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Ickes | Cowboys should target Eddie Jackson in the NFL Draft

FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, file photo, Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a punt for a 79-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. There’s not always a right-or-wrong answer to the question of whether they should stay or should they go, even with hindsight. Just ask Jackson, the Crimson Tide’s All-American safety who elected to bypass the NFL Draft following last season and return for his senior year, only to have that season cut short by a broken left leg last week. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)
(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

By this point, less than a week before the draft, the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys and most other teams have been discussed over and over. Teams have finished putting together their draft boards and are working through the various scenarios, going through their own mock drafts and making phone calls to other teams.

This time of year is usually full of “smoke” from the league. Teams are trying to guard what they really think, hoping other teams won’t take action to prevent their preferred series of events from taking place.

But we can still find nuggets of truth, especially earlier in the process. These quotes from Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones are great examples:

“What we have to do better on defense is we have to get pressure on the passer. And we have to make plays on the ball. We have to do that better.”

“People say our biggest issue and the thing that keeps us from winning a championship is the lack of (defense), We didn’t have the players to be a great defense. Hopefully, we can address that (in the draft). Now I am not going to say we are going to sit here and pick for need. But I will say before we started free agency we took a snapshot of the draft and knew that it was deep in the defensive line, deep in the secondary. We knew that was the ability to really improve ourselves there.”

This is where former Alabama free safety Eddie Jackson comes into play. In the last two seasons as a full-time player on the Crimson Tide defense, he intercepted 7 passes, returning 3 for touchdowns and deflecting 4 more. Those numbers came even though his senior season was cut short after eight games by a broken left leg.

Before his injury, he was a key playmaker on Alabama’s national championship team in 2015, making huge plays like the one below:

Down 14-7 in the second quarter, Jackson steps in front of a Deshaun Watson pass at the 40-yard line and gives his offense a short field to go in and tie the game. These are the kinds of plays the Dallas secondary just hasn’t made enough of the last several years.

In addition to the range and ball skills shown above, Jackson also has the ability to score once he gets his hands on the ball.

On the play below, Jackson intercepts a downfield pass and shows impressive vision and speed as he works his way through traffic for 6 points.

Again, this is the type of play that Dallas fans haven’t regularly seen from their defensive backfield. Having said that, Jackson still brings more to the table.

He also has elite skills as a punt returner, averaging 23 yards per return in 2016 with 2 touchdowns.

That’s a 76-yard return for a touchdown to ice a rivalry game against the ninth-ranked team in the nation.

Combine this type of production, and knack for big plays, with the fact that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has a very good relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban, who praised Jackson after his injury:

“Eddie was a fantastic player for us, a great leader, an All-American player as a safety, at least in my book, and we’re going to miss him,” Saban said. “But what a great player, what a great competitor, what a great guy to have in this program for the time that he’s been here. He’s done a fantastic job for us. I’m just sick for him and his family.”

When you start to put the picture together, Eddie Jackson checks all the boxes for the Cowboys. He could be a steal in the third round, and he could develop into a cornerstone players in the Cowboys secondary.

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