Gabe Jackson has been an institution in Starkville at the left guard spot for Mississippi State since he took over as a redshirt freshman. There is a little bit of a tradition of four year starters at Mississippi State developing and doing quite well in the draft process with Johnthan Banks doing the same thing last year as part of the same recruiting class, but he did not redshirt. Jackson is one of the most talented in the conference even with the amount of recognition and awards that end up in Tuscaloosa. Jackson stands out because of his size as much as his play; he possesses prototypical size and strength for the position, especially with the style of play common to the SEC and the consistent talent at the defensive tackle position.
Jackson is an earth moving guard who might end up moving to right side in the NFL as there may be concerns with his ability to protect the quarterback as well as potential concerns with his ability to pull in the running game. If he can prove that he could be a viable left guard in the NFL, his stock will move up quite a bit in the draft process because he could be a huge weapon on the offensive line. Jackson has the appearance of a top 100 pick but if he can prove to be a viable left guard option which will largely be improving his footwork and lateral agility, he could get into the top 50 easily and perhaps higher.
Vitals & Build
Jackson is listed at 6’4” 320lbs and he is simply an enormous human being. He is sporting thighs like Earl Campbell at the offensive guard position with incredible strength and power at his disposal. 320lbs appears like it could be on the lighter side for Jackson but he appears to carry the weight pretty well, though that can be deceiving. Hopefully when he gets to the combine, he looks more like D.J. Fluker and less like Terrance Cody in shorts. Jackson moves well going forward but has some questions in terms of lateral quickness and his ability to move his feet, relying on his impressive ballast and long arms to hide the problem. It would be interesting to see if losing weight would help him be more nimble or if the drop in weight would hurt his ability to hold up at the point of attack, but with his functional strength and ability to get push, that seems unlikely. With a guy like Jackson, it is difficult to speculate how much stronger he can get, but if he can find the ability to make his body move a little more quickly and generate more momentum in a short area, that could make him play with even more strength even if he does not much more of it.
Relative to his size and power, Jackson is a solid athlete. Matched up against other offensive linemen, he is not going to be all that impressive but next to guys his size, he would be about average. He has not been a guy who has many examples of being able to get to the second level unless he has no one to block. His ability to get out in front of screens is somewhat limited in terms of the range. He can pull relatively well, but that could improve as well. Jackson could improve in these areas and it would do him a world of good, but for the most part, a team taking Jackson is not grabbing him to be a super athletic offensive line. They want him to punish opponents and wear them down with his power and strength to create running lanes.
Jackson is a perfectly solid pass blocker for the college game but his run blocking is what makes him stand out as a player and can get the draft community excited. The Bulldogs scheme does not appear to ask him to really maul opponents and creates pancakes as a drive blocker, preferring him to be base block but he is an earth mover. He is able to consistently create a bubble as a run blocker and move opponents off their spot as well as dig opponents out when needed. In goal line and short yardage situations, he is difficult to stop and seems to always create space for the runner to operate even when the opponent has no doubt where the play is going.
He is able to pull and hit a moving target, though it would be nice to see him crumple opponents, especially when he is blocking on trap plays. Jackson is not a guy who has trouble getting to his spot and making the block when it comes to tripping over trash. Some may criticize how nimbly he can move from the left guard spot into the hole, but he gets there consistently.
There are times when the Bulldog offense has him cut block, which is peculiar to watch when a guy of Jackson’s size goes down at the opponents’ legs rather than just going after them physically and makes it impossible for him to make multiple blocks, which seems counter intuitive with a player like Jackson. Jackson does not seem to have a ton of opportunities to get to the second level. Part of this is due to the fact that he is almost always the focal point of their run blocks, so the opportunities are limited. The times he is able to get to the second level, it is simply unfair as he overwhelms linebackers and defensive backs with his size and strength. It would be nice to see him play with more of a mean streak and a killer instinct, but the results are good for Jackson in the running game.
Jackson is an extremely wide bodied blocker in the passing game and if he can get his hands on the opponent, it is usually a done deal. He has those long arms so combined with how much space he takes up in the hole, he is difficult to get around. His footwork in pass protection is not great but the factors mentioned before help reduce that as a problem at least in college. While he may not struggle in the NFL, it could be an issue that holds him back at that level and it can certainly improve.
Jackson has long arms and power and has rarely been moved backward due to an opposing bull rush. He is extremely stout in pass protection, so most opponents do not even look at power as an option, but he holds up well against the ones that did. It takes a great deal of raw power to move him like Daniel McCullers of Tennessee, but even he had limited success in that capacity. It is a shame these two do not play this year and hopefully they both go to Mobile to compete for a week in the Senior Bowl in what would be a matchup between titans all week.
Usually, Jackson is able read and adjust to blitz packages and multiple attackers coming into his area with the ability to move off of one and pick up another if deemed a larger threat; he keeps his head on a swivel well to see what is coming. Occasionally, he will get beat on those types of combo blitz packages but not often and it is not something that looks to be a long reaching problem. He just needs to continue working and see more exotic blitz packages so he can learn how to adjust.
He is more susceptible to having an opponent set up one way, usually to the outside drawing Jackson out and then having enough quickness to cut back inside to get around Jackson and in the A gap. Because his footwork is not great and he is not overly agile laterally, if he makes a false step, he opens himself up to be beaten. If he can improve his quickness and footwork to be able to work better laterally, he is going to have a really difficult time getting beat both at Mississippi State and in the NFL.
Mississippi State is certainly not the only one but it is frustrating that teams have a guy like Jackson try to cut block pass rushers and dive at their legs. It works to keep them off balance and gives something to think about, but the NFL does not do it and some will look at the fact that he is on the ground so much as a negative. More importantly does need to do it to be an effective pass blocker. He is more than capable to do the job in pass pro straight up, but some coaches preach it in high school and college.
Despite the size of his legs, Jackson is a decent bender at the knee. He is able to take advantage of the power in his upper body because he is able to get opponents with a rising blow and good pad level. Whether he is pass or run blocking, he is able to keep opponents out of his body with his arms extended after throwing a solid punch. He might be better served continuing to punch and keep punching repeatedly rather than allowing his arms to rest on the opponent as it can occasionally result in him losing the block to the outside, especially when he stops moving his feet.
This is the biggest area of concern, especially when it comes to his lateral quickness. He is pretty good when he is running forward and he can get going in a single direction either on trap blocks or pulls, but he can improve in this area. His footwork in pass blocking is the biggest problem and he has to be judicious with his footwork in order for him to keep opponents in front of him. There are times when he feels like the play is over or the guy is going far enough to the outside where his feet will stop and he just rides them out with his hands. Jackson is not always right with this and there could be more and better effort in this area.
Jackson is the prototypical earth moving guard, more likely to end up at right guard. That said, an NFL team could use him the same way the Bulldogs did which is using on the left side. If that team also has a talented run blocking right side of the line could like the idea of having Jackson pulling to the right and having that many earth movers on helping them open up holes in the running game as well as having a viable run blocking option going to the left. It will all come down to whether they believe he could pull effectively and consistently in that scenario. There are a number of teams that would love to be able to plug in a guy like Jackson on their line at either guard spot including the entire AFC North, San Francisco, New Orleans, Tennessee, and St. Louis. Not all of those teams necessarily need a guard but those are teams that could use a player like Jackson in their system.
|Sat, Aug. 31||vs. Oklahoma State|
|Sat, Sept. 7||vs. Alcorn State|
|Sat, Sept. 14||at Auburn|
|Sat, Sept. 21||vs. Troy|
|Sat, Oct. 5||vs. LSU|
|Sat, Oct. 12||vs. Bowling Green|
|Thu, Oct. 24||vs. Kentucky|
|Sat, Nov. 2||at South Carolina|
|Sat, Nov. 9||at Texas A&M|
|Sat, Nov. 16||vs. Alabama|
|Sat, Nov. 23||at Arkansas|
|Thu, Nov. 28||vs. Ole Miss|
Projecting where defensive linemen are going to play can be difficult in the interior, but the LSU should be a good matchup anyway. Last year, Jackson went up against Bennie Logan most of the time, so unless Anthony Johnson is sliding over, he probably will not go up against him but LSU always brings a talented defensive line, so Jackson will have the opportunity to lead the way in the running game. Donte Rumph of Kentucky is another talented player and if those two go up against each other, it could be a nice matchup. Finally, Alabama always has a good mix of power and quickness up front and gives Jackson the most varied looks he tends to see all season, so in terms of making adjustments to blitz combinations or lateral quickness, the game against Alabama is a big one. They give opponents all kinds of different looks, so it can be the ultimate test for an offensive lineman like Jackson where he can show off the total package and the full range of his talents.
Jackson’s game could be reminiscent of Kevin Zeitler of the Cincinnati Bengals. Zeitler has come in and been a terrific right guard for the Bengals basically from the moment he was selected out of Wisconsin. Both of these guys are able to move opponents off the ball and create running lanes but are capable pass protectors as well. Not only is that the type of game that Jackson could have at the next level but it might be the best type of system for him to be a successful player.
Jackson demonstrates a ton of ability but his stock may really float around until the offseason process. There is little doubt that as long as he is healthy and functional, Jackson will get an invite to the Senior Bowl. That week of practice could do the most to really firm up his stock and convince people of his ability to play left guard. The level of competition is obviously tremendous but he will have the opportunity to really show off his pass protection ability in the pit drills. It is difficult to imagine he is not going to be picked in the top 100 in the upcoming draft but the potential is there to really clean up his footwork and move up and could end up potentially fighting for a spot in the first round.