Detroit drafted Penei Sewell and has Frank Ragnow entrenched at center. All of a sudden, they have the makings of one of the best lines in the NFL. Still, that didn’t stop the team from nabbing a solid undrafted free agent center to come in and compete.
Detroit signed Kentucky center Drake Jackson to the roster as a UDFA, and while not many gave that transaction much thought, the folks at Pro Football Focus see it as a solid if not elite move. Writer Zach Tantillo rated Jackson one of the top UDFA players who has signed thanks to his readiness.
“The Lions already have center Frank Ragnow to lead their offensive line, but signing a lineman with as much college success as Drake Jackson is an excellent move regardless of roster situation.
Jackson was the crucial part of a dominant Kentucky offensive line. Since 2018, Jackson has been on the field for exactly 1,000 pass-blocking snaps and has surrendered just one sack. The Kentucky product is also an elite run-blocker, having earned the fourth-highest run-blocking grade among centers in 2020 (85.4).
The lone knock on Jackson is his thin frame, but that did not hinder him against SEC defenses. Not many undrafted free agents are as close to pro-ready as Jackson is.”
How will the Lions use Jackson if he is so pro ready? Perhaps as a depth piece up front and an insurance policy should Ragnow get hurt. Ragnow was durable and tough last season, but the team might be able to have a good backup plan in Jackson if he can develop.
Jackson’s Stats and Highlights
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jackson is his consistency. The prospect started 44 consecutive games at center for the Wildcats and was on the Outland Trophy and Rimmington Trophy watch lists. He was a second-team All-SEC player for Kentucky, and is from Lexington, Kentucky. As for why he went undrafted, some maintain size, position depth and a lack of position versatility could be the biggest culprits, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jackson is a solid player who could be on track to be a solid player in the NFL.
Here’s a look at some tape from the Senior Bowl:
Jackson holds his own in the clips and is an interesting prospect with all of this in mind.
Breaking Down Lions’ Draft and UDFA Class
Detroit came into the draft and was wide open for the most part after selecting Penei Sewell in the 2021 NFL Draft and even after Levi Onwuzurike in the second-round. In the third-round, the Lions selected defensive lineman Alim McNeill and cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. Day three, the Lions picked wideout Amon-Ra St.Brown and linebacker Derrick Barnes. Finally, the team closed out their draft by grabbing running back Jermar Jefferson in the seventh-round. Sewell’s addition feels huge given what the team needs, as are the defensive fill-ins at key spots.
Clearly, with their reported signings, the Lions have prioritized players who have decent upside and have a shot to compete at spots where the team is a bit thin. It can be expected the Lions will add wide receivers, defensive linemen, linebackers, safeties and perhaps even a quarterback to the mix this year for camp. The deeper the group is, the better off the Lions will be getting some good competition at key spots on the roster.
Jackson could be seen as one of those players in the end to come in and give the team a boost.