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Playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson fits Bucs' draft need

DeSean Jackson is working with Jerry Rice to improve in areas on and off the field.

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DeSean Jackson is working with Jerry Rice to improve in areas on and off the field.

TAMPA — DeSean Jackson may have to wait a few hours to hear his named called Saturday in the NFL draft.

In fact, no wide receiver is likely to go in the top 15 picks and less than a handful are projected for the first round.

But this is certain: The team that selects Jackson will improve instantly.

Just consider the immediate impact Jackson had as a freshman at California. The first time he touched the ball as a receiver and punt returner, Jackson scored touchdowns.

Some receivers can help an offense change field position, Jackson has a knack for changing the scoreboard.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Jackson scored 29 touchdowns in 36 games, as a receiver (22), punt returner (six) and ballcarrier (one).

"I consider myself a receiver first," said Jackson, the fastest receiver in the draft (40 yards in 4.35 seconds at the NFL scouting combine). "That's just an exception I can bring to a football team, the ability to return kicks and punt returns and just bring an electrifying air to the game."

But if that electricity isn't harnessed, a team could get burned.

Scouts list several negatives about Jackson. Start with his size. He weighed just 169 pounds at the combine, but has since added weight.

During interviews, some teams questioned him about reports that he might not be a great team player and sometimes squabbled with coaches. They grilled him about getting benched in the first quarter of the Dec. 31 Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force.

Jackson said he was briefly benched because he was late to a team meeting. When he entered with the Golden Bears trailing 21-0, he quickly scored on a 40-yard touchdown reception to spark a 42-36 comeback win.

"That was hard to accept, but I learned from it," Jackson said.

The lessons are continuing. While Jackson may still have a few doubters, the greatest receiver of all time is not one of them.

Jerry Rice is a mentor and advocate for Jackson, who has benefited from the tutoring on and off the field. Rice is part of DeBartolo Sports and Entertainment, which represents Jackson.

Rice spent several days at a training facility in Pensacola before the combine working with Jackson on his route running.

"There's a time for speed, and there's a time to get under control," Rice said.

Jackson also is learning how to control his business off the field. Rice has emphasized the importance of how to treat people and leaving a positive impression.

"Jerry's a great dude," Jackson said. "I'm just very fortunate for me to be able to work with him. Like I say, he came on and he was just very supportive of me. Like I said, great mentor. He has all the right things to say. Basically off the field was the biggest thing that he tried to preach to me. How you treat people when you go meet people and things like that because you'll always be able to build relationships and people will remember you."

The spotlight is nothing new to Jackson. His older brother, Byron, who played two seasons for the Chiefs, has filmed DeSean from the time he was little and has more than 1,000 hours of video of every game that he hopes to use to produce a documentary. It's kind of a Truman Show, pro football version.

"I definitely can correct my game from watching the things he films," Jackson said.

More than any other player, Jackson has been linked to the Bucs in numerous mock drafts with the 20th overall pick. Coach Jon Gruden covets a playmaker at receiver and worries how much the offense shrinks without 36-year-old Joey Galloway to stretch the field.

Jackson, 21, would provide an instant impact on special teams and eventually could be Galloway's understudy as a slot receiver. Jackson was among several receivers to visit the Bucs.

Rice compares Jackson to Panthers receiver Steve Smith.

"He has a lot of confidence in his hands," Rice said. "He runs excellent routes and he's just plain fast.

"So I don't think it's going be any trouble for him going out there and making catches."

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Playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson fits Bucs' draft need 04/22/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 10:47am]
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