Head coach Dirk Koetter was asked about Jackson at the NFL owners meetings last week, but didn't go into a whole lot of detail, at least not the way he did when discussing running back Christian McCaffrey.
"We've looked at him," Koetter said of Jackson. "We've looked at a lot of guys. He's a heck of a football player. Another guy that's a good return guy. This is a deep draft. I'm excited to see who we're gonna get at 19. I know we're gonna get a good football player. I just don't know what position it's gonna be."
Jackson probably won't be a Day 1 draft pick. He's projected to go in the second or even third round in a cornerback class because of his measurables. So the Bucs could address bigger areas of need, like safety and tight end early on, or grab an explosive receiver or a game-changing running back, and then look to corner after.
Jackson clocked a 4.42 at the NFL combine, seventh among cornerbacks, and posted a 36-inch vertical and 122-inch broad jump. At 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds, he's one of the smaller corners in this year's draft class. For a team like the Bucs, which has one of the shortest cornerback tandems in the NFL in Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, size isn't really a concern. It's all about production.
Jackson had 16 pass breakups last season, third-most in the Pac-12, and had five interceptions, tied for second in the Pac-12. He had 28 pass breakups in three years, ninth-most in college football in that span.
He was the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award in 2016, given to the nation's best defensive back. He was also named a First-Team All-American. As a kick returner, he amassed 1,374 career return yards, fourth-most in USC history. As a dual-sport athlete, he was a two-time Pac-12 long jump champion.
What's particularly impressive is that he scored a touchdown in college four different ways -- on an interception return, a kick return, a punt return and as a receiver. Lining up as a running back and a receiver, he took 45 snaps on offense and recorded 593 yards and five touchdowns. Granted, he's a cornerback, but a creative play-caller like Koetter could easily insert specific packages for him. After all, Gerald McCoy moonlighted as a fullback against the Chicago Bears last year.
Grimes is entering the second year of a two-year contract and he'll be 34 next season. Grimes hasn't indicated he's thinking of retiring and he's still playing at a high level. But the Bucs could groom Jackson as a future replacement for Grimes while lining him up inside at nickelback in the meantime.
They could use Jackson as a kick returner too. The Bucs averaged 14.62 yards per kickoff return last season, last in the NFL. Their 9.17 yards per punt return average was 12th. Interestingly enough, Koetter doesn't see the kick returner as a huge need, however.
"I know everyone's worried about the kick return thing," Koetter said. "I think 39 percent of kickoffs were returned this year. So you've got all those balls going to the 25. Of the balls that came out, the average starting position was the 22-point-something. So you're just not seeing a lot of kickoff returns get past the 25-yard line.
"For something that, depending on who you're playing, might not even happen the whole game, if the team is kicking it to the end zone, I don't think it's quite as high of a priority," Koetter said. "I think we have some guys [who'd] be fine doing it, maybe weren't healthy last year or we couldn't use them. But there's a bunch of guys in this draft that definitely can do it, but you're not gonna draft a guy primarily because of that in the first round. If he can do that, that's a bonus."