would have been better off playing out his senior season at Nebraska.
Why, then, do I like Brandon Jackson? One word: balance. The best runners in the NFL today succeed because of their tremendous balance, and Jackson is gifted in this department. This is what allows him to stop and start with ease, and his superb body control also gives him great potential as a receiver out of the backfield. Speed is not everything when it comes to NFL running backs - just look at the success of players like Terrell Davis and Corey Dillon. What matters is balance. That's why I think Jackson could turn out to be the steal of this draft.
Call this one a gut feeling. I believe that Jackson, with proper coaching and in a good offensive system, can become one of the biggest surprises of the NFL as a rookie. I also believe that the Bills have the proper coaching and systems in place for Jackson to not only succeed, but dominate in this offense. He's that talented, and our coaches are that good.
What are your thoughts on Brandon Jackson, Bills fans?