Just watch the damn film. Period. Kentucky center Drake Jackson was not selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Thirty-one franchises fell into the overthinking trap that occurs when evaluating prospective draft picks. Some scouts said that Jackson was “too small” or “lacked arm-length.” Well that’s BS. Those two “liabilities” didn’t negatively impact his career in the Southeastern Conference. The most valuable ability is availability. Jackson started 44 consecutive games. There was an endless amount of film that showed proven and consistent success against multiple pro-level defensive linemen. Oh, did I already say that he played in the SEC? Too small. Yeah right. He missed two assignments in 845 offensive plays as a junior. For nearly four seasons, Jackson captained an offensive line that gained national attention and a nickname (The Big Blue Wall) that blocked for an all-timer RB (Benny Snell) as well as smashing program records in the run game. Let’s take a quick look at Jackson’s UK career and what the Cats do next at center shall we?
Drake Jackson is the best UK center that I’ve seen in person. That time frame goes back to the mid-1970s. Quite the accolade for the Woodford County native. Jackson was a 4-star prospect who chose Kentucky over Ohio State and Alabama. He went on to play in 47 career games with an impressive 44 consecutive starts at center. The Detroit Lion was named All-SEC by multiple outlets as a junior and senior. He and an 85.7 percent grade in 2020 and also recorded 40 knockdowns to go along with 188 blocks at the point of attack.
Jackson was more than a starting center. He acted as John Schlarman’s coach on the field and is recognized as possessing a tremendously high football IQ. So the question remains. How will Kentucky replace its generational center?
Quintin Wilson appears to be the answer. Wilson is a 6’1, 294 lbs. junior who has served as Jackson’s backup for two seasons. The native of Cincinnati, Ohio played meaningful snaps at guard a year ago. Wilson is an incredibly intelligent football player and student. He graduated from UK with a Management degree in just two-and-a-half years.
Kentucky has also worked veteran guard Luke Fortner and Eli Cox at center during spring practice. By all accounts, Wilson will be the starter but establishing depth at the position was a priority.
What Does All This Mean?
I watched every pick of the 2021 Draft; Jackson’s name wasn’t called. I was so mad about the situation that I didn’t watch the Kentucky Derby. Had to get out of the house so I went to Kroger instead. As you can tell, I’m still not happy. However, Detroit was a perfect landing spot for the Wildcat legend.
Drake Jackson is an all-timer. Replacing a legend is never easy. But, Quintin Wilson meets the requirements to be a starting center in the Southeastern Conference.
Check out the rest of Freddie’s series on how Kentucky will replace its new pros: