If you're a Charger fan and you're reading the title I know your initial reaction is to roll your eyes and think "there's no way this ever happens." I never thought this was possible, either. The team has 2 inside linebackers and 1 is in the final year of his contract. The team also has is lacking in the safety department. Tuesday was UCLA's pro day and the Chargers were represented well there.
#Chargers had 7 people at UCLA pro day. Myles Jack at No. 3 overall? He's worth it.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 16, 2016
#Chargers scout running LB drill w/ Myles Jack @ #UCLAProDay - great work here by @AJSports_4 pic.twitter.com/GcWBSB2cqe— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) March 15, 2016
That's not a "Chargers scout" that's the defensive backs coach, Ron Milus. The general manager was also present. Sure, this may seem like conjecture. It would also be ignorant to ignore this. UCLA's head coach said the Chargers worked out Myles Jack as a Safety. This is where it gets interesting. If you're not familiar with the type of athlete this 6'1 245 pound whatever position he plays is, well, here are his jumps.
By the way, Myles Jack's density adjusted jumps (40" vert, 10'4" broad) were better than any edge defender's at the combine.— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) March 15, 2016
That's 53 days after being cleared from tearing his meniscus. He's expected to run sub 4.5 in the 40. Within 3 plays of watching him, you can tell that Jack is a pretty athlete.
Okay, enough fluff. Let's get into the reason why you're here. What is a Myles Jack? Well if you read the interwebs and listen to smart football people talk about him he comes off as a living legend who is destined for the hall of fame. He's a mix between Patrick Willis & Rod Woodson. Then you go to his player profile and you see that the production isn't there. He doesn't have a bunch of tackles for loss or passes broken up. He's not forcing fumbles. So what exactly is Myles Jack?
He played in 3 games in 2015. In order to feel like I was getting the full picture of the type of player he is I felt like I'd have to delve into his 2014 games. What I did was basically find every possible cut up on Draft Breakdown available with UCLA from 2014-2015 to find out exactly what Jack is. I'm looking for instincts, ability at the point of attack, range, and ability in coverage. Oh and tackling is important, too.
Trusting what he sees
Jack is a very physical player. I don't think Jack is confident in what he sees, though. There are numerous exposures where it was an obvious run play and for whatever reason Jack hesitated and didn't make the play. Against Texas last year he gave up the edge a couple times by not reading his keys and just guessing. He ended up guessing wrong. Here are a few clips from other games.
@aleksdosta Run pic.twitter.com/5GFca4uVjM— KP (@KP_Show) March 17, 2016
There are more, but I feel like these handful are the best talking points. On the first clip he has an opportunity to make a tackle to force a 3rd and short. Instead, he pauses and allows the running back to gain an additional 8-10 yards.
In the second clip he breaks rule number one as a linebacker. Your first step is always forward. He never gains ground here which is concerning considering if he reads his keys, which is the pulling guard or more obvious lineman firing out of their stance low and running at you. Instead he loses ground and makes the tackle 8-9 yards down the field.
The 3rd clip should never ever ever ever happen to a player like Jack. He's the weakside linebacker to the top of the screen. He's in peak run and chase position. There's no threat for him to contain backside. The lineman all step play side. That should be his key to go. There's a hesitation there and the backside tackle cuts him. At the next level RBs are going to cut that back and that's going to be his play to make.
Let's skip to the 5th clip and end it here. This is the best example of Jack not trusting what he sees. Ignore everything around him. We are watching him and the the running back. That's all that matters here. Back to reading his keys, the line steps down, the tight end pulls across the formation. All systems should be go and he should be making this tackle for a loss of 3. Instead, he doesn't take his 2nd step until the running back takes his fifth step. That can't happen. These type of plays are the reason he didn't make more impact plays. Because he can cover so much ground he still has a chance to make the play at the line of scrimmage but can't finish, which is almost impressive in itself. The fact that he doesn't trust what he sees is concerning if he is going to play in the box at the next level. Instincts>Grand Canyon>Athleticism as a linebacker in the NFL.
The final clip shows Jack coming downhill and what do ya know, a tackle for loss. Weird.
Winning with athleticism
There's a reason Jack is so coveted. Players his size aren't supposed to move like he does. When he just lets go and plays, the wow factor is reallllll.
@aleksdosta Range pic.twitter.com/oquGuiRvrQ— KP (@KP_Show) March 17, 2016
Just watch the final clip. That tells you all you need to know about the ground he can cover. There are going to be times next year where Jack will make plays because he is a better athlete than the guy across from him. The question will be how often he relies on said athleticism.
Problematic at the point of attack
There is a couple vines circulating him jolting an offensive lineman back 4 yards down the field and that is passing him off as he is this uber strong player that lineman can't block. In the games I watched, that couldn't be further from the truth. It's an issue when he hesitates, but at the point of attack he lost a lot of battles and gave up ground, which led to running lanes.
@aleksdosta POA pic.twitter.com/bW1A6OUwQn— KP (@KP_Show) March 17, 2016
There were times when he lost tight ends and even, gasp, wide receivers. This isn't the worst thing in the world. What it really does, in my opinion, is just take him out of certain positions where he'll be uncovered and have to take on lineman play after play. If he's not good at it, don't waste him there. I think his ability in space and his issues at the point of attack are what's leading teams to work him out as a safety.
The coverage king
Speaking of safeties, last year against Stanford, Jack lined up as a split safety what looked to be around 5-10 times.
Myles Jack's snap profile over last two seasons:— Ben Stockwell (@PFF_Ben) February 22, 2016
Off ball LB: 698 snaps
Outside CB: 14
As you can see, he's lined up literally everywhere but defensive tackle. Guys are going to get beat, but that game against the Cardinal he gave up a deep touchdown where he just had no idea where the ball was. He was in the slot and the receiver had about 3 steps on him but the pass was over thrown. Then he gave up a 1st down on an over route and had 1 other blown coverage underneath against their tight end. I'm hoping that was just an off game, but those plays can't be ignored.
That said, Jack shows some patience at the line of scrimmage that corners in the NFL don't even show. I wish we had shuttle times for him because his ability to change directions without losing any speed is pretty damn impressive. Last year against USC he ran stride for stride as and outside corner with Nelson Agholor. In the first clip below you can see he fares well against him underneath.
@aleksdosta Man pic.twitter.com/M1uqAUjrPQ— KP (@KP_Show) March 17, 2016
I do think there will be an adjustment period with just how aggressive Jack can be with his hands in coverage. He gets grabby at times. As well as finding the ball while staying in phase with his man, but that should come and I'm confident it will.
There weren't too many exposures with Jack in zone but on the simplest route combinations like a curl/flat design or a "flood" pattern he didn't seem to get a grasp quickly. I saw curl/flat a few times. It's in the first clip below. The safety is to his side so he doesn't have to ride the #2 receiver upfield. That's on the middle linebacker to get there considering there are no other threats for him. Jacks job is to bust his butt and get out to the flat. The space between him and the receiver by the time the ball is thrown is just too much. An NFL QB will take that every time and move the chains.
@aleksdosta Zone pic.twitter.com/Td1uaT4mQl— KP (@KP_Show) March 17, 2016
The last example is as simple as him finding work. Don't drop to a "spot." Get your head on a swivel and figure out where the receivers are then take them away. These small zone issues go back to trusting what Jack sees. Watching him hesitate is odd. It's like a glitch in a video game. As you can see in the final clip him coming forward is a non issue.
This is the ultimate question. Where are you getting the most out of Jack on the field? Do you want him in the middle, where he would have to take on blocks constantly and be susceptible to play-action fakes? If he's not protected then god no. If you play a 4-3 how much value will a weak side run and chase player have on an every down basis? You may disagree, but I don't think it's as high as you think. Jack's best fit is in an under front, whether it's in a 4-3 or a 3-4. I want Jack covered. Here are a couple diagrams.
These photos are courtesy of Danny Kelly from Field Gulls and Matt Bowen from Bleacher Report.
In these schemes Jack, who is hypothetically 52 and 56 respectively, is protected by the 2/3 technique in front of him. If it's a weak side run it's him versus the fullback. That's fine. If it's a strong side run all he has to do is fill. He's not as wide in his alignment as he would be in a "standard" 4-3. In this situation if there's any "hesitation" like above it wouldn't hurt him as much. Just small things like there where being a gap over could really benefit Jack as a player.
He isn't a player you want to pigeonhole, though. He is fantastic out in space. You saw above just how much ground he can cover. With most base offenses these days a 3 wide receiver formation is standard. Jack has shown he has technique in man coverage where he can either eliminate you at the line of scrimmage or be in your hip pocket on all intermediate and underneath routes. On passing downs I don't think I want Jack in the "big Nickel LB" role. I want him out of the box and in space. He's more valuable in the sense that he can come forward and blow screens up in addition to covering your tight end or receiver underneath.
We are so caught up in his athleticism that we've missed obvious signs of Jack struggling. A linebacker with questionable take on and recognition skills, and frankly is average against the run, isn't worth a top 10 selection. There are reasons that he didn't make as many plays over the last 2 years. That said, this draft is incredibly weak at the top and if you think his ceiling is truly that high, you take him. While I think there are a few better talents, realistically Jack is right around the 7th or so player that you would take in the 1st round. I wouldn't, but I get the argument. Let's play out a scenario.
Like we mentioned, Tom Telesco was at UCLA's pro day, and the DB coach worked Jack out. So I'm going to go out on a limb here that he's certainly piqued the interest of San Diego. Could Jack be the safety Telesco covets and not a certain Seminole? The Ravens just signed a former Chargers safety and released another safety. Could Ozzie Newsome be falling in love with Jalen Ramsey and looking to trade up? If this is the case, trading back and losing out on Tunsil, Buckner, Ramsey, Bosa, who else are you going to take? These are just scenarios and I believe Telesco is getting familiar with players that might be available if he does trade back. This might be faulty logic on my end to be on board with selecting a player at 6 but say no way at 3. Jack might be an impact player but I haven't seen enough impact plays on a game to game basis to suggest that. Trading back and getting an extra day 2 pick would make this move a lot easier to digest. This will be an interesting situation to monitor over the next month.