NFL Draft Talk Volume XVI
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level. Are people sleeping on and forgetting about Louisiana Tech’s OLB Jaylon Ferguson? Many potential draft prospects at the pass rusher position have seen their stock both rise and fall since the NFL Scouting Combine came to close over a week ago. Edge defenders such as Montez Sweat from Mississippi State and Michigan’s Rashan Gary as well as Alabama’s interior defensive lineman Quinnen Williams all saw their draft stock skyrocket after blowing away all in attendance with their incredible athletic ability during workouts and on the field drills. There were also those who hurt their stock and find themselves sliding down draft boards after posting underwhelming results in workouts and receiving negative reviews from after meeting with teams. Florida Gators’ outside linebacker Jachai Polite vastly underperformed in workouts and drills, failing to showcase the athleticism that scouts and executives were hoping to see. However, the edge rusher that has seen his draft stock slide the most during the pre-draft processes and hasn’t garnered the same amount of attention that he was early on in Louisiana Tech’s outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. He was being projected as a potential first round and even top 10 pick in early mock drafts, but his hype train has slowed to a crawl ever since he had his invite to the combine rescinded after a background check revealed an off the field incident that occurred when he was a freshman in college. The misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an altercation with a man at a McDonalds made him ineligible to participate in the combine under the league’s absolute zero tolerance policy for potential draftees when it comes to off the field incidents involving violence. Even though he was not able to show off his athletic attributes for decision makers in league front offices at the Combine, his college production in pads speaks more volumes to the type of impact player he could be more than any drill in tights, or a 40-yard dash time could prove. Ferguson finished his collegiate career as the all-time sack leader in FBS history as the tenacious pass rusher totaled a record 45 sacks and finished third all-time in tackles for loss with 68. Last year he racked up 17.5 sacks in his final season which was the most by any player in all of college football. He has strong hands at the point of attack, knows how to gain leverage with proper hand placement and utilizes a variety of different moves and counter moves to get after the quarterback. Although his forte is known to be in the pass rush department, he also a proficient run defender as he sets a good edge and doesn’t get knocked back. The combine creates an opportunity for some players who played against lesser competition or didn’t have the type of production that jumps off the stat sheet to essentially test themselves into higher draft consideration, the first round or even the top 10 if they test extremely well. However, football is a game that is played in between the lines on turf and not between the lanes on a track or in a weight room. Many teams will bet on the potential of a player whose production doesn’t necessarily show itself in statistical categories but they believe that their ceiling is high enough he worth the risk, but a player of Ferguson’s caliber should not be glossed over or looked past for doing what they are supposed to do and that is to absolutely dominate. There will be several pass rushers that will get selected ahead of him with nowhere near the amount of production as him, but if he were to ultimately fall to the latter half of the first round or out of the opening round entirely then some lucky team will almost assuredly be getting a steal so late in the draft.