MOBILE, Ala. – Tyree Jackson isn’t worried about what the draftniks are saying about his NFL prospects. He’s not obsessing about exactly what round he will be taken in the NFL draft.
He was determined to turn pro and prove himself.
“This is exactly where you want to be if you want to be in the draft,” Jackson said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. “You want to be down here competing with the best and showing you are the best. I’m very excited.”
Jackson looked decent in his first Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. He missed on a few underneath throws, but he had the best arm of the four South quarterbacks. And he finished the practice strong, completing three nice passes in three attempts in 11-on-11 drills.
Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said Monday he views Jackson as a third- or fourth-round pick entering the pre-draft scouting season. The NFL’s College Advisory Committee told Jackson that he would not be projected as a first- or a second-round pick, sources told The News two weeks ago.
“If I go out there and do everything I want to do, if I go out here in Mobile and compete, I show my best, I go to the combine and compete, show my best, go to my pro day and do the same, at the end of the day, whatever happens, happens,” Jackson said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity to play at the next level.”
Jackson said he was focused on the NFL as soon as UB’s season ended with the loss to Troy in the Dollar General Bowl.
Jackson surely could have transferred to a top power-conference school for his last year of college eligibility. Auburn graduated its quarterback and reportedly was interested in Jackson. Tenth-ranked Washington State, No. 17 Penn State and No. 20 West Virginia all graduated their starting QBs. Jackson likely could have picked one of those schools.
Jackson, in fact, entered the NCAA transfer portal last month to open the possibility. How seriously did he consider it?
“Not very seriously at all,” Jackson said. “I consider myself a loyal person. I spent my time at the University at Buffalo. I loved my coaches and I loved my teammates, and I couldn’t do that to them. ... I was never going to attend another school.”
Why did he enter his name into the transfer portal?
“It was one of those things where my family wanted me to look at every single option,” Jackson said. “They wanted me to hear the coaches from the University at Buffalo. They wanted to put my name in the portal and see what happened. But after the last game, I knew that I was going to declare. ... It was never something where I was going to take official visits. I was always going to end up declaring.”
Quarterbacks who have strong pre-draft seasons tend to rise in the draft. Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Carson Wentz are some quarterbacks who shined at the Senior Bowl and made NFL scouts fall in love with them.
If Jackson plays well this week and at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, he has the physical tools to wow some teams.
Jackson measured 6-foot-7 and 249 pounds at Tuesday’s weigh-in. He’s the biggest QB in his year’s class. His hands measured 10 inches, well above average. (Bills QB Josh Allen’s hands last year measured 10 1/8, tied for the biggest in the draft class.)
And Jackson can move, as he showed late in Tuesday’s practice. He hit West Virginia’s David Sills V on a 20-yard cross off a play-action fake. Then he found Clemson’s Hunter Renfroe on a 20-yard bootleg pass in perfect rhythm. Then he hit a sharp, quick slant to Marshall’s Tyre Brady.
The first Senior Bowl practice tends to be a tad ragged. None of the four South QBs lit up the session, and Jackson was fourth in the QB snap rotation. Jackson was 7 of 13 in one-on-one drills with running backs and tight ends. But Jackson looked better than the other three South QBs, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.
Jackson knows he has to satisfy scouts’ concerns about the fact he completed only 55.8 percent of his passes at UB.
“I’m just going to continue to work on my lower-body mechanics and continue to clean things up,” he said. “I have a very strong arm. I can extend the play and make some plays outside of the pocket. But the thing I’m really working on is just winning from the pocket every time, making the consistent throws 100 times out of 100. I can roll out and throw it 60 yards, but I just want to work on throwing the hitch route in the same spot every single time.”