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Is It Time for the 49ers To Unleash This Young Star?

In the 2022 NFL Draft, the 49ers drafted defensive lineman Drake Jackson with the 61st overall pick. With his visible improvements throughout the season, it is time for an increase in his snap count.

Drake Jackson’s Time At USC

Drake Jackson played at the University of Southern California for three years. In college, he played a linebacker and defensive lineman hybrid position. Through his three seasons, he was a threat to opposing quarterbacks, that no one would want to face.

His freshman season was in 2019 when he quickly showed why a PAC-12 school would recruit such a player. Through 11 games Jackson produced 5.5 sacks that season. He also added 11.5 tackles for loss.

In 2020 Jackson had played only in six games due to a shortened season. During that span, he produced two sacks against opposing quarterbacks and had 5.5 tackles for loss.

During his final season of college in 2021, Jackson had another productive season. In ten games he got to quarterbacks five times and made eight tackles for loss.

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Jackson With The 49ers So Far

Through the rookie’s first eight games of his career, his playing time has been limited. On average he has only played around 34 percent of defensive plays each game. Although his playing time has been limited, Jackson has taken advantage of it when he is in the game.

In Week Three the rookie got his first career NFL sack on Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson. His sack had come on a third down play and forced the Broncos out of field goal range.

Jackson has also had two additional sacks so far in his rookie campaign. One against Carolina in Week Five and the other against Atlanta in Week Six.

What Jackson Brings To The 49ers

Even with his limited playtime, Jackson is tied for the third most sacks on the 49ers’ defense. He adds in another threat for offensive lines to face when playing against the 49ers. His presence helps open up opportunities for other defensive linemen to get to opposing quarterbacks.

Having two edge rushers who can be very explosive is a nightmare for quarterbacks. Not only would he take the attention of offensive linemen, but pressure from behind and in front of quarterbacks can often force rash decisions. Which in term should lead to more turnovers.

Part of the reason the front office used their second-round pick on Jackson was due to his athleticism. In college, he showed his quickness in being able to get around offensive linemen. His bend and corner talent at the edge also help him with the ability to get past them as well. Jackson also has a great upper-body swivel.

One of the worries about drafting Jackson was that he would be unable to stop the power run. We have seen him throughout the season improve on shedding off of opposing offensive linemen. If he continues to improve in that aspect, the 49ers’ already threatening defensive line would become even scarier.

Outside of playing, we have also seen the energy that Drake Jackson brings with him to every game. Providing electric energy helps build momentum that fuels defenses. In such a team-based sport, being in sync and excited with your teammates is an important aspect.

What Jackson May Need To Improve On First

One of the biggest things that he lacks is his overall strength. Thankfully that is an easy fix that will just be improved as he continues to grow in other skill sets.

Another aspect that needs improvement is that he is known for arm tackling. This means instead of driving someone into the ground, Jackson tends to wrap players and bring them down using nothing but his arms.

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