Myles Jack isn’t a perfect NFL prospect — but he’s pretty close

Sam Monson breaks down Myles Jack's versatility and athleticism, and how his skill set projects highly at the next level.

| 6 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Myles Jack isn’t a perfect NFL prospect — but he’s pretty close


With the 2016 draft season underway, Sam Monson opens up his Analysis Notebook once again to share an in-depth evaluation of one top prospect each week. This week, we’ll explore the strengths, weaknesses and bottom-line scouting report for UCLA standout Myles Jack. 

[Editor’s note: Looking for more on the NFL draft? Check out our 2016 NFL draft guide, loaded with scouting reports, signature stats and much more.] 

Myles Jack is one of the most intriguing and versatile prospects in the entire draft class. There are evaluators out there who think he is the single best prospect in the entire draft, regardless of position.

I wouldn’t go that far, but there is a hell of a lot to like about him. As tends to happen this time of year, people easily fall in love with potential, which Jack has a lot of.

Jack possess off-the-charts athleticism, fits every measurable profile you can draw up, has experience playing multiple different positions for the UCLA Bruins and has done it all well. If a team can get him to reach his ceiling there may be no limit to how good he can be in the NFL, especially given how the league looks today where coverage is key.

Three games into his junior year at UCLA, Jack tore the meniscus in his right knee during practice, so his final season was cut short. However, if we take a look at his 2014 season we see a player that lined up all over. At some point in that season he played every single linebacker position possible, covered the slot, split out wide as a cornerback, lined up deep as a free safety and moonlighted as a running back for 41 snaps on the other side of the ball.

This part of draft season sees people lose themselves in the minutiae of what players can and can’t do, rather than focusing on how often they do them and how consistently. There is pretty much nothing that Myles Jack can’t do on a football field, but that’s not to say he is a perfect prospect. What does the tape and PFF grading say?

What he does well

Jack is the standout coverage linebacker in this class. He led the nation in PFF coverage grade in 2014 among linebackers, and his ability in this area is so good that the San Diego Chargers reportedly see him not as a linebacker at all, but as a potential replacement for Eric Weddle at safety if selected.

Jack1

We don’t even need to go back to the 2014 tape to see an example of this coverage ability on tape. In his final game of the season before he got hurt, against BYU, there is a great example. Jack is lined up covering the slot in man coverage. Okay, so it’s against BYU, but think about that for a second — this is a linebacker, in man coverage in the slot against a wide out like it’s no big deal. Jack is able to live with the receiver off the line and stays with him through the route before breaking up the pass as it arrives.

I’m not saying Jack is going to be employed in the same fashion in the NFL – you probably won’t want him covering Odell Beckham Jr. in the slot any time soon – but being able to do this in college bodes well for his ability to cover in the NFL. Linebackers in the NFL may not be asked to man up against wide outs, but they will be forced to cover tight ends and backs in man coverage. At times they will need to cover slot receivers, often in zones because the defense does not want to be forced into their personnel sub packages.

So let’s take man coverage out of the equation for a second and think about zones. The majority of all coverage assignments for linebackers at the NFL level are zones. The difficulty of the zone drop can vary, as can the method and technique of playing it, but understanding where you need to be and what is threatening that zone from a route and receiver standpoint is probably the single biggest skill for a coverage linebacker at the next level, as much as people lose themselves in the ability to cover in man-to-man.

Jack2

Take a look at this two-play sequence against Kansas State from 2014. These plays occurred on back-to-back passing plays, separated by a run for no gain. On both plays the Bruins are running a cover-2 shell that has linebackers matching up within their zones underneath – essentially playing man coverage within zones. Jack slides out to bump the slot receiver and disrupt his release before passing him off deep and covering the flat to that side. That receiver runs a little fake before trying to come inside but Jack matches him perfectly and walls him off physically. The receiver in question is Tyler Lockett, who is not only one of the shiftier receivers around, but was an instant success for Seattle as a rookie. Jack makes contact here, which will get some purists up in arms, but it is textbook coverage for a linebacker and exactly what a coach would teach.

The very next play is the same kind of defensive shell, but this time Jack is assigned to carry the slot receiver when he runs vertically, staying in phase with him well underneath the post route and picking off a poorly-thrown pass.

These are the kinds of things he will be asked to do at the NFL level and he shows the ability to do them seamlessly, with movement skills most linebackers can only dream of.

While this doesn’t mean he will be perfect, and NFL receiving threats are a whole different level, this is a better starting point and set of tools to work with than any other college linebacker in the draft, and gives some indication why the Chargers are thinking defensive back rather than linebacker, however optimistic that is.

While he does flash the ability to deal with blockers and attack linemen, it’s not his strength in the run game. What he does best is fly to the football and take down the ball carrier unblocked, which fits perfectly with the weakside linebacker in a 4-3 profile.

JACK IMG1

Here he is making a classic play against Virginia. The blocking forms a solid hole for the running back, but Jack knifes in and meets him in there, killing the play before it can get going. Jack is a solid and reliable tackler on these plays, and has missed just six tackles over 91 attempts in the past two seasons of play. If you can keep him free of blockers, he will maximize the impact he has on those plays, attacking the hole rather than just waiting for a runner to emerge from it and limiting the positive gain.

What he struggles with

As I said earlier, there really isn’t much to actively dislike about Jack, but that’s not to say he is a perfect prospect either. He has an ill-disciplined streak which is always a frustrating thing to see in a player. He has been involved in practice fights and scuffles at UCLA and has committed foolish penalties in each of the past two seasons, notching 11 total flags and a negative grade in that area both years. Those figures led all linebackers in both seasons to the point he got injured. This obviously isn’t going to drop him too far down anybody’s draft board, but it’s a black mark there is no reason he should have.

His size is not exactly a drawback, but it poses some interesting questions at the next level. Matching up with running backs and receivers should be fine, but TEs at the NFL level are 6-foot-5 freaks of nature. Jack won’t have problems running with them, but at only 6-1 he is going to need to use his arm length and superior athleticism to match them at the catch point.

Jack3

While he does flash the ability to get off blocks there are also a lot of plays where he just loses to bigger, stronger players. Let’s go back to the BYU game this season for an example. The Bruins faced a 3rd-and-1 play and Jack attacks the RT on the play, but just gets controlled and turned away from the point of attack, giving the runner a comfortable lane to dive forward and pick up the first down.

This isn’t an outright negative – he doesn’t lose every play – but rather an area of his game that is more of a wash than a clear positive or plus in his evaluation. He is inconsistent when it comes to taking on blockers in the run game, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. This is important the note when projecting him to any position other than 4-3 weakside linebacker, because any other linebacker position will need to contest blockers far more than that weakside backer.

The bottom line

Linebacker seems like a position where more than any other people fall in love with the idea of a player rather than the player himself. Myles Jack has boundless athleticism and movement skills for the position and limitless potential in coverage, which in a passing league is huge.

Jack has the ability to cover like few — if any — NFL linebackers, but he does still make mental mistakes and struggle at times against bigger blockers – hell, bigger players, period. Jack’s best attribute is his coverage, but he has also shown the ability to attack the ball carrier and come up quickly against the run game and screens. He needs to become better at consistently defeating blockers, and avoid guessing in his desire to be quick up to the football, because at the NFL level those mistakes cost big plays.

If all else fails — I think he could make a hell of an NFL running back, too.

Take a look:

Jack 4

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • dave

    what’s a wlber worth? not a top 10 pick. you can draft a hof center and he will always just be a center..same at wlb

    • PFFSamMonson

      You wouldn’t draft Derrick Brooks in the top 10?

      • dave

        I’d draft Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp top 10 not a wlber…pass rushers, qb’ and cbs win games not wlbers and Jack isn’t elite vs the run Jack might become a hof wil but I’d rather have a 10 sack de or top cb instead

        • Tito Puente

          Good for you, I’d draft Jim Brown Top 10, and maybe Deion Sanders, Night Train Lane, Art Shell and Alan Page — if they were available.

          Can you please remind me about all the Top 10 pass-rushing DTs in this draft everyone has been comparing to Warren Sapp?

          ps

          Brooks made the Pro Bowl 11 times, he made first-team All-Pro nine times and Brooks was also named DPOY — Simeon Rice made three Pro Bowls in his entire career.

          • dave

            not the player but the position he plays

          • Tito Puente

            Exactly my point – that’s not how the draft works.

            Every team values certain positions over others, but you don’t just get to make your position priority list and then pretend elite players will be available at every position — in the real world there are elite players available at only a few different positions every year, and GMs are forced to make decisions when the elite players don’t match with their philosophy.

            So you can take this WLB that the analyst say is an elite player — at a position that has plenty of value — or you can reach for guys with mid-round grades positions you prioritize.

            But making arguments against Jack, and for positions where there aren’t any elite players this year, just seems naive. To me.

      • Runner1967

        Your implying Myles Jack is Derrick Brooks? Come on now that is silliness. He is a player with potential as are all draftees and I agree taking a WLB in top is risky.

        • PFFSamMonson

          No, I’m not at all. I’m implying that saying a 4-3 WLB isn’t worth a top 10 pick because the position can’t have that value is preposterous, see Derrick Brooks.

          • Runner1967

            That is cake and eat logic. Based on potential to become HOFer X or pro bowler Y fill in the blank draftee at same position is worthy of a top ten pick, exactly how many players can fit into that wide tent? If you wish to say Jack has more potential than others at his position in this draft? Fine, however, implying he is a no brainer pick in the top ten because of a player he might become without recognizing how unlikely that is (simple draft history tells us that: if Jack becomes a multiple pro bowler and 5-6 year starter that would be damn good)> Toss in his position isn’t considered a premium and unless he is covering someone I frankly don’t see what all the fuss is about. Yeh that to me is a risky pick.

          • PFFSamMonson

            I never suggested he was a no brainer Top 10 pick because of potential. Every player is being drafted on potential. I scoffed at the idea that a 4-3 WLB simply does not have the positional value to go in the top 10.

          • Tito Puente

            Get your scoff on Sam.

    • bobulated

      An incredibly athletic WLB who can single cover TEs or RBs while freeing up a S or nickel to double or shade a WR is definitely a top 10 player in today’s NFL. Athletic cover LBs are getting more valuable, not less. Look at a team like Atlanta that has had virtually no athleticism at LB the last few seasons; they’ve been regularly ripped by TEs and RBs in the passing game.

    • Tosan Eyetsemitan

      pretty ridiculous statement to compare a wlber to a center. You’re biased based on the formation however, the responsibilities are incredibly similar to that of a 3-4 OLB, namely someone like Von Miller who I don’t need to describe his back ground. A will has strong responsibilities in pass coverage playing mostly on the widest underneath player, run defense with having a 2 way go usually and contain and a pass rush. The Broncos run many 4-3 schemes and employ Von Miller as a will linebacker the same way that the Patriots use a player like Jamie Collins.

      I get your thought process in terms of premier players being more valued at the top rounds such as edge protectors, rushers and skill positions. However, there is no way that a multifaceted linebacker that brings the skill set that a player like Myles Jack does should ever be considered as not a premier player in the NFL, especially in today’s day and age where the ability to play in nickel packages in paramount as a 3 down linebacker. I’m with Sam Monson, I think you need to do your homework a bit on the responsibilities of a will and how much they actually bring to a game plan before you make statements such as that

      • dave

        already done my homework..use pff player lb rankings….look for the wlbers on that list then use ourlads depth chart and look at that list…it will confirm for you what I already know..wlb is not a high need position if winning is important. Jack won’t take any team to the Super Bowl.

        Miller is a pass rusher and yes pass rushers always are top10 picks.. (Jack has one career sack). Collins went at the end of the 2nd rd and isn’t a player that makes NE a Super Bowl team. . no clue why you mentioned him.

        have Jack #12 on my list which is high for a wlb

        http://www.nfldraftresearch.com/

        • Tosan Eyetsemitan

          Sean Lee was the 3rd highest ranking lb on the pff lb rankings and Jamie Collins was 5th? Thomas Davis forever a stout player and perhaps one of the biggest reasons the Panthers made the Super Bowl with such a strong defense. 3 out of the top 5 graded linebackers this year were OLBs in a 4-3 scheme. Or are we not reading the same rankings?

          Maybe you didn’t watch the AFC Championship but the main reason that the Patriots lost was because Jamie Collins was injured and could not stay in man coverage against the Broncos tight ends and gave up both touch downs, however he also kept them int he game with sacks and tfls because they ask him to do so much. He was one of the top candidates for Super Bowl MVP the year before as well. Von Miller meanwhile is not just a pass rusher which I tried to explain to you. In that same AFC Championship he had a crucial interception on Tom Brady. He is one of the highest rated run defenders and pass coverage players at his position, He went 2 overall because of his ability to dominate in all 3 dimensions, not just the pass rush that you try to limit him to.

          At the end of the day no matter the scheme, Super Bowl winning teams need versatile players at the lb position who can play in all 3 facets of the defense and will linebacker is usually the best forum for that to have an impact. I just really dont think you realize the amount of impact players like this have

  • Tosan Eyetsemitan

    Myles Jack behind the Giants defensive line would have a lot of room to maneuver and answers a key need on the defense that was not addressed in free agency. Not to mention like you just said he could make a great running back if all else fails and we saw the committee effort that the team used for the majority of last year.

    Jerry Reese obviously has issued a strong mandate to enhance their defense to return to Super Bowl Caliber form and I can see them looking to trade up above the Jaguars who had a similar free agency as them after signing Malik Jackson for the dline and Prince and Tashaun Gipson for the secondary

    • JudoPrince

      But how many draft picks are they willing to surrender to move up?

      • Tosan Eyetsemitan

        from 10 to 4? I think the difference in values would be a second round pick

        http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/draft/draft-trade-chart/

        not saying this is the end all be all figure but 4 overall is 1800, 10 overall is 1300 and 42 overall is 480 so that’s about equivalent.
        A second round pick is expensive, but so was Olivier Vernon’s contract. Ultimately the team has made a point to address the defense this offseason and taking arguably the best defender in the draft i think is worth the price tag especially if you don’t have to give up any future round draft picks to do it so you can go back to addressing your offense the next year

        • David Nathaniel

          I’m guessing swap 1st’s, and give up a 2nd and 5th this year. That’s pretty steep when they’d still be getting a day 1 starter at 10.

    • shaunhan murray

      The giants take a lb early… good one man, let me whipe a tear from my eye, thanks 4 that

      • Tosan Eyetsemitan

        and who do they take instead? Another Offensive linemen? Maybe but he will probably be the 3rd best one in Jack Conklin who will be expected to play RT for the rest of his career with Flowers there… not saying its a bad move but could be seen as a bit excessive after you promoted your OC and Eli put up career numbers last year.

        So what else, Laquon Treadwell? If he hadn’t put up such pedestrian testing numbers i would say maybe. It’s bad enough that he already suffered from severe knee trauma. This would be another pick that I would venture to say would be very excessive when he would be the number 2 receiver for the rest of his career. I would rather get a guy like Leonte Carroo in the 3rd round who has very dependable hands and the same body size for blocking.

        Not saying either of those picks are bad, but not sure how Giants get the best return on their value by using a top 10 pick on a RT or number 2 receiver. I personally think linebacker is the biggest need for a team that struggled defensively particularly at the LB position with an undrafted rookie Unga starting. Make the case for Darron lee but I watched him play and saw the scouting reports. Sure he is explosive, but he had a lot of missed tackles and weaknesses at the lb position that make him very boom or bust. You have to ask yourself, is that worth a 10th overall pick and furthermore if the difference between Myles Jack and Lee is a second rounder or not. No one is talking about Darron Lee as a top 10 draft pick let alone a sure fire NFL contributor from day 1, however there is intense debate that Myles Jack is the best player in the entire draft not even position. In my opinion when you have a guy who is just as athletic and explosive as Lee which is his biggest asset, would benefit from many of the open lanes that Damon Harrison and the rest of the dline provide and seems to be the better football player. I don’t see why you don’t make the move. The Cowboys don’t really need another D end they already have Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence. They dont need a Will they love Sean lee. Don’t need a tackle. And if Jalen Ramsey is gone the only logical option for them would be to get a development qb that may be too high at 4 given the rest of the needs on the team and Tony Romo definitely starting next season.

        I like a Giants trade up for Jack and Cowboys letting one of the top 3 QBs fall to them while also being able to have two second rounders to draft a strong d tackle and/or Derrick Henry

        • shaunhan murray

          I was joking, I was making light of the fact that the Giants dont believe in the value of linebackers. I could care more about who the Giants take though u make some good points. I think they need a safety, and the whole trading up and down thing, the other teams have to agree and they may love a guy or ask too much for the pick, it isnt easy to trade especially wen its the highest pick the Boys have had in the romo era

  • shaunhan murray

    Look at the top 5 teams last year in the nfl, Panthers, Seahawks , Broncos, Cards , Pats all have athletic great in space lb or in the cards case a hybrid, personally I think a playmaker of this caliber would be great at any spot, unlike rb there r not alot of them and whilethey dont make alot of money they r highly valued, in reality there r not alot of position where the value is low enough not to take a incredible prospect, interior oline and maybe running back r really the only 2 spots I can think of, fullback doesn’t count

  • cka2nd

    Please, Trader Rick, please trade up from #23 – use next year’s #1 if you must – to reunite Jack with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. You could ignore safety after that and concentrate on LT, WR and depth at NT.

  • Philtration

    Everyone is gushing about Myles Jack because Jaylon Smith blew out his knee.
    Smith was the better player and it was not as close as the experts want you to believe.

    • pbskids4000

      I’ll take Myles Jack coming back from a serious knee injury over a healthy Jaylon Smith any day of the week.