Eli Apple or William Jackson: Which cornerback should the Chiefs draft?

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William Jackson III

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

In college, Jackson was the more productive prospect of the two. In three seasons as a Cougar, he notched 8 interceptions. An argument can also be made that he’s more athletic than Apple. Jackson has world-class speed and ran an NFL Combine-best 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash. If I were a betting man, I’d guess that his straight-line speed and recovery ability have team scouts salivating.

Jackson may be the least NFL-ready cornerback at the top of this class. He was a JUCO transfer who didn’t take over full-time responsibilities as a starter until 2014. There are also concerns about the level of competition he faced in his time at Houston. The American Athletic Conference is scarcely populated with quality football programs. In the final AP Top 25 ranking for 2015, only Houston and Navy were ranked.

The scouting reports for Jackson didn’t hold up to scrutiny as well as I expected. The two contests I watched (against Tulane and Florida State) gave me reason for pause. What I saw, was an athletic player who lacked the physicality I prefer to see in a cornerback. The film showed me a defensive back who rarely made an impact when the play wasn’t coming towards him.

I saw a guy whose closing speed can prove dangerous once he’s diagnosed a play, but that tends to happen too slowly to make a constructive difference.

Jackson was rarely first to the ballcarrier, appeared to disfavor engaging the scrum, and tended to arm tackle — and often miss — when he did arrive. His strength is clearly in coverage. Although, most of his time was spent in off coverage. There, he often won in contested situations, proved to have solid ball skills, and was often able to overcome being beaten outright on a route.

While exceptionally talented as a pure athlete, he’s just not as complete a corner as Apple to my eye. With some coaching, from arguably the best two position coaches on the team, (in Al Harris and Emmitt Thomas), he could shore up his problem areas and be effective, but he seems to have a lower ceiling overall.

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