David Yankey vs. Gabe Jackson: Who Is The Best Interior Lineman?
By Bill Lund
The depth in the upcoming draft will affect some of the talented players in the interior offensive line positions. The 2013 draft featured three guards selected in the first round, but the influx of talented underclassmen in this year’s draft will push two of the best guards into the second round. Teams will be getting tremendous value and, at the very least, both will be quality NFL starters. David Yankey was a major factor in Stanford's ground-and-pound game. Gabe Jackson was the immovable object in the middle of the Mississippi State line. Both players have plug and play ability, but who is the better draft choice?
David Yankey, Stanford
At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds Yankey is a smooth athlete on the move with good body control and lower body explosion. Yankey shows very good lateral agility, balance and footwork. In pass pro, he displays a strong base and the ability to handle the bull rush as well as speed rushers. His punch is good, and he does a solid job of maintaining extension, though he could use some more pop on his initial strike.
In the run game, Yankey is an athletic puller with the coordination to line up his target on the move and secure his block. He is able to maintain his balance and has a strong initial surge off the line of scrimmage. He is adept at working combination blocks and finding the second level responsibility. Yankey does play high at times, but he shows the capability to play with bend in his knees. His feet, mobility and overall movement skills look better on film than what he showed at the Combine. On film, Yankey is fluid and powerful and will make an excellent selection for any team looking to improve its interior OL.
Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Jackson is a stout 6-3, 336-pound mass of humanity. A powerful blocker, road grader type who can pancake defenders when inspired. Jackson displays very good knee bend and nimble feet allowing him to maintain leverage on opponents. In the run game, Jackson has good leg drive to move defenders off the ball. Using a powerful punch and a strong grasp, Jackson makes it difficult for defenders to escape once Jackson locks in.
Even with his size, Jackson shows enough lateral agility to work at the second level, but he can get outmaneuvered by linebackers in space. Remarkably agile while in pass protection, Jackson shows an ability to mirror quicker rushers. Jackson does a nice job of absorbing the bull rush and has a powerful punch to help redirect oncoming defenders. On film, Jackson appears to lose awareness of other threats on combination blocks. He will rely on his power too much and overextend in pass pro.
For his size, Jackson was impressive with his movement qualities he put on display at the Combine, impressive enough to merit movement up a few draft boards.
Who is the better choice?
Jackson possesses many of the physical tools that scouts prefer for the position. He is not consistently disciplined in his technique and gets lazy in his performance, but Jackson has the makings to be a dominant force in the interior. Yankey has the athletic ability and the versatility to be used across the line of scrimmage. His value in this sense certainly makes him a more intriguing commodity for NFL execs. Yankey, a science and technology major at Stanford, plays with an intelligence and understanding of the game coaches love. Jackson has the better Combine numbers, but Yankey has the better resume on film. If I had to make a selection, I would take Yankey, trusting the consistency he has demonstrated on tape.