This series focuses on several Colts undrafted free agents, analyzing how good of a chance they have to make the final roster and how much they can contribute to the team. The series began with defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby, and now focuses on cornerback Buddy Jackson.
If you're looking toward Buddy Jackson as someone who could fill a void in the Colts secondary this season, let me spoil your hopes early. It's not going to happen.
While Jackson may have been a player the late Al Davis would have fallen head over heels for, boasting impressive physical characteristics and workout numbers, he has several detractors that indicate he won't make an easy transition into NFL defenses.
His most glaring weakness is his experience.
In his five-year career at Pittsburgh (one as a redshirt), Jackson started a grand total of one game.
That's not the most encouraging thing to read when the Colts desperately need help at cornerback this season. The coaching staff has admitted as much with their frantic attempts to swing a trade with the Cowboys for Mike Jenkins.
However, that doesn't mean that Jackson might as well pack up his things and head for the door before training camp even gets underway.
There's a reason that GM Ryan Grigson brought him in as an undrafted free agent, and I don't think it has anything to do with his defensive potential.
Instead, it has to do with his special teams abilities.
Special teams is an area that often gets overlooked in the offseason by Colts fans. For this offseason especially, the conversations here have centered more around the transitioning defense and new weapons on offense rather than how the team can finally field quality special teams players.
In case you needed a reminder, the Colts hit absolute rock bottom on special teams last season.
- 32nd in average kickoff return yards - 18.6
- 32nd in returns that went past the 20-yard line - 11
- 32nd in average punt return yards - 3.4
- 32nd in average yards allowed on kickoff returns - 30.7
- 19th in average yards allowed on punt returns - 11.5
NFL scouts may have attended the University ofPittsburgh Pro Day to see offensive guard Lucas Nix, defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, cornerback Antwuan Reed or pass rusher Brandon Lindsey -- each of whom participated at the Combine. And while several Pitt Panthers posted impressive results, it was another cornerback --Buddy Jackson-- whose spectacular speed and leaping ability stole the show.Jackson, who started only one game and never recorded an interception in four seasons with the Panthers, turned in a workout that would have ranked among the elite recorded at the Combine this year.
Jackson was clocked in the low 4.3s in the 40-yard dash. Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson was "officially" recorded at 4.35 seconds, the fastest among the 325+ prospects invited to participate in Indianapolis this year. Jackson also posted an 11-9" broad jump. By comparison, the top performance at the 2012 Combine was 11 feet, one inch which was accomplished by Robinson and Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill.
Jackson, listed by Pitt at 6-1, 180 pounds, had primarily seen his playing time come on special teams throughout his career. He led the Panthers with 543 kick return yards in 2011 (on 23 attempts). He averaged 23.6 yards per return and took one 98 yards for a touchdown against Utah. He posted career highs in every other category as a senior as well, recording 34 tackles, four passes broken up and recovering a fumble while seeing action in nickel and dime packages and on punt and kickoff coverage units.
Considering his size, athleticism and ability on special teams, Jackson's workout may be enough to get him drafted outright. It certainly will be enough to entice some club into giving him an opportunity should he not get drafted. Jackson is currently NFLDraftScout.com's 54th ranked cornerback prospect.
Raw, inexperienced cornerback who was not a starter, but has NFL-caliber size, speed and athletic ability to contribute on special teams, where he has experience as a "gunner," jammer and return man. Is long-levered and wiry - needs to get stronger - and will have to prove he has the flexibility and toughness to carve a niche.
Jerraud Powers is really the only cornerback who is guaranteed a roster spot at this point. Between players like Kevin Thomas, Terrance Johnson, Chris Rucker and Cassius Vaughn, can anyone say with 100 percent certainty that any of them will make the roster?
I can't. And I can't think of another position with that much unpredictability.
Therefore, just by the nature of Jackson's position, he has a better chance of making the team than many of the undrafted free agents, even if I still don't expect him to contribute much as a cornerback if he does make it. I still believe the defensive transition will be too steep for him in the beginning of his career.
However, as I said in this article, Jackson won't win a spot based on his cornerback skills. He'll have to display his NFL-caliber size and speed on special teams and prove he is a versatile athlete in order to stick around.
If Jackson is able to accomplish all of this in the next few months, I think he will at least make the practice squad and make a case to be elevated onto the active roster during the season.
UPDATE: Since some were asking in the comments if Jackson's insane 11'9 broad jump was for real, I thought I would tack on his Pro Day video to prove it. Skip ahead to 1:22 if you want to see it. And trust me, you do want to see this.