NFL Draft

Coastal Carolina NFL Draft Prospects

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Coastal Carolina has had a great 2020 season. Who are some prospects to know, leading into the 2021 NFL Draft?

Coastal Carolina is a fairly new addition to FBS-level play, but Head Coach Jamey Chadwell has already led the program to success this season, his third with the team. The Chanticleers are on pace for their first bowl game, potentially a New Years’ 6 appearance.

No doubt this team has some talent. Continuing on with our Game On Wisconsin draft prospect coverage, let’s take a quick look at some of their top players. Tight end, Isaiah Likely, and defensive end, Tarron Jackson, are two potential day-three selections come the 2021 NFL Draft.

Isaiah Likely – Tight End – Junior

Coming off back-to-back 5 touchdown seasons, Likely was on the small-school radar. He’s broken-out to some degree in 2020, and gotten some national attention.

He’s improved his YAC ability this year. Likely averaged just 3.2 YAC/rec during his Freshman and Sophomore seasons. This year, he’s improved that mark to 7.8. Likely has always been slippery but this year he’s developed a power component to his ball-carrying as well. He’s broken 10 tackles on his 25 receptions this year.

While he’s improved his run after the catch ability, Likely has had a tougher time hauling in passes this year, though in his defense, he’s seen more contested catches than he has in the past. Still, his 5 drops on 39 targets (12.8% drop rate) is quite troubling and its lead to a poor target conversion rate – 25 of 39 (64.1%).

His 3 drops on 60 targets over his Freshman and Sophomore seasons were solid and he needs to get back to that. It’s clear on film that Likely is a strong natural hands catcher. He gets to the ball well in contested catch situations and has a solid catch radius.

Likely’s biggest asset is probably his route-running. He’s been asked to run the entire tree at Coastal Carolina, both from the slot and in-line. He can drop his hips into his break and can explode out of very well for a tight end.

Likely is serviceable as a run-blocker. His footwork is solid and he consistently gets to the spot, though he could potentially be hamstrung at the next level by his thin-ish frame.

Nobody will argue with Likely’s dynamic production over the 2020 season. He leads all qualifying NCAA tight ends with 20.7 yards per reception this year. but it would’ve been great if he was able to continue to display the solid hands that we saw throughout his first two years with Coastal Carollina. I’m less concerned about the drops than I am excited about the improvements after the catch.

Tarron Jackson – Defensive End, Redshirt Senior

Tarron Jackson is having himself a great 2020 season but I wouldn’t exactly consider it a breakout. Jackson was considered a unanimous Preseason First-Team All Sun Belt edge rusher and he hasn’t disappointed. Through 11 games, he’s recorded 8.5 sacks and an NCAA leading 52 total pressures.

That pressure mark matches his season total from last year and he added 9.5 sacks, all on less pass-rush opportunities. He’s been double-teamed more frequently this year but Jackson has still been able to take games over.

Jackson’s hands are strong and accurate and he has an ability to reset tackles in their drop. He doesn’t have the length to consistently finish with a bull-rush but he’s quick enough to take advantage of the separation that he creates with an inside counter. He has the flexibility to bend the edge and his stout frame allows him to keep his leverage.

Jackson struggles to disengage, however, once he’s been locked up. He doesn’t have the arm length to keep blockers off of his rush can be stalled by longer tackles.

Jackson has been productive against the run but he isn’t perfect. That lack of length that we see on the edge also shows up in the run-game. If his hands aren’t first to get on the chest of the man across from him, his 6’ 2”, 260-pound frame can be put on skates. He showed against BYU that he doesn’t have the anchor necessary to hold his ground inside the tackle.

However, Jackson’s quick first step allows him to beat almost all tackles to the spot at the NCAA level. He also has great balance and will only fall to the ground when he’s taking the ball-carrier with him. He’s inconsistent when unblocked and can fall for a playfake.

Jackson’s strong hands and quick frame always give him a fighting chance, whether he’s playing against the run or rushing the passer. We haven’t seen him in coverage much but he likely won’t be asked to that at the NFL level. He’s been playing out of position in the Chanticleers’ 3-4 defense but looks best suited for a strong-side defensive end role along a 4-man front.

 

Both Isaiah Likely and Tarron Jackson look like solid prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft. Both are flying under the radar a bit right now, because of their level of competition. In the right system, both players could be very successful.

I currently have a 4th-5th round grade on both players. Once we get to know each of them more throughout the draft process, those grades have a chance of rising. We’ll see Jackson in the 2021 Senior Bowl next spring, provided everything goes according to plan. Keep an eye on these to Coastal Carolina prospect over the next coming months.

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