3. William Jackson III, CB
With no disrespect to Lawson, Jackson is the ascendant star on this Bengals team. After a slow start to his career, including a season on IR and a half season backing up Adam Jones, Jackson has had a full-fledged breakout. Once he got starters’ snaps to end the year, Jackson proved he is a true lockdown corner in the NFL. Coming into his first full season as a starting corner, Jackson is already entrenched in the upper echelon of CBs.
I repeat these stats a lot, but I feel like they are so mind-boggling, they deserve repeating. Jackson allowed the second lowest passer rating of any cornerback last season (only to AJ Bouye). In the last six weeks of the season – when Jackson finally got his chance – he allowed just three catches for eight yards. No other corner allowed fewer than 100.
What this all goes to say is that Jackson had a historic year last season, and this was all ostensibly in his rookie year. There is still room for him to grow, so as he steps into his role as a shutdown corner, there is potential for him to get even better. The Bengals are going to let him take on more difficult responsibilities this season, which is an issue only for opposing teams. By this time next year, don’t be surprised if we’re discussing Jackson as a top five corner in the NFL. To be clear, he still needs to improve, but I think Jackson makes that leap.