Houston cornerback Will Jackson figured he would be drafted in the first round by a team in the AFC North. But he thought it was going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I definitely did,” said Jackson. “I had dinner with them and we had great chemistry. They were telling me a lot of good things so I felt like they were coming. But I’m happy to be a Cincinnati Bengal.
“They definitely surprised me. I was sitting on the couch and wasn’t even looking at my phone. For me to get that ring – oh man I’m just so excited.”
The Bengals defensive coaches are equally excited to land the 6’0”, 190 pound speedster that according to Pro Football Focus “may be the best pure cornerback available in the draft.”
Jackson had five interceptions last season and led the nation with 28 passes defended.
“When the ball is in the air, he can find it in the blind spot and make plays on the ball with those long arms,” said ESPN’s Jon Gruden.
“It’s just watching a lot of film and knowing what is going to come before it happens,” said Jackson. “I watched a lot of film and nine times out of 10, I knew what was going to happen so it was always there for me to make the play.”
It helps to have great closing speed. Jackson says he ran a 4.29 40-yard dash in junior college and the 23-year-old was timed at 4.37 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I feel like I could always run, but the NFL projections had me at 4.6 and I wanted to prove people wrong,” said Jackson. “So I went out there and did what I had to do.”
Jackson was widely projected to be a first round pick and PFF gave him a Top 10 grade. But rather than attend the draft in Chicago, William elected to watch it at home in Houston.
“I wanted to be around my family and the people that loved me and helped me get to this point,” said Jackson. “I wanted to celebrate with them.
“I didn’t know if I would go first round or not, so I was hesitant about having the draft party. But it worked out well and I’m excited.”
Now he looks forward to returning to Cincinnati after meeting with the Bengals coaches several weeks ago on a pre-draft visit.
“I know a lot about them,” said Jackson. “I watched film when I came on my visit, watched one-on-ones, and watched practice. I have a great feel for what kind of scheme it is, and I’m ready to just come in and work.”
He may have already accomplished something in the eyes of Bengals fans if being selected by Cincinnati disappointed the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
“The Steelers in the division were eyeing him at number 25, and the Bengals get him at 24,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Jackson. “Just sitting there waiting for the call and looking forward to it finally coming in. It’s truly a blessing and I was overwhelmed.
“This is a lifelong dream. I’ve been playing this game since I was in elementary school, and for me to finally make it to this day is such a blessing.”
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