The Vikings have announced that they have waived linebacker Dom DeCicco with an injury designation and have claimed linebacker Justin Jackson off of waivers.
DeCicco underwent a hip “procedure” this past week and until then had been a third string outside linebacker before then. Recently, Larry Dean had been seeing third team reps while he was out and DeCicco only took four snaps in the preseason (Week 1, against the Raiders).
The first many heard of him was in Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks List,” where Jackson was profiled as one of the top twenty athletes in college football.
12. Justin Jackson, Wake Forest, OLB: A linebacker who minors in dance, Jackson’s nifty footwork is also quite evident on the field and in all the drills Wake Forest tests in. The 6-1, 230-pounder has been timed in the 40 at 4.44 and a broad jump of 10-8 to go with a hang clean of 400 pounds.
Indeed, he does pop athletically. Of all the athletes who have gone to the NFL Combine between 1999 and 2014, Jackson’s weight-adjusted scores rank him 105th of 3379, or in the top three percent. Ranked 104th is Khalil Mack. Other linebackers ranked near him are Zavier Gooden and Keith Bullock, while the Vikings’ own Jerick McKinnon ranks 109th. Assuming all combine scores are equal, adjusting for weight makes Justin Jackson is more athletic than Jerick McKinnon, the single most athletic player at Vikings camp.
Creating a pseudo-mockdraftable radar graph for him brings the point home:
While his pure athleticism compares immediately to Khalil Mack’s his specific athletic comparisons best fit Zavier Gooden, Jamar Chaney, Ernie Sims, Patrick Willis and Seattle’s fourth-round pick, Kevin Pierre-Louis. This heavily implies that because he’s more agile than explosive that he’s not a hybrid pass-rush/linebacker but a rangy off-ball player.
Justin Jackson was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Lions as a rookie out of Wake Forest. There are a few reports on Justin Jackson from the Lions faithful that are worth a look. The first scouting report is from Blogger So Dear:
Justin Jackson is an athletic outside linebacker who had a very productive final three seasons at Wake Forest. The outside linebacker finished his Wake Forest career with 196 total tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. At his pro day he had impressive combine numbers including 27 bench press reps of 225 pounds, a 39 inch vertical jump, and a 10′ 9″ broad jump. He did not run the 40 yard dash due to a hamstring injury.
He played both inside and outside linebacker at Wake Forest and Detroit — as mentioned in other profiles — is looking for versatility throughout its lineup. That appears to be a big focus with who the Lions have looked at with their undrafted free agent class and Jackson would fit that.
Apparently, Jackson was a target for the Lions even during the draft, as he says in this profile from Your Home Journal they had mentioned potentially taking him between the fifth-and-seventh rounds of the draft. (Also in that profile, Jackson mentions working out withNdamukong Suh – but I still haven’t heard anything definitive that Suh has shown up at workouts to this point) He also has played special teams in the past and has some athleticism, so those could be other intriguing qualities to him. According to that linked profile, he chose Detroit over Pittsburgh.
Jeff Risdon, from Detroit Lions Draft, saw potential in him from the things he saw. He was one of the few UDFAs he targeted for a practice squad spot:
Justin Jackson–There’s a fair chance the Wake Forest, and Richmond before that, linebacker makes the practice squad. He’s loaded with quick-twitch muscle and sees the ball well. The early returns were pretty positive; his ability to close on the ball impressed the Lions.
Ben Natan, a member of the draft community on Twitter and writer for With the First Pick, emailed me some notes on him as well:
- Jackson possesses a very strong build with fantastic muscularity.
- He has great foot quickness and it is evident in ability in coverage.
- He has decent recognition skills against the pass and closes on the ball very quickly.
- Functions against the run well in space can break down, make open field tackles and occasionally lay the boom. Strong, explosive tackler.
- As a blitzer, he has a great first step and good anticipation and can impact by creating pressure.
- Good long speed and physicality to function in man coverage
- Jackson has good strength and flashes ability to get off blocks, but he lacks functional length to consistently get off blocks and lacks the lower body strength to take on blocks.
- Too often dances around blocks and while it works in college, it will not work for him in the NFL. Liability against the run.
- In traffic, Jackson takes bad angles against the run, possibly due to poor field vision caused by his height.
I really like Jackson’s game. He is a high motor linebacker who flies all over the field and hits everything in sight. He plays football like a rocked up safety and covers the same way. His place is a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he can use his quickness to impact he backside of plays. He is worrisome against the run, so I think his best fit would be playing linebacker in Nickel situations. At the absolute worst, I think Jackson contributes as a stud special teams player.
From Your Football Scout, which saw him as a edge-rusher prospect:
DE/OLB JUSTIN JACKSON 601 235, Wake Forest
Raw, super explosive weight room warrior.
Lacks great size and bulk but is long and very well built.
Very good athleticism. Top straight line speed and explosiveness. 4.4 forty yard dash time and almost 11 foot broad jump.
Physical and is a big hitter and strong tackler.
Great range, excellent in coverage for his position.
Lacked pass rush production.
Lacks an arsenal of moves as well as the bulk and power necessary to consistently create pressure.
In 28 snaps in the preseason, Justin Jackson earned a 0.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, with a -0.2 grade against Cleveland balanced out by a +0.2 grade against Oakland. True to his size/speed profile, he was a better pass coverage specialist (+0.3) than run defense (-0.2) or pass rush player (-0.1).
Vikings official statement:
Justin Jackson joins the Vikings after being claimed off waivers by the club. Jackson originally joined the Detroit Lions as an undrafted rookie free agent earlier this offseason. While at Wake Forest, Jackson appeared in 36 games, tallied 193 tackles, recorded 7 sacks, forced 3 fumbles and recovered 2 fumbles as a three-year player. The Richmond, North Carolina native redshirted in 2009 as a freshman and missed the 2010 season with a knee injury.
That knee injury was an ACL tear. Naturally this doesn’t mean much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was seriously considered for a practice squad spot. With the expansion of the squad from eight to ten, I would pay attention to him as a potential developmental stash.