The Cincinnati Bengals have signed William Jackson III to his rookie contract, marking the last of the Bengals Draft picks to be signed. The Bengals now officially have all seven of their 2016 Draft picks under contract for the next four years.
The deal is typical for a first round pick, four-years with an option for a fifth year if the team exercises it during the 2019 offseason. Per Over The Cap, the total value of Jackson's deal is $9,705,648 with an average of $2,426,412 per year. Not too shabby for a rookie.
"It's great to have all our guys officially in the fold before our minicamp next week and Will is obviously at the head of that list," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We see him as a guy can come in right away and make the 46-man roster on Sundays. He's got excellent athletic skills, speed, length and a lot of great qualities to be a great player at the pro level. His ability to play the ball in the air, to play around receivers and not be cumbersome around receivers, is just excellent."
The 24th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jackson was the first player selected by the Bengals in this year's draft. The former Houston Cougars cornerback was regarded as one of the two or three best cornerback prospects in this draft.
This past season, Jackson led the NCAA and set a school record for pass breakups in 2015 with 23. He also added five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
This year's draft featured a cornerback class that, outside of Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, laked both elite talent and depth. However, Jackson was ranked by many as a top-20 prospect, making him good value for where the Bengals got him.
"He finds the football when it's in the air and then he becomes the wide receiver," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said of Jackson. "I think the Bengals wanted a wide receiver here, but the wide receiver board is gone. So, they take Jackson, who is probably the best player on their board. The Steelers, who are picking right behind the Bengals, need a cornerback badly."
It was a good strategy by Cincinnati to grab Jackson in Round 1 since other positions of need had more depth that allowed quality prospects to be had in the latter rounds. Defensive tackle was addressed with Andrew Billings in Round 4, while wide receiver was attacked with Tyler Boyd in Round 2.
Though this position wasn't expected to be addressed this early, Jackson is a solid corner who can help upgrade the Bengals' secondary with Leon Hall gone. You could make a good case for cornerback being a big position of need with Darqueze Dennard coming off a major shoulder injury and Dre Kirkpatrick not exactly having a great first year as a full-time starter.
Pro Football Focus wrote that Jackson may end up being this draft's best corner.
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.
Jackson does seem to have some mental lapses during games, occasionally seeming confused with motion and route combinations designed to force him into a quick decision. However, when he can just line up and play coverage against a receiver he demonstrates high-level ability and an almost limitless potential.