Austin Jackson making first round push and getting push back

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC football’s Austin Jackson could garner a first-round pick, but there is uncertainty in his future.

Austin Jackson is splitting opinions as the NFL Draft approaches.

Thursday will begin the first round of the 2020 draft, which will go virtual with Jackson signed on to participate on the video side.

But it’s not clear if the offensive tackle will come off the board on Day 1, or have to ride it out until the second round on Friday.

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If you talk to Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network, Jackson’s status as a first-round selection shouldn’t be in doubt.

Jeremiah tweeted on Monday about the players NFL GMs indicated will “go higher than anticipated.” Jackson was among the four.

Jackson himself told the LA Times he has heard promising things as far as his draft day prospects.

“In a draft flush with offensive tackle prospects, most teams have told him they expect he’ll be selected late in the first round,” Ryan Kartje wrote. “Others in that range have suggested he won’t be around when they pick.”

ESPN’s Jordan Raanan appears less convinced of Jackson’s place. He tweeted his expectation of seeing six or seven offensive tackles come off the board in the first. However, his projection is the likes of Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, along with Josh Jones of Houston and Isaiah Wilson Georgia.

“Austin Jackson or Ezra Cleveland could slide in as well,” Raanan acknowledged.

Doubt over Jackson also comes from draft analyst Jon Ledyard, now of Pewter Report. His assessment of Jackson was about as blunt as possible.

“Here’s the problem with the hype about Jackson: we aren’t learning from our mistakes as evaluators. That goes for NFL team and draft analysts alike. Why are we still putting guys with his flaws in the first two rounds of our boards?” Ledyard wrote.

In his ranking of the Top 15 tackles available in the draft, he gave Jackson a grade in the early fourth round.

Ledyard worried about Jackson’s performance against Utah’s Bradlee Anae, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, and Notre Damen’s Julian Okwara. He also expressed concern over his status as a developmental prospect, which is the tag the player has received from fans and foes. He’s not the finished article. Some just buy into his potential more than others.

The lastest FanSided mock draft bets on the second-round grade.

It’ll only take one NFL GM to be convinced to secure an earlier pick though.

For USC, hoping to see Jackson make the first round isn’t just about wanting to see him enjoy that moment.

The Trojans are even with Ohio State for the most first-round draft picks in NFL history. The Buckeyes tied USC at 81 with two picks in last year’s draft. With Chase Young and Jeffery Okudah likely to be selected in the first this year, Ohio State is expected to take control of that all-time record. A Day 1 selection for Jackson would mean keeping the gap minimal, living to fight for the top spot next year and beyond.

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