IOWA CITY, Iowa — A week after tying Iowa’s single-season interception record, junior cornerback Josh Jackson declared for the NFL draft.
“After discussing with my coaches, my family, and a lot of prayers, I have decided to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft,” Jackson wrote in a heartfelt post on Instagram Wednesday morning.
Jackson, a unanimous first-team All-American, led the nation in interceptions with 8 and passes defended with 26. He tied Desmond King (2015), Lou King (1981) and Nile Kinnick (1939) for Iowa’s single-season record, and his passes defended tally was the second most nationally in the last 10 seasons. Jackson, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 192 pounds, produced highlight-reel interceptions, including three against Ohio State, and had two pick-6s and a forced fumble at Wisconsin.
Anyone who thought Jackson would pass up the NFL draft and stay at Iowa one more year lacks an understanding of how the world works. Jackson, a Corinth, Texas, native, needs nine credits to graduate from Iowa with a degree in sports management next May, which he still can accomplish. He’s projected as a top-20 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which means at least $17 million in salary and bonuses. If he were to come back to Iowa for the 2018 season, opponents would stay away from Jackson the way they did with Desmond King, who decided to stay for his senior year in 2016. That impacted King’s draft stock. If Jackson stayed at Iowa, an injury such as a high-ankle sprain or a pulled hamstring could cost him millions. The only realistic option was to go to the NFL.
“Desmond was a different story,” defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “He doesn’t have the same dimensions and skill set that maybe Josh has, but Desmond has more of the football instincts than maybe Josh does.”
As for Iowa, Jackson’s loss has ramifications, but in the big picture, it’s not devastating. Iowa has three returning cornerbacks with starting experience. Freshman Matt Hankins started the final two games this season. Hankins replaced sophomore cornerback Manny Rugamba, who opened eight games this season and three in 2016. Sophomore Michael Ojemudia started three games this season. That’s more than the one career start Jackson had entering 2017.
Josh Jackson Best corner in college football! #GoHawks
— Christian Kirksey (@Kirksey) November 4, 2017
Additionally, Iowa redshirted cornerback Josh Turner, who will compete in 2018. The Hawkeyes bring in newcomers D.J. Johnson, Julius Brents and Terry Roberts to battle for time as well.
Parker has little fear of starting first-year cornerbacks, the way he did Hankins in 2017, Rugamba in 2016 and King in 2013. That could be the case next season.
While it’s never palatable to lose a player the caliber of Jackson before his eligibility expires, his success showed Iowa is capable of developing high-level defenders at that position. Three of the last six Big Ten defensive backs of the year are Hawkeyes — Micah Hyde in 2012, King in 2015 and Jackson. Rugamba was Big Ten defensive player of the week against Michigan in 2016. He has that potential after a subpar 2017 season. So do his fellow cornerbacks.