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Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown against Wisconsin.

Should Iowa CB Josh Jackson enter NFL draft after season?

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ANSWER: Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson leads the nation in interceptions (7) and passes defended (24). It’s impressive statistically considering this is his first full season as a starter. He’s 1 interception shy of tying Desmond King, Lou King and Nile Kinnick for the Hawkeyes’ single-season record.

Jackson’s numbers are impressive on many levels. His 24 passes defended are the second-most over the last 10 years. Houston CB William Jackson III had 28 passes defended in 2015. Josh Jackson still has two games remaining in his junior season.

When former Iowa teammate Desmond King won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 as the nation’s top defensive back, King had 8 interceptions (second in FBS) and 21 passes defended, which ranked fifth nationally. In 2013, Iowa first-team All-Big Ten cornerback B.J. Lowery was third in the FBS with 19 passes defended. Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, who was named the Big Ten’s top defensive back in 2012, had 15 passes defended to rank 22nd in the country. Hyde, a safety with the Buffalo Bills, currently ranks second in NFL interceptions with 5. King leads the Los Angeles Chargers in kickoff returns and has 35 tackles, including 2 sacks.

Jackson has an edge on both players, both of whom inexplicably dropped to the fifth round in their drafts. King measured at the NFL Scouting Combine at 5-foot-10¼ inches and 201 pounds. Hyde stood 5-11¾ and weighed 197. Hyde ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, and King did not run the 40. Questions about King’s speed caused him to fall while Hyde didn’t have one area that looked physically impressive to NFL scouts. When they signed at Iowa, King barely was a 3-star recruit by Rivals, while Hyde was a 2-star. Jackson also was a 2-star recruit.

Standing at a legitimate 6-1 and 192 pounds, Jackson is taller and has longer arms than King and Hyde. He also has more straight-ahead speed. So Jackson has the tangibles in his corner. He has a humble personality with a tremendous work ethic. At Iowa, Jackson is their peer. I can’t come around and say he’s better because the other two were off-the-chart football players. They still are.

Bleacher Report NFL draft analyst Matt Miller has Jackson as his 19th overall prospect and top cornerback available. ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has Jackson No. 22 on his board.

If a player like Jackson has a chance to become a first-round pick and has eight years of football left in his body, he should try to get paid for eight years. Jackson will graduate in May, so there’s no academic reason to return. He’s likely to earn consensus All-America honors and perhaps the Jim Thorpe Award. Next year, teams will shy away from Jackson — like they did King last year — so his timing is right to leave.

Here are a few tweets about Jackson:

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