With the 2016 NFL Draft now just around the corner, some young prospects have one last test to pass — a test that may will be important than any to date. Dinged-up young stars who were injured last year have to show that they will be good to go by passing their medical re-checks.
That re-check isn’t expected to be an issue for UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, who hurt his knee three games into his junior season in 2015. According to Terry McCormick of Titans Insider, an NFL source indicated that Jack’s knee will show to be “fine” at his re-check on Thursday.
If that is indeed the case, Jack should put to rest any doubt that the 6’1″, 245-pounder will last past the top 10 picks on April 28. After all, we’re talking about a player who has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis, with one NFL general manager (per Pete Prisco of CBS Sports) adding the caveat, “Yes, but Jack is faster.”
To his credit, Jack told Prisco folks need to slow their roll where comparing him to all-time greats is concerned. “When I hear I am compared to him, I am kind of like, ‘slow down, put on the brakes,”’ Jack said. “I have to earn that. I have to climb the ladder before I can be mentioned with him, my name and his name in the same breath. He’ll be remembered for generations. Everybody knows Ray Lewis. You can’t compare yourself to idols. You want to model your game after it, but comparing me to him is too fast. I want to get there, but slow down.”
However, Jack did go on to say that the team who drafts him will be getting a ferocious defender, just as Lewis was. “Once I put the helmet on, I change,” he said. “Football is a dangerous sport. People are out there trying to get you. My mentality is either him or me. And it’s not going to be me that’s going to get got. I always try to be aggressive and be the dominant person in every situation. I am a boring person off the field. I sit at home and play video games when I am not in here working out. But on the field, you have to rev yourself up, bring on that demon inside of you, not like a demon, but an alter ego. Once you put on the helmet, you’re a warrior. Off the field, I am a cool person, but on the field you can assault people and not get in trouble for it.”
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports sees Navorro Bowman of the San Francisco 49ers in Jack’s game. “When healthy,” Brugler said, “Bowman is one of the most talented and versatile linebackers in the NFL and Jack has that type of potential if his knee comes back strong post-surgery.”
“An athletic specimen with above-average pursuit speed, contact balance and mental processor to know everything going on around him,” he continued, “Jack has the athletic skill set to be a difference-maker.”
There wasn’t much that Jack didn’t do at UCLA (including playing offense), but one NFC executive told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com teams would well-served to not get cute where Jack is concerned. “I wouldn’t get cute with him,” the executive said. “I would stick him at WILL and just let him be a free running chaser. He has the speed to get to everything and his cover talent will set him apart.”
On behalf of IDP owners everywhere, here’s hoping — both that the knee checks out and that Jack lands on a team where his speed and coverage abilities can best be put to use. That speed and athleticism would likely portend a three-down role for Jack relatively early on, and a spot as either an inside linebacker or 4-3 WILL could insert Jack into the LB3+ conversation right off the bat.
At the very least, Jack will be among the first handful of rookie defenders drafted. With a little luck, Jack will be the first rookie defender drafted and an immediate weekly starter in IDP leagues.