Although it hasn’t officially been announced, the New York Giants have signed McNeese State free safety Janzen Jackson as part of their undrafted free agent pool following the 2012 NFL Draft. Jackson, listed at 6-0, 188 pounds, is an intriguing prospect with a checkered past that most likely hurt his status on draft day.
Jackson began his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee, starting as a true-freshman in 2009 alongside Eric Berry, now with the Kansas City Chiefs. Jackson earned selection to the SEC All-Freshman team. In 2010, Jackson started all thirteen games for the Vols and collected five interceptions while being named second team, All-SEC.
Prior to the 2011 campaign, Jackson was dismissed from Tennessee for unspecified reasons, although it might have been due to a violation of the team’s drug policies. Jackson was on probation after being charged on November 12, 2009 in connection to an attempted armed robbery of a Pilot gas station on Cumberland Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee with two other freshman, Mike Edwards and Nu’Keese Richardson. Charges against Jackson were later dropped after it was learned by police that he had no prior knowledge of the attempted robbery.
After being dismissed from Tennessee, Jackson enrolled at FCS school McNeese State. He entered the NFL Draft after his junior season but went undrafted before signing with the Giants on April 29, 2012. Coming out of high school, Jackson was a five-star prospect and was rated ahead of 2012 Cincinnati Bengals first-round draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick.
In Janzen Jackson the Giants are getting a once-prized prospect, who, if he didn’t have the legal troubles and didn’t perform at a subpar level at the NFL Combine (he ran a 4.64 40) would have likely been a first or second round draft pick. He has loads of talent and could make the Giants out of training camp. Jackson is a hard-hitter with ball-hawking skills that could eventually make him a threat in the NFL.
If he does make the team I expect Jackson to contribute on special teams while he learns the defense. It is no secret the Giants secondary is full of question marks. Cornerback Terrell Thomas is coming back from a season-ending ACL injury. Last year’s first round draft pick, cornerback Prince Amukamara is still dealing with the after affects of breaking his foot and missing a large portion of the season last year. Safety Deon Grant has likely played his last game as a Giant and the backup safety role is wide open heading into camp. Safety Chad Jones is attempting to come back after almost losing his life in a car accident in New Orleans two months after being chosen by the Giants in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Tyler Sash contributed on special teams but struggled in coverage in his rookie campaign last year. Veterans Stevie Brown and Chris Horton were also signed as free agents this year in hopes of solidifying the secondary behind starter Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips.
I believe Jackson can contribute to an NFL team as long as he keeps his head on straight. He learned the hard way that the path to the NFL is not easy. Perhaps these bumps in the road have jolted him awake and made him take control of his life. Like I said, the talent is there. Jackson just has to prove to the Giants that he is worth the risk. If he does that the Giants might very well have added a key piece to their secondary moving forward.