Early in the 2016 NFL Draft process, University of Houston cornerback William Jackson III was largely looked at as a second round prospect. After a great workout at the NFL Combine, forcing scouts to watch more film on him, he propelled himself into a first round talent and now, into the Cincinnati Bengals' loving arms with the 24th overall selection.
As he landed with the Bengals, Jackson was aware of the talent the team already has on the roster at the position. With last year's fourth rounder Josh Shaw showing promise as a rookie, and three other first round corners on the team in Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, he joins a very talented group. And, even though five may be a crowd, Jackson is excited at the opportunity to learn from the group and develop as a pro corner.
And, though he knows it's a talented and crowded position group, he's not upset that he may not get immediate playing time with the Bengals.
"Every player needs a mentor and someone to look up to," Jackson said. "Being behind those guys and seeing how they get the job done and what technique they use can help me a lot. When I get my opportunity, I can go in and play just like they play for years."
Shortly after he was drafted, Jackson said he hadn't heard from Jones or other Bengals corners yet. That changed quickly, as Jones and Kirkpatrick began to take him under their wings and have already showed him a night on the town.
Obviously, part of the process Jackson will undergo with his fellow Bengals cornerbacks is film study. "That’s the type of guy I am," Jackson said when asked about his preference with the mental side of the game. "I like to watch film. The game comes slower to me. I’m big on it."
Adam Jones is known as someone who also loves to watch film, so the two should get along well.
"(I began watching it) this year. I took it very seriously. I started to make plays for my teammates. They were happy for me, so I kept watching films, making plays, and winning games," Jackson continued. "My coach taught me how to watch film, like what to look for in receiver stances, the width, and numbers. Once I learned that part of the game, it came much slower to me."
For Jackson, watching film paid major dividends in 2015 as he nabbed five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), and led college defensive backs with 23 passes defended. When you look at his highlight film, some of Jackson's biggest plays came on passes where he jumped routes and almost played the role of the opposing receiver. The increased anticipation can almost undoubtedly be traced back to his extensive review of film.
The Bengals believe they grabbed another quality corner in Jackson III, as do many draft pundits. Still, he might not be relied on for a heavy role in 2016, so he'll need to be a sponge in his rookie year, both in shadowing the quality veterans in front of him on the depth chart, and, in continuing his love for watching game tape.