You know that saying, "You can never have enough corners?"
The Bengals may go down as the architect of that age-old bromide after they took a cornerback in the first round Thursday night for the third time in the last five years. And the selection of Houston's William Jackson III III with the 24th pick makes it five corners in the last 11 drafts dating back to South Carolina's Johnathan Joseph with that 24th pick in 2006.
Jackson's dimensions fit the blueprint that came into vogue under former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and have been passed on to Paul Guenther. He's long at 6-1, big at 195 pounds. He's sub 4.4 40-yard fast and ran one of the fastest combine 40s at 4.37 seconds. He's physical at the line with long arms, comfortable in press coverage, and has experience and production as a senior that played two full seasons at Houston after starting his career in junior college. His 28 pass breakups led the FBS this past season.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis promptly said Jackson is going to be on the active 46-man roster each Sunday. He's an outside corner rather than a slot corner abd Guenther calls him the cornerback with the biggest upside in the draft.
"He'll be one of the best athletes we've had here at that position," Lewis said. "He fits what our defense does."
After a quartet of wide receivers went off the board before they picked courtesy of old friends (Jay Gruden took Josh Doctson in Washington at No. 22, Hue Jackson took Corey Coleman in Cleveland at No. 15, Mike Zimmer took Laquon Treadwell in Minnesota at No. 23), the Bengals went with their old stand-by and re-stocked their corner stable with its fourth first-round pick. Adam Jones (2005) and Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) are the starters and Darqueze Dennard (2014) plans to get his first full season in the slot. Josh Shaw, last year's fourth-rounder, looks to get work both in the slot and at safety in some packages, so Jackson won't be rushed along.
He didn't play much, if at all on special teams, but special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is going to want that speed at gunner covering punt returns.
Jackson said he was overwhelmed and looking forward to working with the veteran corners.
"I look forward to talking to a guy like Adam Jones and how he has stayed in the league for so long," Jackson said.
Taking a page from the first-round book of the low-profile, high-character Dennard, Jackson, who prefers to go by "Will," said he didn't want to attend the draft in Chicago with the other first-rounders and decided to stay home in houston.
"I've got to stay home. I'm not into all that," Jackson said.
The Bengals were also high on another Will, Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller. But at No. 22 the Texans took him and the Bengals were looking at their highest ranked player on their board in Jackson, thought to be the last starting-caliber cornerback left.
Lewis admitted they were looking for a wide receiver but Jackson was a guy they had on their list. Especially after his visit to Paul Brown Stadium two weeks ago. Secondary coach Kevin Coyle said they were impressed with the work he did on the board when they talked scheme.
"He tracks the ball as well as he runs. That was very impressive," Coyle said.
The combine also impressed them. Guenther said when they got back from Indy and they sat down to talk about who impressed then, Jackson was a guy that jumped out at them.
"That's what we talk about. We want cover guys and rush guys," Guenther said.
Coyle said halfway through Jackson's first year at Houston he broke into the lineup and they went back to watch him on tape play against Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in his first start for Houston.
"We were impressed before and that impressed us more," Coyle said.
Coyle compares Jackson to a young Tory James, his rangy corner from the previous decade who had 21 interceptions in four seasons in Cincinnati on Lewis' first four teams from 2003-06. Of Jackson's 45 careeer deflections, Coyle said that number "is off the charts."
"Just watching a lot of film and knowing what's going to happen," Jackson said of his ability to make plays on the ball. "I watch a lot of film trying to get better."
The Bengals have a chance to jack their total to five first-round corners with 2007's Leon Hall still unsigned. Reportedly his situation has been clouded by back surgery, but both sides are apparently still interested.
Like Joseph ten years before him, Jackson is a junior college product, but with two full seasons as a starter he's got much more Division I experience than Joseph, still in the NFL as a starter in, of all places, houston. Some draftnicks wonder about Jackson's route recognition and adapting to the pros, but ESPN.com's scouts came away highly impressed.
"He is a long and athletic CB who tested well at the combine and has very good down field range to hold up on an island," ESPN said. "He's is also coachable, hardworking and hungry."
With their last three picks at No. 24 the Bengals have now gone corner: Jackson (2016), Dennard (2014), and Joseph (2006).
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack was still on the board, but the Bengals were apparently worried about his knee.
With the 24th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bengals select William Jackson from Houston