By now we’re all well aware of the hierarchy at the running back and receiver positions in the 2018 NFL Draft. We also know that the Indianapolis Colts have a real need at both positions, amongst so many others heading into the 2018 season.
Saquon Barkley set the world on fire in his Combine workout, which has convinced many fans that the Colts just HAVE to draft him at No. 3 overall if he’s available. Similarly, guys like D.J. Chark and D.J. Moore have begun climbing big boards everywhere — even if only slightly — after their workouts giving some false hope of a deeper field at receiver.
First and foremost, the running back class is indeed a deep group, but the receivers’ class just seems to have some sleepers for different reasons. The Colts could double up on either position this offseason between free agency and the draft, or even just in the draft should they acquire additional picks.
Within this group, I have 2 players that I’ve taken to throughout their process heading into the draft — one from each position, that is worth keeping our eyes on. Justin Jackson, running back, from Northwestern and Jaleel Scott, receiver, from New Mexico State have some interesting traits and skill sets that could bolster each position without dropping a pick in the first 2 days to get them.
I’ll run you through what I’ve seen from both and you can decide for yourself whether they should be drawing interest from Chris Ballard and the team.
Justin Jackson | 5-foot-11, 200 pounds | RB | Northwestern
Jackson is an interesting watch for multiple reasons. We almost always have issues with backs who fail to be the primary back for an extended period of time, and Jackson poses no such issues. He’s carried the load for 4 years, he holds averages of 285 carries (1142 career carries), 1360 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns per season while steadily increasing his viability in the passing game over the past three seasons.
Jackson has some vicious one-cut ability, explosiveness when given some space and hits cutback lanes effectively as well. He has some slight issues with finding the right combination of patience and decisiveness when running laterally to the perimeter. This to me, however, was more of an indication of who porous his offensive line was which allowed 73 tackles for loss in 2017.
He has the requisite power to take on linebackers, the speed to get to daylight with ease and the ability to make defenders miss. Jackson can run between the tackles or hit the perimeter and succeed. He doesn’t force his path, but does tend to run too upright and will need to bring his pad level down at the next level.
Jackson’s been durable throughout his career playing in 51 games, but some consider his frame to be a bit slight for the NFL. Gaining 5-10 pounds should be expected in the next couple years in a league nutrition program, so my only concern is that maybe the miles, and amount of carries he’s had to withstand may work against him in terms of career length.
Jackson also brought it in his Combine workout as well posting figures among the best at the position this year, most notably with a 40-yard dash of 4.52 seconds (T-6th), a vertical of 38.5 inches (T-4th) and a 3-cone time of 6.81 seconds (2nd). I won’t say that Jackson is a No. 1 back in the NFL, but I don’t have any question as to whether he’s an excellent rotational back at the next level.
Jaleel Scott | 6-foot-5, 218 pounds | WR | New Mexico St.
I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t been watching Scott for awhile now. He’s a tough grade when looking at what a strange class this is at receiver, but most have him pegged anywhere in the 4-to-6 round range. I tend to believe that he’s closer to the 4th for various reasons outside of raw speed and competition.
Scott, most obviously, is a big-bodied receiver who has very good speed, is smooth in and out of his breaks and has a massive catch radius. His ability to work in the slot as well as outside the numbers will bring more notice to him going forward, and he’s adequately crafty against press coverage as well.
One of my favorite things about a receiver is seeing that they come back to the ball. They have to do it when their quarterback gets into trouble, but they also need to do it on deeper routes that break, both, inside and out. Scott comes back to the ball very well, has very good timing with his hands on 50/50 balls — which hides the arrival of the ball from the defensive back — has great body control, runs quality routes and doesn’t mind going across the middle.
A couple areas of concern for me are that he doesn’t often brace himself when catching the ball in traffic, which leaves his body vulnerable to getting hammered, and he doesn’t have more than a year of great production. In 2016, Scott only had 23 catches, but did amass 5 touchdowns with the limited role. Last year, however, he was a beast hauling in 76 passes (1079 yards) and 9 touchdowns.
He’s averaged 14 yards per catch over his 2 seasons at NMSU, and all of the coachable traits that he possesses will make him a threat in key areas of the field, especially with as much ground he eats up with his movement and ball skills. Scott put up some very good numbers in his Combine performance as well. He posted very good results in the 40-yard dash (4.57 seconds) for his size and length, the vertical (34.5 inches), and a nice 124-inch broad jump.