Draft Daily: Myles Jack, the ‘Modern Day’ Defender

The UCLA linebacker also fits Jim Schwartz's attacking philosophy perfectly.

Myles Jack. (USA Today Sports)

Myles Jack. (USA Today Sports)

Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. We’ve already covered Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Vernon Hargreaves, Paxton Lynch, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Ronnie Stanley, DeForest Buckner and Laquon Treadwell. If you have a player you think should be covered, shoot us an email ([email protected]).

THE BACK STORY

The UCLA freshman carried the ball just three times per game in 2013, but he averaged seven yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns, including a 66-yarder. His carries decreased in 2014, however, and in 2015, they were on pace to sink even lower before an injury shortened his season. Why?

Because the Bruin Pac-12 coaches named the Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013 doubled as a star linebacker named Myles Jack, who was also the Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was named first-team All-America by Athlon Sports as an all-purpose player and honorable mention All-America by Sports Illustrated. Jack’s 75 tackles and seven rushing touchdowns both rank second all-time in program history among true freshmen.

After earning second-team all-conference honors in his first two seasons, Jack’s junior year was cut short when he tore his meniscus in September. He missed UCLA’s last 10 games of the season, and some raised questions about how it’d affect his draft stock.

Regardless, two weeks later, Jack, who’s third in our consensus prospect rankings, declared for the draft. UCLA head coach Jim Mora, however, seemed to question the decision, as did some of Jack’s friends and family.

“I think it’s very risky to do this. There’s a lot of speculation to … where he fits,” Mora said. “I’ve been in 25 draft rooms. I’ve never seen a guy taken off [three games of junior tape].”

Jack later said he was “surprised” by Mora’s comments, but the versatile defender continued his rehab, and a UCLA surgeon fully cleared him a month ago. Although Jack participated in UCLA’s Pro Day last month, his non-participation in the 40-yard-dash and shuttle drills reportedly “rubbed some people the wrong way.”

Jack’s agent, John Thornton, recently explained that decision and why Jack won’t hold a personal Pro Day.

“He’s close, but he’s not totally ready, and I’m not gonna let him go out there and run an average time,” Thornton told NFL.com. “He’s going back to Indy for a medical recheck on April 14th and 15th, so he won’t be doing anything before then. If there’s time — and if he can prepare the way he needs to prepare — he might run for a specific team in a private workout. But I feel like most of them have seen what they need to see.”

Jack’s most common landing spot in mock drafts seems to be at No. 5 in Jacksonville, but a few others think he could slip. NFL.com’s latest mock draft, by Charley Casserly, has Jack falling to No. 10.

THE MEASURABLES

Two of Jack’s closest comparisons — in terms of measurables — are guys Eagles fans will recognize: Emmanuel Acho and Nigel Bradham.

This spider chart, however, doesn’t take into account Jack’s impressive Pro Day. According to Tony Pauline, NFL evaluators described Jack as a “remarkable athlete” and one source told Pauline that Jack “looked like a defensive back doing linebacker drills,” referring to his speed, quickness and ease of movement.

Jack estimated that he was only 80 percent recovered from his injury, but his 40-inch vertical that day would’ve put him in the top 10 among all NFL Combine participants, and his 124-inch broad jump would have placed him in the top five among linebackers. That athleticism is what allows him to play several positions, which Jack addressed in Indianapolis when he was asked where NFL teams told him he’d play in their schemes.

“I’ve heard safety, Mike, Sam, Will, inside ‘backer. Some teams joked about running back. I don’t think they were serious about that, but… I’ve heard it all pretty much in the back seven,” Jack said. “I see myself as a football player. I want the teams to decide for themselves. I feel like I can play any position. Me personally, I like being off the ball as a Mike, Will, Sam. I think I could play strong safety as kind of a Kam Chancellor-type of role. I feel like I could get the job done there.”

THE NO-22

It’s not hard to see why Jack was a finalist for the 2013 Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.

He can run.

He can catch.

And he can even block punts.

But he’s better at defense than all of those things. Jack is often labeled as the “modern day” defender because he can be used on every down — regardless of the situation — and he can defend the run or pass from multiple positions. That quickly showed on his film as UCLA used him at linebacker, slot corner and even safety.

Todd McShay had a good video breakdown of Jack’s versatility and strengths, including his coverage ability. Jack seems to have impressive instincts and he’s good in both man and zone. I doubt he’ll cover receivers much in the NFL, but McShay noted how Jack’s interception against Kansas State showcased his skills (although it was also a poorly thrown ball).

“How about the vision? Getting his eyes back and the fluidity to get turned around,” McShay said. “He fits, in my opinion, the NFL’s game today perfectly. It’s a pass-happy league. You need versatile linebackers. He’s going to show effort, toughness and he’s got that skill to cover one-on-one that not many guys in that 240-pound range possess.”

McShay also noted this tackle-for-loss.

“Myles Jack, though, [is] at his best doing this: slipping blocks and using his speed to close,” McShay said. “Look at that burst to finish. Great job wrapping up, too. Really consistent tackler.”

Because of his athleticism and explosiveness, Jack excels in the open field. He’s pretty high when making this tackle-for-loss against Kansas State, which is something he does more than you’d like, but it’s very unlikely he’ll get beat in the open field one-on-one.

There’s been a lot of talk about what position, exactly, Jack will play in the NFL. According to Jack, the Chargers see him as a defensive back. Although most people seem to think of him as a linebacker, it’s very debatable which linebacker spot he’d play. I think he’d do very well as a Will, but I wonder if the Eagles would have him at Sam to keep Mychal Kendricks on the field over Bradham.

In general, there aren’t too many knocks on Jack’s game. One is that he can take better angles to the ball, and another is that he can lose in small spaces against offensive linemen because he’s not very big. The best critique I’ve seen, however, is this line from his NFL.com evaluation: “His excitable brand of play will need more control in the pros.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

As important as quarterbacks are, I think Jim Schwartz may lose his mind a bit if Jack is available and the Eagles don’t draft him, even if Jared Goff or Carson Wentz is somehow on the board. Not only does Jack project to be a great player, but he also possesses that attacking mentality Schwartz so openly covets.

Here’s what Jack recently told CBS Sports:

I always try to be aggressive and be the dominant person in every situation. I am a boring person off the field. … But on the field, you have to rev yourself up, bring on that demon inside of you, not like a demon, but an alter ego. Once you put on the helmet, you’re a warrior. Off the field, I am a cool person, but on the field you can assault people and not get in trouble for it.

If the Eagles have the (unlikely) opportunity to draft Jack at No. 8, I think it’d be a huge mistake to pass on him, unless one of the top two prospects — Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey — inexplicably falls.