The Oakland Raiders received much praise for selecting Khalil Mack at No. 5 in the 2014 draft. The Raiders parlayed that great selection by picking their franchise quarterback Derek Carr at the top of the second round.
Both Raiders receive national praise as the faces of their respective sides of the ball. NFL.com had both players selected at the top of their 2014 redraft.
However, Oakland’s third round pick often gets left out of the conversation surrounding the Raiders’ franchise players.
Guard Gabe Jackson was also drafted in the first of round of NFL.com’s latest redraft. The experts slotted Jackson at No. 15. Where was the franchise left guard actually drafted at?
The Raiders selected Jackson at No. 81 overall. He was the ninth offensive linemen selected in that draft, and the third guard behind Xavier Su’o-Fila and Zack Martin.
The four year starter out of Mississippi State stumbled down draft boards, because the guard position is undervalued. Despite his mauling presence, questions surrounded Jackson’s size and athleticism translating to the next level.
Regardless, Jackson started from day one of his rookie campaign. A injury kept him from otherwise starting all 16 games. If it were not for Martin’s dominance as a rookie, Jackson would probably receive even more respect around the league.
Anyone questioning Jackson’s impact should look at the stats. Although there are not many stats for offensive line, Jackson trends towards the top at his position.
In only his second season, Jackson ranks as the No. 15 best guard in football with an accumulative grade of 16, according to Pro Football Focus. Jackson also boasts the twelfth highest Pass Blocking Efficiency rate, which accounts for the offensive linemen’s pass blocking snaps with the amount of sacks, hits and pressures allowed on their quarterback. This all lead to PFF naming Jackson one of the 2015 season’s breakout players.
Even better, the Raiders offensive unit thrives with Jackson. Latavius Murray ranks No. 4 in the league with 1,036 rushing yards this season. Meanwhile, Derek Carr ranks No. 12 in passing yards with 3,793 yards, and in the top ten for passing touchdowns. Moreover, this will be the first season the Raiders ever have a passer throw for 4,000 yards and a 1,000 yards rusher.
Best of all, Jackson helped left tackle Donald Penn reestablish his dominance. Penn was cut after a terrible season in Tampa Bay. Now, Penn ranks as the No. 11 best tackle in football, according to Pro Football Focus.
Penn gushed over Jackson’s potential during the offseason, after the two paired for twelve games in Jackson’s rookie year.
“I’m smiling talking about Gabe because Gabe doesn’t know how good he can be.” Penn told Silver and Black Pride earlier this year. “He’s a great player. I love playing next to him.”
Penn also raved about Jackson’s ability to learn the position by asking questions. Here is a sample of the duo’s nastiness in a blow-out loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Week One:
Jackson himself said he approached this season differently than his rookie season, including watching what he ate.
“I feel I can do more things better overall.” Jackson said before entering this season. “Instead of just being a good run blocker, I can move better and I’m more mobile.”
Apparently, Jackson’s offseason worked. Jackson received praise from ESPN’s Matt Williamson
"“He’s one of the very top young guards in the NFL right now and a foundational player like (quarterback) Derek Carr, (pass-rusher) Khalil Mack and (receiver) Amari Cooper,” Williamson said via ESPN.com. “But, of course, since he is a guard and not a (skill-position player) he isn’t spoken about with that group.”"
Even before coaching him for a game, head coach Jack Del Rio raved about Jackson’s potential.
“He’s very quiet, goes about his business.” Del Rio said before the season. “He’s a very powerful guy. He’s got a good balance, with the ability to pull and change directions and he’s powerful so he’s a good football player.”
Fast forward 16 weeks and Jackson played as advertised. He started every game and only allowed three QB hits and one sack in more than 1000 total offensive snaps.
Jackson’s consistency may get lost behind Mack tossing opposing tackles or Amari Cooper and Carr connecting for big-plays. However, Jackson possesses the same franchise-player potential as all of those guys.
As for what Jackson thinks about all of his hype, he addressed it with ESPN Raider insider Bill Williamson earlier this season.
“That’s all potential,” Jackson told Williamson.
Nonetheless, Jackson’s potential is sky-high. The humble and hard-working Jackson possesses the toughness and quickness to dominate the left guard position of the Raiders for the next decade.