For the third time in five years, the Cincinnati Bengals targeted a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft, taking Houston’s William Jackson III with the 24th overall pick Thursday night.
The prevailing thought was the Bengals would take a wide receiver in the first round, and that likely was the plan until the three teams picking ahead of them each drafted a wide receiver to remove the top four options after Cleveland started the run at 15.
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Here are five things to know about the newest Cincinnati Bengals cornerback:
Bridging the Gap
After transferring from Trinity Valley Community College, Jackson’s first game at the Division I level was the Cougars’ 2014 season opener against Louisville and future first-round quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“He told me that on his trip here,” Bengals defensive back coach Kevin Coyle said. “When he left, while somebody was driving him to the airport, we got right on the film and started really doing some more research. We already liked him, and we liked him more after that.”
Jackson have five tackles in the game and one of Houston’s three pass breakups.
“I was ready to play, amped up,” Jackson said. “I was a younger guy playing against a big talent. I was so ready. I had a great game, and managed to stay on the field after that. I knew he was going to be a first-round guy, and I wanted to show the world that I could play against big talent. I wanted to show that I could play with the best.”
Stealing from Steelers
All indications were the Pittsburgh Steelers were intent on taking a cornerback in the first round, and Jackson was believed to be one of their top choices.
Even Jackson thought he would be headed to Pittsburgh.
“Yeah, I definitely did,” he said. “I had dinner with them, and we had great chemistry. We talked about a lot of things, so I thought it was coming. But I’m happy to be a Cincinnati Bengal.”
Jackson was ranked higher by every national draft analyst than Artie Burns, the cornerback Pittsburgh selected one pick later.
Jackson ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, which was tied for the sixth fastest among all athletes participating.
“Will has exceptional speed,” Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said. “ He’s really, really fast. One of the things that impressed us was his ability to track the ball, as well as his speed. He’s not just a fast guy that can run and beat people down the field. He gets his hands on a ton of balls. I think he’s got the acceleration, he can makes plays that some guys just can’t get to.”
Plug and play
Unlike the last two cornerbacks the Bengals drafted in the first round, Dre Kirkpatrick in 2012 and Darqueze Dennard in 2014, Jackson could be a regular contributor on defense as a rookie.
“He fits us as a guy who we really feel can come right away and make the 46-man roster on Sundays,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “He can contribute defensively as a young player.”
Jackson lists riding horses as his favorite hobby on his University of Houston bio page. You would have to imagine there will be some sort of language about that written into his rookie contract.
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