If the New York Giants aren’t seriously considering drafting left guard Gabe Jackson in the second round of the draft, which runs from May 8-10 this year, then now is the time to start.
The Mississippi State product is the ideal fit for New York at their weakest position, and, as of now, he should be available-based on projections from CBSSports.com—when Big Blue is on the clock with the 43rd pick.
It is no secret that the Giants offensive line needs to be rebuilt and the guard position should be their No. 1 priority. Last week, Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reported that the Giants will attempt to address this position through free agency by trying hard to sign a young, starting-caliber guard.
However, the Giants currently don’t have a reliable starter at this key interior offensive line position on their roster, so, along with relying on free agency, they should also draft a player that is a plug-and-play option.
This is where Jackson comes to the rescue. By the end of this article, you will probably think to yourself, “How is this guy not a first-round pick (if I do my job as a writer)?"
The only logical explanation will be that guards are not a popular first-round position. Only six have been selected in the first 32 picks in the last three drafts (2011-2013), with all but two being taken at 20th or later. Also there are other solid guards that teams may consider over Jackson, like UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo and Stanford’s David Yankey.
Jackson, though, is the man for the Giants and it starts with his 6’3”, 336-pound frame.
The 22-year-old is a large, physical blocker that is especially good at driving defensive tackles and ends off the ball in the running game. New York had a pitiful rushing attack in 2013 that ranked 30th in the NFL with a 3.5 yards per carry average, and their 1,332 total yards on the ground placed them 29th in the league.
The main reason for this lack of success was an inability for the interior offensive line to get any push in the running game. Jackson can help in this area right away.
A lack of agility and quickness may be an issue that some teams see with such a large individual. His performance in the 40-yard dash at the combine didn’t help this perception, as Jackson’s time of 5.51 seconds bested only Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio.
Recent combine history is one way to prove that a poor 40-yard dash doesn’t mean a guard will be too slow to play in the NFL.
Last year, Larry Warford ran the 40 in a sundial slow 5.58 seconds at the combine. This may have contributed to him falling into the third round and the waiting arms of the Detroit Lions. They are glad he did, as Warford put up an outstanding first season that earned him the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year award from Pro Football Focus.
Another way is by watching the GIF to the left, from the Mississippi State-LSU game last Oct. 5. Look how quickly Jackson goes from his position at left guard to block the left defensive end before he can lay a hand on the quarterback. This is excellent agility and quickness from a 300-pound offensive lineman, let alone one the size of Jackson.
Jackson certainly has the talent to be a Week 1 starter in 2014 for New York, but it’s other aspects, besides physical ability, that makes one think he could be a fixture on the Giants' offensive line for the next five to seven years.
To begin with, Jackson is extremely durable, having started 52 straight games over four seasons in college. In addition, he brings leadership, serving as captain his final two years at Mississippi State.
Jackson demonstrated why he received this honor out on the field, and showed his football IQ, explained Tyler Russell, the Bulldogs' starting quarterback for most of the last two seasons, last July to Chase Goodbread of College Football 24/7, via NFL.com.
Gabe Jackson, he knows everything on the offensive line, everything everyone needs to do. When you have a guy like that … they help me out so much. Especially with IDs. Sometimes those guys see things that I can't see, as far as, 'This guy is about to blitz' ... change protection, all that. I saw that last year, and I'm expecting to see it a lot more this year.
This is pretty high praise from Russell, especially considering Jackson still had one more year of college ahead of him at the time of this statement.
Jackson is truly the complete package. If we’re nitpicking, he is not as nimble and quick afoot as a Su’a-Filo, who “only” weighs 307 pounds. He is certainly agile enough, though, to pull—as we saw in the GIF—and also get to the second level on running plays.
Otherwise, it is hard to find fault with a player that is about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get in the draft.
The best part is that New York can secure another starting-caliber player, perhaps a tight end or wide receiver at the 12th pick, before snatching up Jackson in the second round. For a team that needs to shore up plenty of areas this offseason, getting two starters in the first two rounds should make Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin and company giddy with excitement.