After seeing a run on wide receivers in the first round of the NFL Draft and watching three former Bengals coordinators snag away highly rated receivers, the Bengals opted to draft a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft for the third time in five years. While there were certainly bigger needs for the Bengals, Jackson is an impressive player who was the defensive MVP at the Peach Bowl and was rated highly by many, including PFF.
Jackson had PFF's second-highest coverage grade in the nation in 2015 and allowed just 47.4 percent of targets to be caught by those opposing the Cougars last season.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: William Jackson III | Grade: A
An excellent pick by the Bengals, we may be talking about William Jackson as the best pure cornerback in the draft a few years from now. He's intriguing because his +17.3 coverage grade ranked second in the nation, but he still has room to improve his technique both in press coverage and in zone. Throw in his 6-foot frame, sub-4.4 speed and excellent movement skills and Jackson has all of the tools to improve on his already-impressive production. Jackson flashes the downfield ball skills to become a playmaker in both a man or zone scheme and the Bengals may have gotten one of the steals of the draft.
Jackson was PFF's 15th rated player in the Draft, and the Bengals secured him with the 24th pick. That's a great value for Round 1. In PFF's top 250 player ratings, they had this to say about Jackson:
15. William Jackson III, CB, Houston
The second-best coverage grade in the draft class, Jackson is an aggressive, good-sized corner who will contest a lot of catches and make plays on the defensive side. He has the size and deep speed to develop into a number one corner.
The staff at PFF are definitely big fans of Jackson's, writing that he may be the best cornerback in the Draft.
William Jackson may be the best cornerback available in the 2016 NFL draft. With FSU star Jalen Ramsey more of a moveable chess piece on defense than he is a true cornerback, Jackson is at the top of the class and is likely to make a case for himself at the combine.
... Jackson was PFF’s second-highest graded cornerback in coverage this season, and second only to Ramsey in overall grade when play against the run is thrown into the equation. He was targeted 93 times this past season, allowing only 46 catches (49.5 percent). He had five interceptions and 12 pass breakups, allowing a passer rating of just 57.9 when thrown his way.
... Some will question the level of competition he faced at Houston, but if one takes a look at just his numbers against Power-5 competition, his numbers actually improved. He didn’t allow a touchdown against any of those teams and the passer rating when he was thrown at fell to just 31.8.
If it wasn't clear yet that PFF loves Jackson, they also ranked him third on their list of the top 10 most underrated 2016 NFL Draft prospects.
3. William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Our team of analysts views Jackson as possibly the best pure cornerback prospect in this class, if you view Florida State's Jalen Ramsey as more of a cornerback/safety/slot corner hybrid. That places him further up the PFF board than he is for many other evaluators. His 4.37 40-yard dash time at the combine turned some heads, especially given his impressive size for the position, but he was already impressing in our grading system. His coverage grade is second-highest in the class behind only Northwestern's Nick VanHoose, and his 55.6 passer rating allowed ranks 11th-lowest.
And in case you were wondering, PFF gave the Steelers a D for selecting Artie Burns.