Nebraska's Brandon Jackson declared himself early for the NFL draft in January, coming out as a Junior. Jackson is a relative unknown to most people other than Nebraska fans, largely due to his splitting time with Marlon Lucky, Cody Glenn, and Kenny Wilson.
Brandon Jackson started the 2006 season at fourth on the depth chart, but moved up as the season went on. He finished as the top ground gainer with 989 yards which include four 100-yard games. He also caught 33 passes for 313 yards and finished the season as a first-team All Big 12 member from the Associated Press. Were it not for a broken hand that kept him from playing time against Auburn in the Cotton Bowl, Jackson would have finished with over 1,000 yards, a pretty good stat given the four-back rotation.
Jackson played in 33 games at Nebraska, starting eleven. He finished with 1,431 rushing yards ending up ranked 35th in career rushing yardage.
Jackson's best years may be ahead of him as he improved throughout Nebraska's 2006 season. He was more consistent than the other three backs. NFL draft previews have him going as high as the late second round, but most likely late third round and if things go badly, in the fifth.
One thing is a near guarantee - given the shortage in this year's talent pool at running back, Jackson is going to be drafted earlier rather than later. Because of that, he'll get a decent pay day - one of the big reasons he decided to come out early.
NFL Combine Stats
40 yard time : 4.54
Not burning speed and Jackson didn't finish in the top ten times posted by the running backs in the draft. Keep in mind that this is just one of eight tests done at the combine, but it's probably the best known or at the least, the most talked about.
Vertical Jump: 37"
Nothing to complain about there, finishing eighth. This test is more important for receivers and defensive backs.
20 yard shuttle: 4.14
Jackson finished fourth in this test which is meant to test lateral (side to side) speed and coordination. The player starts in a three-point stance, then sprints five yards to a yard line, then ten yards to another sideline, and then finishes at the original starting point. Sounds nasty, all in a little over four seconds, eh?
Three Cone:7.00 seconds
Jackson finished eighth here. The three cone test is meant to test agility, cutting ability, and speed.
Broad Jump: 10' 2"
Jackson finished eighth here also. This is done from a standing position and is meant to see how well players can use lower body strength to gain an advantage on their opponent.
During at interview at the NFL combine, Jackson said he had spoken to position coaches from the Tennesee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and Chicago Bears. No doubt there were more than this, but those are the ones that were mentioned. I would have expected Denver to be in this mix, given Mike Shanahan's taste for finding good running backs in the later rounds.
What we see for Brandon Jackson from the NFL combine is that he's showing good agility, coordination and quickness, but didn't show that he has the break away speed that would be possessed by a top running back. I don't think that will hurt him as much as people might talk about it.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Jackson has pretty good cutback ability and quick feet, as evidence of his fast 20 shuttle time in the NFL Combine. He has decent size at 5-11, 220 pounds. He isn't a burner, but at 4.58 has decent speed for a back. Nebraska's West Coast Offense gave Jackson experience in two qualities he'll need in the NFL - receptions and pass blitz protection - both of which he did pretty well.
One key (and overlooked) stat - Jackson had two fumbles on the year (one against Colorado, two against Missouri) with 188 rushing attempts. This on a Nebraska team that finished the season ranked 113th in fumbles.
Jackson's glaring weakness is that we didn't see enough of him. Another year at Nebraska may have given him a chance to improve, but with three other good backs coming back in 2007, he would have split playing time once again.
Another possible drawback is his shoulder injuries. NFL running backs take a helluva pounding, and most have short careers. We wish the best for Jackson in the NFL.
Last Back Out Early?
The last Nebraska back to come out early? Ahman Green, who was selected in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks in 1998.
Someone at Youtube did a pretty good job of putting together a 2006 highlight video of Brandon Jackson: