The Bengals went into the Draft this year with everyone and their brother expecting a top tier wide receiver to be available when they picked at No. 24. That didn't happen, but they did pick up one of the more proven players in the Draft and upgraded the defense in the process.
That player was Houston cornerback William Jackson III, who led the nation in passes defended last year with five interceptions and 23 pass breakups. He has the kind of size and talent to really get coaches and fans excited. With the right coaching and practice with an emphasis on the finer points of his technique, Jackson could really be a special long time starter, carrying the cornerback position for many years. However, don't tell that to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, who picked Jackson as one of the five most likely early-round picks to disappoint in 2016.
William Jackson III, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Draft: Round 1, No. 24 overall
This one really depends on what the fans' expectations are for Jackson as a first-rounder. Clearly, the Bengals have some talent at the cornerback position already in place. Jackson was more of a best-player-available pick than a need pick. While he saw some decent competition in his conference (American Athletic Conference) at wide receiver, the jump in talent will be substantial. With the Bengals just a stone's throw away from competing for a Super Bowl berth, this might be more of a redshirt season for Jackson as they prepare him to take over in the future.
Zierlein's whole point seems to be that Jackson won't contribute right away because of how stacked the position already is, but fails to take into account the fact that the Bengals and their fans are probably expecting Jackson to sit at first. It would be completely out of character for the Bengals to ask him to contribute right away, even as a first round talent, on anything other than special teams.
For years, the Bengals have been known as a team that likes to redshirt rookies to give them time to develop and catch up to the NFL speed. When they picked the most talented player available at pick No. 24, who happened to be a cornerback, fans who follow the team knew it was most likely they would give Jackson some time to sit and learn.
Zierlein is probably right that the Bengals' cornerback position is too crowded right now for the inexperienced Jackson to find much early playing time, even if the team was planning on throwing him into the fire early. Adam Jones, Darqueze Dennard, and Dre Kirkpatrick were all first round picks at one point or another and are almost surely going to be ahead of Jackson on the depth chart for 2016. But, there's plenty of room to grow. Jones is going to be 33-years-old in September, Dennard is coming off of a serious shoulder injury, and Kirkpatrick's performance swings between good and bad pretty wildly.
At this point, falling below expectations for Jackson would probably mean not developing enough in his rookie season to have a chance of starting in his second or third season. If he winds up starting right away and contributing regularly, that's great! But, it's not expected.
If he's going to disappoint in 2016, it would probably require him turning into a locker room nuisance or doing something that puts his future in jeopardy. If he had some sort of fatal character flaw, that might be a reason to consider him having the potential to disappoint. But, as far as we can tell, he hasn't ever shown any signs of that. All signs point toward him being a hard working, results driven player who has never had any personality issues to speak of.
Save for an unpredictable injury that could happen to any player, there doesn't seem to be much of a chance for Jackson to 'disappoint' anyone this early in his career. Granted, Zierlein notes that the prediction largely is up to the expectations of Bengals fans, but at that point, why even bother putting him on the list to begin with? It doesn't take much research to know the Bengals and their fans are prepared for a development process that could take a year or two before he sees significant game time.