NCAA

Myles Jack Is Breaking The Mold

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Injuries are one of the unfortunate side effects of playing football. With the way the game is played, they are almost impossible to prevent, especially at a position that’s whole job is to create high impact collisions as much as possible. It is even more unfortunate when a player who doesn’t even get compensated for his play gets an injury that may hurt how much he get compensated for playing in the NFL.

This is exactly what happened to the ultra talented UCLA linebacker Myles Jack.

Three games into the college football season, Jack was well on his way to another stellar year for the Bruins. He just made the game-saving interception against BYU and his draft stock was headed through the roof.  Two days later, Jack tore his meniscus during practice. He had two options: he could rehab the injury and try to return to UCLA and salvage what draft stock he had lost, or he could rehab the injury, roll the dice and enter the draft.

Jack chose the latter.

“Taking my football career into consideration, I want to be with the best. I want to do everything I can to heal from this injury and come back better than ever,” Jack said. “I had to decide whether to stay in school or pursue my dream, and I chose to pursue the dream I’ve had since I was a kid.”

Not everyone was happy about Jack’s decision to turn pro, including his head coach at UCLA, Jim Mora.

“He’s taking his chips and shoving them into the middle, and we hope he draws a good hand,” Mora said. “I think it’s risky to do this. Having been on that side, there’s going to be a lot of speculation as to what he is and where he fits. And as I told Myles on Sunday, NFL teams are very, very conservative, and if there’s any question whatsoever, they’ll pass on you in a heartbeat. They’re going to take the sure thing … As a guy that spent half of my life in the NFL, I would move with great caution, and I would tell that to all of our players.”

The thing that Mora doesn’t realize is that Jack is a special talent and special talent’s don’t follow usual guidelines when it comes to the NFL Draft. For example, Todd Gurley had a similar injury last year and he wasn’t able to work out leading to the draft and he even missed the first couple of games of his rookie season because of it; however, teams knew this and he still went in the Top-10 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Furthermore, since returning, Gurley has been one of the best running backs in the NFL and he has shown that he was worth the investment that the St. Louis Rams made.

Jack knows this too and he draws inspiration from Gurley’s situation.

“When I saw him [Gurley] do that against the Cardinals, I was like, ‘All right, cool, I can deal with this,'” Jack said. “He was doing his thing, and he came back just fine — and that’s what I strive to be next season. It definitely gives me hope.”

It may seem ludicrous to some that Jack’s talent level is on par with someone as highly-touted as Gurley, but just turn on the tape and it will become abundantly clear, he is a blue-chip talent.

Jack is a versatile linebacker whose game has been improving every single year. He normally lines up as an inside linebacker for the Bruins, but he has played a significant amount of time as an edge-rusher and he has also lined up as a slot cornerback, which really points to have valuable of a player he can be for an NFL team.

With the proliferation of three-wide receiver sets, nickel defenses are essentially becoming the base defense for most teams. This means that linebackers who can stay on the field and cover tight ends, running backs and carry receivers across the field are extremely valuable. The UCLA linebacker isn’t your typical coverage linebacker though; he is probably the best linebacker in coverage to come out of college in the last 10 years. He has the speed, quickness and fluidity to cover anyone on the football field.

While it is extremely beneficial when a linebacker is adept in coverage, linebackers still get paid to stop the run and Jack does that at a high level as well. In the run game, the former UCLA Bruin utilizes his athleticism to flow from sideline to sideline and make plays across the field. Jack combines his athletic talents with a physical style of play that lends itself well to the NFL. He fearlessly takes on blocks and he has shown the ability to demolish blocks on his way to the ball-carrier.

The only negative to Jack’s game is that he isn’t the most cerebral player. He relies on his natural talent to make plays instead of intelligence, which could be a problem in the NFL; The cerebral part of the game can be taught, the athleticism that Jack possesses can not.

Most players would go back to school and try to regain the draft stock they lost. Most players wouldn’t be a first-round pick after tearing their meniscus.

Myles Jack isn’t most players.

Like Todd Gurley did last year, Jack is breaking the mold.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com