Acklin prepares for draft


Angel Strack/ Courier Staff

Jaelon Acklin runs past defender and rushes for more yards.

Devon Greene, Sports Editor

As the draft draws closer, prospects that weren’t on scout’s radars during the regular season begin to make names for themselves. Former Leatherneck standout receiver Jaelon Acklin is one of those prospects that has opened eyes on the road to the draft.

Following his senior year where he set school records in receptions and receiving yards with 84 catches and a total of 1,399 yard receiving, Acklin was riding high into bowl season. He ranked fourth in the entire FCS in receiving yards and was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection. However, when it was time for invitations to be sent out, Acklin’s name was not on any of the postseason rosters.

“I felt like I was disrespected as a player just because I only had one year of production,” Acklin said. “I used that to fuel my fire and whenever I was training, that’s all I really thought about. Everything started to work out fine after my pro-day where I finally got the opportunity that I wanted.”

In Acklin’s pro-day, he put scouts all over the country on notice. He recorded a 3.94 second run in the short-shuttle, a 6.62 second run 3-cone drill and put up a 39.5-inch vertical jump. The combination of those three statistics together have only been done by two wide receivers since 2000. Acklin also ran a 4.46 second 40-yard dash, which would’ve been tied for third place at the NFL Combine. Acklin saw his pro-day as an opportunity to show all those who have doubted him this offseason what he can do if he was given a shot.

“I think that my pro-day numbers really opened up some eyes,” Acklin said. “I think that my negatives coming out of college were that I wasn’t that athletic, and I was more of a possession receiver. I think after I went out there, I solidified that I was more than that. I was just hoping that scouts would see that and maybe take a chance on me.”

After his pro-day, scouts and NFL teams certainly did start to consider Acklin as a viable addition to their franchises. He’s been talked to by multiple franchises like the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and has met with the New York Jets. On his way to the 2018 Bruce Craddock Memorial Spring Game, he got a call from the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh.

Acklin even got to talk with the man that redefined the slot position in the NFL, former New England Patriot and Denver Bronco, Wes Welker. Welker is the wide receiver coach for the Houston Texans and has worked with NFL greats like Randy Moss and young up-and-comers like DeAndre Hopkins. All of these contacts from people that athletes dream of talking to one day may overwhelm some but Acklin has kept a level head through it all.

“It’s been fun,” Acklin said. “I try not to get too caught up into it because it really doesn’t matter until I get picked up by a team. I’m trying to stay humble through this process.”

Acklin sees himself as an Adam Thielen type of player. Acklin compares well with Thielen in body type although he gives up two inches to the Vikings receiver. Acklin was faster than Thielen in the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and short-shuttle. Thielen had a breakout year in 2017 with the Vikings. He pulled in 91 passes for 1,276 yards and was a solid first or second option alongside Stefon Diggs. Thieland’s success proves there is a place on NFL rosters for players like Acklin.

The former Leatherneck has been labeled as a NFL draft diamond in the rough by outlets like CBS. He’s been touted as a late-draft steal to a priority free agent but with the draft only three days away, Acklin is optimistic going forward.

“I feel good,” Acklin said. “I’m not living or dying by being drafted. As long as I get picked up by a team, I don’t really care about all that.”

An opportunity like this doesn’t come around too often, but Acklin is doing all that he can do to make sure he can to capitalize on all that he’s worked towards during his time wearing the Purple and Gold.

Twitter: devondeadlysins