The Jacksonville Jaguars upgraded their defense on Thursday by adding UCLA linebacker Myles Jack with the No. 36 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Jaguars traded up with the Baltimore Ravens to make the pick.
Jack, 20, is best known for his tremendous versatility, which made him both the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2013. After emerging as a talented starting linebacker, Jack stepped in as a running back due to injuries late in his freshman year and racked up 267 yards and seven touchdowns in just a few games at the position.
“I see myself as a football player,” Jack said at the NFL Combine in February. “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.”
In the NFL, a lot of that mystery likely disappears. With the Jaguars, Jack will almost certainly plug in right away at outside linebacker, where his special blend of athleticism, change of direction and explosion can be used fully.
However, one question that comes with Jack will be his recovery from a knee injury that cost him almost his entire junior year. Even UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. questioned if it was a good idea for Jack to hit the 2016 NFL Draft after suffering a meniscus tear significant enough to end his season in September and require surgery to repair.
Prior to the draft, though, there was a sense that those concerns are in the past after Jack’s pre-draft workouts. While he sat out drills at the NFL Combine, Jack wowed with a 40-inch vertical jump and 124-inch broad jump at the UCLA Pro Day in March, despite saying he was only at 80 percent in his recovery.
That kind of athleticism has made Jack a player who can be used anywhere and almost makes it easy to forget that he’s a 245-pound player who hits like a tank. But the concerns were still there, with anonymous reports flying around about teams taking him off their draft boards or teams not being bothered by his knee issues. Jack spoke at length about the concerns, vowing to make teams pay if they pass on him in the NFL Draft.
And plenty of teams did end up passing on him. Jack was mocked as high as a top-five pick at times in the pre-draft process. Talent-wise, he absolutely belonged in those spots, but his fall took him all the way down to the second round.
Jack was unusually honest about his knee prior to the draft, and only teams know if that honesty ultimately scared them off.
While he racked up 15 tackles for loss in his first two seasons at UCLA, he also showed the ability to stick with receivers in the secondary. Even slot receivers struggled to shake the linebacker.
Jack is a football player through and through. His mother told Daniel Uthman of USA Today that Jack asked his Pop Warner coaches for game film at 6 years old and never stopped studying up on opponents.
Each Sunday, three DVDs would be left in the family’s mailbox – one for each of the team’s next two opponents, and one of Jack’s own team. He would watch them on a DVD player in his room and on a player slung over the front passenger seat of his mom’s Ford Expedition.
He’s no stranger to the spotlight, either, after breaking out as a superstar immediately at UCLA. He even helped out a candidate running to become a student rep at the university by … well, by crushing him.
The Jaguars could use the addition of Jack too.