TrojanSports - USC edge rusher Drake Jackson drafted late in second round by 49ers
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USC edge rusher Drake Jackson drafted late in second round by 49ers

Drake Jackson let everyone know before his junior season last fall that it would be his last at USC -- he had his attention set on the NFL.

Once projected as a potential first-round draft pick, and even receiving some buzz earlier this week from ESPN's Adam Schefter as a potential surprise end-of-first-round pick, Jackson came off the draft board Friday late in the second round, taken No. 61 overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

He's the second Trojan drafted, following wide receiver Drake London at No. 8 overall to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round Thursday.

Jackson finished his USC career with 103 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 4 pass breakups.

He was at his best as a true freshman defensive end when he broke out for 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2019. He was listed at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds then before dropping a bunch of weight and moving to a standup pass-rushing outside linebacker role. He was listed at 250 pounds as a junior.

He was also limited by nagging injuries throughout his final season at USC, finishing with 5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss in 10 games.

The case for Jackson entering the draft was untapped potential.

He had noticeably added some more weight back since the end of last season -- he said at his USC pro day he was back up to 273 -- and it would not surprise anyone if he found a more comfortable role in the NFL and tapped into his full capabilities, as his athleticism at his size remains a tantalizing asset.

The weight fluctuation was one of the major questions NFL teams had for Jackson leading up to the draft.

"Really, they just wanted to figure out why I jumped weights and why I was 270 this year and 255 the other years, but once I told them we had different coaches and that's what they [thought] fit, everything was hashed out from there," Jackson said.

"... It's going to be a lot crazier now at this weight, now that it's good weight. When I was a freshman it was baby fat. Now it's muscle, so I can't wait to just tear it up."

This is the second year in a row USC has had a defensive player drafted by San Francisco, as safety Talanoa Hufanga was picked up by the 49ers in the fifth round last season.