Dane Jackson Taken by Bills in NFL Draft; Several Others Agree to Terms as Free Agents

On Saturday afternoon, the 2020 NFL Draft was winding down and Dane Jackson had not been selected yet. The former Pitt Cornerback was expected to be taken at some point on the third day of the draft, but the number of remaining picks was rapidly dwindling. Finally, over halfway through the 7th and final round, the Buffalo Bills took him at 239th overall. At least one source projected Jackson to be taken much earlier in the 5th round, and his freefall put the Panthers at risk of not having a player selected in the draft for the first time since 2013. Instead, the selection marked the seventh consecutive year in which the Panthers had a player selected in the draft. 

Dane Jackson marks the 11th Pitt player and 3rd Pitt Defensive Back ever taken by Buffalo in the NFL or AFL draft. Other former Panthers taken by the Bills include College Football Hall of Famer and 9-time Pro Bowler Ruben Brown and longtime NFL Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer who would win an AFL title with them in 1965. Jackson also became the third player brought to Pitt by Pat Narduzzi to be drafted into the NFL. 2015 grad transfer Nathan Peterman became the first in 2017 when he was also drafted by the Bills. Jordan Whitehead, a member of Narduzzi’s first freshman class became the next when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took him in the 4th round of the 2018 draft.

Though Jackson was a Cornerback during his entire career at Pitt, there’s the possibility that he could be converted to a Safety in the NFL due to concerns about his speed. These concerns may have been exacerbated by a sub-par performance in the 40-yard dash (4.57 seconds) at the scouting combine. This may also explain why he slid down the board to the very end of the draft. Not helping matters was the fact that he didn’t have an opportunity to give scouts another look at a Pro Day due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This factor also didn’t help other former Pitt players, such as Wide Receiver Maurice Ffrench, who weren’t invited to the combine but still hoped to hear their name called. Despite Jackson being the only player drafted, three other former Pitt players will see their football careers after agreeing to terms with teams as undrafted free agents. This group was highlighted by Ffrench who agreed to terms with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Linebacker Kylan Johnson signed with the Miami Dolphins where he’ll be teammates with former Pitt Safety Ryan Lewis. Finally, Tight End Nakia Griffin-Stewart, despite receiving much criticism from the fanbase over the past season, managed to find a landing spot with the Minnesota Vikings. He’ll join former Panther Brian O’Neill, who has entrenched himself as the starting Right Tackle on the Offensive Line there.