Malik Jackson is a 6'5, 270lb senior for Tennessee. As you'll see in the video below, he literally played every position on the Tennessee defensive line. Anything from nose tackle in a 3-4 to defensive end in a 4-3, Jackson did it. Most commonly he played both the 1 tech and 3 tech in a 4-3. At 270lbs.
Jackson originally committed to USC under Pete Carroll. I only just now learned that after trying to dig up some background info on him. That isn't why I chose to write this piece, but it is interesting now that I know about it. With USC his appeared in 21 games as a rotational guy during his freshman and sophomore years, getting 5.5 sacks and a couple forced fumbles. He transferred without sacrificing a year of eligibility because of USC's sanctions. Since joining Tennessee, he's started 24 out of 25 games, collecting 7.5 sacks, 26 tackles for loss and a couple more forced fumbles.
But who cares about stats, on to the video.
00:00 - Right off the bat you see Jackson's versatility. He's playing the nose in a 3-4. He does a good job of driving the center back but isn't in a position to shed his blocker and doesn't fully plug the hole.
0:22 - He's lined up as a three tech here I think. He gets driven back by the guard but does a very nice job shedding his blocker and getting in position to make a tackle at the line of scrimmage.
00:33 - Defensive end in a 3-4, I think. This is kind of a weird look and I don't think he has normal 5 tech responsibilities here. Good burst, active hands, drives the guard back and is able to get loose in the back field.
00:44 - 1 tech in a 4-3. That's four plays and four different positions in the first seven minutes of this game.
00:53 - Initially lined up over the center, he shifts to the 1 tech. This is where Jackson first really caught my eye, that's some really impressive explosion off the line. He dips his shoulder to slip past the center, demolishes a running back trying to chip block and forces a dangerous throw from the quarterback.
01:02 - Back to back plays where Jackson gets good penetration but over-pursues on the first and slips on the second.
01:41 - Does a nice job forcing a double team and pushing it back.
02:00 - Stands up and sheds the center to make a tackle in the back field. Shows good lateral agility to get in the running lane.
02:48 - Jackson gets driven back but is able to maneuver his blocker to stay in the play.
04:06 - Very nice swim move here to slip by the center before shedding the guard and pressuring the quarterback.
04:27 - Does a good job squeezing between blockers and getting into the back field. He gets blocked by the pulling guard but he clogs the running lanes, killing the run.
04:34 - Does a good job moving through trash to track down the running back on a play ran away from his side.
05:02 - Jackson initially has trouble getting any pass rush on this play but he reads Jordan Jefferson and drops into contain. Jackson and 99 do a good job of bottling Jefferson up but he's able to escape for a big gain.
05:32 - Again Jackson does a really nice job of slipping off blockers and maneuvering trash in a short yardage situation.
05:41 - Nice job getting into the backfield but he isn't able to finish the play.
05:50 - Jackson, and the entire defensive line, gets bull dozed by Bama's line.
05:58 - Nice use of hands here by Jackson, shedding the center and shucking the back.
06:42 - This is slow build pressure, by Jackson drives his man back, uses his hands well and then gets his hands up to try to tip the pass. The quarterback is eventually forced out of the pocket and has to make a tough throw across his body to avoid Jackson.
06:59 - I'm not sure what is going on with the left guard on this play, but while Jackson engages the center he reaches out with his right arm and throws the guard to the turf.
07:57 - Jackson is lined up as a defensive end in a 4-3 and while he gets good pressure and even ends up with a sack, you can see that he's not a pure speed rusher.
08:20 - This play is ugly. No pass rush, doesn't even really try, and then he isn't able to make a play on the running back. If you're not going to rush the passer, you'd hope he'd put himself in better position to stop that dump off.
08:43 - Back to back plays where he's stonewalled by the right guard. It looks like he struggles with the guards strength on these two plays.
09:15 - Another goal line situation where he finds a way to get into the backfield. That's a tackle for loss if not for the hold.
10:37 - Defensive end again, he reads the play and slides off two blockers to pressure the quarterback.
10:45 - Again, he's not a speed rusher. He's still able to get pressure here and shows off an iffy spin move.
10:55 - Back to back plays where he continues to do a great job of holding his ground, using his hands to keep blockers off of him and making a tackle at the line of scrimmage.
Jackson does all of that at 270lbs. For the most part it's incredibly impressive, but his lack of size certainly shows at times. He can struggle with strong offensive lineman and can get overwhelmed on running plays at times. Personally, I don't come away too concerned about that. Jackson is very, very unlikely to be asked to play 1 tech at the next level. As a three tech he showed me more than enough against the run that I would not worry about him at defensive tackle, as undersized as he is.
The flip side of his tweener status is that while he is a very athletic defensive tackle, he has fairly mediocre athleticism for a defensive end. He still uses his hands very well and has some nicely developed pass rush moves, but he's not a speed rusher and he didn't show off a great bull rush either. I think a team that drafts him with plans of making him a defensive end is going to be disappointed and Jackson may not amount to much more than filler in that role.
That's where Seattle comes in. Jackson would be great depth for Red Bryant. Jackson would not be as dominant against the run as Red, but he would hold up there very well. In the video above Jackson showed the ability to hold his ground, read a play and shed his blocker to make a play. That would serve him well as a two gapping 5 tech, and his lack of pure pass rush as a defensive end is masked by the scheme.
On passing downs, Jackson would be able to slide inside to the three tech where he can provide an inside pass rush. He's already shown the versatility to play multiple positions in a game, so there is a lot less uncertainty about how he would handle this than most players who are projected to be able to play multiple spots. This would also allow Seattle to protect him on running plays if they're not confident in his ability to play all three downs, or in short yardage situations.
NFLDraftScout has Jackson listed at the 12th defensive end and the 129th overall prospect. That's something like a 4th round grade most likely. I haven't seen his name anywhere else, so I don't know if that's where some of the more ambitious mock drafts are putting him, but I would like that pick for a team like Seattle. He has the skill set to be valuable role player that can contribute depth across the line.
If you're interested, there is another video of Malik Jackson on draftbreakdown.com.