2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaylon Ferguson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Of all the all-time great pass-rushers to play in college football, none of them have as many career sacks as Ferguson, who racked up 45 for Louisiana Tech. Edge defenders who can get after the quarterback are always in demand due the passing-driven nature of the NFL, so Ferguson should have no shortage of teams considering to select him in the 2019 NFL Draft. With his size, speed and production, Ferguson has the potential to be a starting edge defender at the next level.
Ferguson notched six sacks as a freshman to start his way toward history. Then as a sophomore in 2016, he put together a huge 2016 season, racking up 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two passes broken up, 16 tackles for a loss and 49 tackles. In 2017, Ferguson dipped down to seven sacks with 39 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss. NFL sources thought Ferguson should go back to school rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he wisely did. As a senior, Ferguson was at his best, totaling 64 tackles with 26 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes broken up.
In the pass rush, Ferguson has some natural ability to get after the quarterback. He has a quick first step with the speed to close when he gets free of blockers. With his length and somewhat developed strength, Ferguson does a nice job of bull rushing tackles close to the quarterback before shedding them and grabbing the signal-caller. Ferguson makes splash plays, showing a good habit to go for the strip when taking down the quarterback.
As a run defender, Ferguson has the strength and length to set the edge. He can hold his ground and disengage from blocks to get in on tackles. His straight-line speed shows up in pursuit. As a pro, his run defense would not be as good in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker who would have to redirect more frequently.
While Ferguson has great college production to go along with size, he is a very stiff defender who lacks athleticism. He is extremely stiff and struggles to bend around the edge. He can't sink his hips and inside shoulder. That leads to his struggles to redirect. Some good NFL pass-rushers are stiff players, so that does not mean that Ferguson can't be a good pro. Given his stiffness and athleticism, however, nobody should be expecting him to put up the same sack totals he did in college.
Ferguson had a misdemeanor simple battery from fight during his freshman season. He was only fined $189 for the incident, but that was enough to get him disinvited from the NFL Scouting Combine by the league.
As a pro, Ferguson should be a base end in a 4-3 defense. He does not have the athleticism and agility to be a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. In speaking with team sources, they project Ferguson to be a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Michael Johnson. Ferguson reminds me of a smaller version of Johnson. Both are strong 4-3 base ends who struggle with stiffness. Johnson was a third-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and Ferguson could go in the second or third round this year.
NFL Matches: San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta, New York Jets, New York Giants, Washington, Dallas, Carolina, Tennessee, Green Bay, Houston, New England, Kansas City
On the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft, Ferguson has a lot of potential landing spots. The 49ers and Raiders both need more edge-rushing talent, and both Bay Area teams are picking high in the second and third rounds. They both run 4-3 schemes, which are better fits for Ferguson. Ditto for Detroit and Atlanta as teams with high second-round picks that could use help at defensive end and are based out of a 4-3.
A fit for Ferguson could be in New York with the Jets' third-round pick. They need to get more edge'rushing talent, and Ferguson could fit Gregg Williams' scheme.
In the NFC East, Ferguson could be a fit for the Giants if they feel that his stiffness won't be an issue in their 3-4. Ditto for the Redskins if they lose Preston Smith in free agency. Dallas also could consider Ferguson in the second round if it lose some veterans in free agency.
With Julius Peppers retiring, Carolina has to get more edge-rushing talent across from Mario Addison. Ferguson could be a fit for the Panthers on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Packers need young edge-rushing talent and could use multiple early selections on front seven defenders. Ferguson may not be a good scheme fit for Green Bay.
Tennessee has veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on the way out. Thus, the Titans need an edge rusher across from Harold Landry. Elsewhere in the AFC South, Ferguson could interest the Texans. Jadeveon Clowney is entering free agency, and Whitney Mercilus is showing signs of decline. Romeo Crennell has been able to use some bigger, stiff edge defenders in his scheme, so Ferguson could work for Houston.
Both the Patriots and Chiefs have two second-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, so they could consider Ferguson with one of those picks. Both teams also could use young edge rushers and have good coaching staffs who would know how to use and develop Ferguson.
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