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Former WSU edge Brennan Jackson drafted by LA Rams, CB Chau Smith-Wade to Carolina

Apr. 27—PULLMAN — Two more former Washington State players heard their names called in Saturday's fifth round of the NFL draft.

Edge rusher Brennan Jackson was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, No. 154 overall, and cornerback Chau Smith-Wade went to the Carolina Panthers, who used the No. 157 pick to select him.

Jackson and Smith-Wade are the second and third Cougars to get drafted this year, following safety Jaden Hicks' selection to the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth round Saturday.

For Jackson, a Southern California native, it's an opportunity to stay close to home. Last season, he started all 12 games, totaling 57 tackles, including 26 solo. He lead the team in sacks with 8.5, seven solo. He also led the Cougars in tackles for loss with 12.5, recovering four fumbles, three for touchdowns.

A three-year starter at WSU, Jackson recorded several memorable moments last season, including recovering a fumble for a touchdown in a win over Wisconsin and recovering two for scores in a win over Colorado. In that game, Jackson became the first Cougar to return two fumbles for touchdowns in one game, and the first Pac-12 player since Oregon State's Rashaad Reynolds in 2013.

Jackson, who ranks eighth in WSU history with 20 sacks, last season recorded the second-best run defense grade (78.2), third-best coverage grade (71.4) and fifth-best overall defensive grade (82.3) among Pac-12 edges, according to Pro Football Focus. An all-conference second-team pick in 2022, Jackson is also the first Cougar drafted by the Rams since wideout Milton Wynn was selected in the fourth round in 2001 by the St. Louis Rams.

Jackson, a second-team all-conference pick in 2023, finished his WSU career with 41 starts in 44 games played and 10th in program history with 34.5 career tackles for loss.

"Sixth-year senior who plays like he loves football and never wants the game to end," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote. "Jackson is a productive, effort-based pass rusher who wins with motor and force but is missing much-needed moves and counters to beat NFL tackles with skill. He plays with good bend and powerful hips to drive his way through a blocker's edge against run or pass blocks. Jackson is salty at the point of attack and will shed or spin off blocks to find his way to the football. Despite some limitations, Jackson is constantly near the football, thanks to his strength, effort and toughness, and he could become a reliable pro as a 4-3 end or 3-4 rush linebacker."

For Smith-Wade, who started the first seven games of the 2023 season before missing the final five with an injury, it's a chance to make a splash on a Panthers team looking to rebuild. Last year, he registered 35 tackles, 22 solo, with two tackles for loss and six pass breakups. He totaled a season-high seven tackles in wins over Colorado State and Oregon State.

An all-conference honorable mention selection in 2022, Smith-Wade also recorded six tackles in a loss to Arizona last season, plus five tackles with two pass breakups in a loss to UCLA. He also had three tackles and a pass breakup in a win over Wisconsin.

At the NFL combine, Smith-Wade recorded a 40-yard dash of 4.54 seconds and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.32 , which helped boost his stock.

"A slender cornerback with plus athleticism and speed, Smith-Wade is a capable defender in zone or man coverages," Zierlein wrote. "He's below the desired NFL mark on height and weight for an outside cornerback, which could hurt his draft slotting. Smith-Wade is a sticky man-cover corner when he gets into the receiver and he has closing burst that can make up for lost ground. He can be feast-or-famine in zone coverage, as he tends to look to jump short throws and loses his deep-cover responsibility. He could end up outplaying his draft slot due to his ball skills, competitiveness and athletic traits."

Smith-Wade, a two-year WSU starter who hails from Denver, played his high school ball at Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, where he was named to the Chicago Sun-Times' All-Public League first team as a running back as a senior.