Round 4 – Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson
6-7, 249 – Junior
Previous Pick: James Madison CB Jimmy Moreland
New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has already declared that Jameis Winston will be his starting quarterback in 2019, but the team does need to find a backup. Don’t expect Tampa Bay to re-sign 35-year old veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick because Arians won’t want Winston looking over his shoulder during a contract year, and Ryan Griffin hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL game despite being a backup for the past six years.
Arians and the Bucs will likely want a fresh start at the quarterback position behind Winston. Arians has coached Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich in Pittsburgh, and Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton in Arizona, and likes big signal callers. He only drafted one quarterback in Arizona – Logan Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 250-pounder out of Virginia Tech, who has since moved to tight end and now plays for Buffalo. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, Jackson has above average NFL size and the ability to throw the deep ball, despite being a raw talent.
Jackson was a three-year starter at Buffalo where he led the Bulls to a 10-4 record and a bowl game this past season after a knee injury limited him to just eight games during his sophomore year in 2017. Jackson didn’t receive great coaching at Buffalo and considered entering the transfer portal this offseason, but opted to turn pro instead. He was able to participate in the Senior Bowl because he had already graduated and had a solid week of practice for the South squad before shining in the game on Saturday.
Jackson, who was named the MVP of the South, completed 13-of-21 passes for 165 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, in addition to rushing for 11 yards and a first down. His 54-yard pass to West Virginia’s Gary Jennings was the longest pass at the Senior Bowl and showed off his big arm and ability to push the ball down the field.
Jackson’s Buffalo Career Passing Stats
2016: 165-of-311 passing (53.1 percent) for 1,772 yards with 9 TDs, 9 INTs
2017: 143-of-237 passing (60.3 percent) for 2,096 yards with 12 TDs, 3 INTs
2018: 225-of-407 passing (55.3 percent) for 3,131 yards with 28 TDs, 12 INTs
Jackson’s Buffalo Career Rushing Stats
2016: 99 carries for 399 yards (4.0 avg.), 5 TDs, long of 38 yards
2017: 47 carries for 197 yards (4.2 avg.), 4 TDs, long of 75 yards
2018: 55 carries for 161 yards (2.9 avg.), 7 TDs, long of 55 yards
Jackson, who interviewed with the Bucs at the Senior Bowl, finished his collegiate career with 6,999 passing yards and 49 touchdowns with 24 interceptions. He also gained 757 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns for the Bulls and displayed good speed with touchdown runs covering 55 and 75 yards during his college career.
Jackson had eight 300-yard games at Buffalo, including a career-high 406-yard day in a 38-28 win against Bowling Green in 2017 in which he tossed a career-high four touchdowns, while completing 62.2 percent of his passes. In the 2018 season opener against Delaware State, Jackson was masterful in the red zone while throwing a career-high six touchdowns despite only passing for 189 yards and connecting on 63 percent (17-of-27) of his throws.
Still, NFL scouts have some concerns about Jackson’s game and whether he’s ready for the NFL.
“One scout told Yahoo that he had three throws in a blowout of Rutgers that were the buzz of the scouting community. At 6-foot-7, 245 pounds there will be inevitable comparisons to Byron Leftwich. ‘He needs to stay in school,’ said a scout who’d slotted him around the sixth round. ‘We’re looking at him as a developmental quarterback for now. He’s flashed some NFL throws, but he really should stay.'”
Far from being a finished product, Jackson’s pocket presence and big arm are reminiscent of that of Leftwich, the Bucs’ new offensive coordinator. He would be an ideal candidate to develop behind Winston in Tampa Bay and learn from Leftwich and Arians, whose nickname is The Quarterback Whisperer.
“It’d be awesome, you know the fact that he he coached Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer and all those great quarterbacks,” Jackson said of Arians. “It’d be awesome to learn from a guy like that and continue to grow my game.”