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A closer look at Alaric Jackson, the Rams’ top priority among the undrafted free agents

What are the expectations for Jackson?

Syndication: HawkCentral Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Alaric Jackson has gotten the most attention among the Rams’ undrafted free agents in 2021. There are probably two reasons for this: he might be the highest-rated of the prospects and he’s also an offensive lineman, of which Les Snead drafted zero.

Who is he?

A three-star prospect out of Detroit in 2016, Jackson chose Iowa over Michigan, then had a highly-decorated four-year career as a starting left tackle after his redshirt season. You can’t argue against the experience or resume, but Jackson had issues with footwork, balance, play strength, and previous concerns involving his weight, a knee injury, and team suspensions.

There would appear to be a lot to mold before getting Jackson into NFL shape, but then there is also a lot of clay: 6’5, 321 lbs, and arms just under 34”. Jackson has a better resume than most left tackles who go undrafted; he was playing for Iowa, alongside the likes of Tristan Wirfs, Ike Boettger, James Daniels, and near the likes of some of the best tight ends to enter the NFL in the last five years, and he was more than holding his own at that program.

Jackson also committed to a healthier diet and playing at a weight that could allow him to have a higher ceiling than the one most scouts have projected him for, with an example coming from The Draft Network’s write-up on Jackson:

And while Jackson’s development as a player appears to have plateaued at the collegiate level, he does offer the baseline traits to be a rostered NFL offensive lineman. Jackson has bright flashes on vertical releases and down blocks in the running game and teams that can take advantage of his lateral mobility will be able to capitalize on his skill set the most. Jackson’s best appeal from a passing perspective is to arrive in a quick-game attack that does not ask him to set vertically and take deep drops to cover for his quarterback on a regular basis — he’s still too irregular with his set, first punch and anchor to be a protector for quarterbacks who hold the football for a longer than average duration. If he was a less experienced player, we could point to developmental upside and suggest perhaps a higher ceiling to work with. But Jackson, a four-year starter, doesn’t have that luxury.

Jackson enters the rookie phase of the offseason as perhaps LA’s top undrafted signing, but with the Rams drafting nine players and the offensive line returning 11 veterans with prior experience — including Chandler Brewer, a player pointed to by Sean McVay as practice one of the Rams draft picks this year when he returns from opting out — the hill to get over is steeper than usual. The competition for the final one or two roster spots will be intense, I am sure.

If Jackson “only” makes it to the practice squad, that would be a lot further than some may have expected in spite of his glowing accomplishments. The Rams gave him a $20,000 signing bonus though, so they’re definitely interested.