RENTON — Jackson Jeffcoat’s resume almost made it certain he would be picked somewhere during the first two days of the NFL draft.
He was a first-team Associated Press All-American his senior season at Texas with 13 sacks and 86 total tackles, the only defensive lineman in the country to lead his team in tackles.
And he had the background as the son of former Dallas and Buffalo defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat.
So why was Jeffcoat sitting around waiting for a phone call that never came during last month’s draft and eventually signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seattle Seahawks?
“I don’t know,” Jeffcoat said. “I honestly don’t know.”
Ultimately, Jeffcoat went undrafted despite his production in college because in the NFL he was a player without a position. Was he a defensive end? Was he an outside linebacker?
It was a question that hounded Jeffcoat throughout the pre-draft process with no one quite sure of where he could fit.
Some teams thought Jeffcoat would be an ideal outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive system.
Others believed that despite being somewhat undersized at 6-foot-3, 253 pounds, he could be a serviceable defensive end, especially in pass rush situations. He was told everything, from being a possible second or third-round pick to being selected on the final day.
His representatives and even his dad struggled to pin down a possible landing spot as the draft approached as well.
And when it came time for a team to make a commitment to Jeffcoat, no one was willing to spend that draft pick.
“It was horrible. I ain’t going to lie to you,” Jeffcoat said. “It was not fun sitting there with my family. … It was tough going from hearing first to third to sixth and then not even getting drafted. It was rough.”
Jeffcoat was first contacted by Seattle during the sixth round of the draft when linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., called. Norton and Jeffcoat’s father played together for the Cowboys, and Jeffcoat was also recruited by Seattle coach Pete Carroll coming out of high school so there was familiarity.
Seattle saw Jeffcoat as an option for his pass rush ability. It’s the benefit of the Seahawks having a deep defensive line and seeing the success last season of having a rotation of players to use. It also was another nod to Carroll’s mantra of finding the best skills in a player and trying to draw those out.
It also didn’t hurt that Seattle knew Jeffcoat would come in feeling slighted by being overlooked. They’ve had success with those types of players before.
“He’s a really good athlete, he fits in athletically with the guys that play for us, same size and speed and all of that,” Carroll said. “He was very productive in college in a big program so we’re anxious to see if he can push and fight for a spot here.”
Because Seattle is focusing on Jeffcoat’s pass rush skills that’s created a different aspect to the relationship with his father since he signed with the Seahawks.
Suddenly, Jeffcoat said his dad is trying to help him get prepared for the NFL. In the past his dad wanted Jeffcoat to learn on his own.
“He’s all coming at me at once now. I wish he had given it to me a little earlier, but I’m glad he’s putting his wisdom on me and helping me learn with my game,” Jeffcoat said.
“He came in the league at 249 (pounds) when he got in the NFL and he played defensive end. He understands. It’s technique. And with pass rushing, it’s effort.”