Name: Jaylon Ferguson Position: Defensive End School: Louisiana Tech Height: 6’5″ Weight: 269
Data from Sports-Reference.com One of the most productive players at any position in all of college football, Ferguson uses elite hands and strength to make play after play. How well his college production translates is to be seen, but Ferguson presents one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft.
Ferguson possesses prototypical 4-3 end frame. He has length at 6-foot-5 with long arms and a thick trunk, not unlike a taller Everson Griffen. With today’s era of lanky pass rusher, Ferguson may actually be a bit bigger than the average edge in this draft at 270 pounds.
The burst makes Ferguson appear quicker than he is. As far as straight line speed, Ferguson is adequate. Same goes for his change-of-direction. But thanks to his quick reads and strong get-off, he plays fast. How he tests may end up having a more significant impact on his draft stock than it probably should.
Ferguson’s ability to get to the quarterback starts and ends with his hands. He begins most of his rush reps with a solid burst off the line. He then uses his length to get inside hand leverage, and then seems to get stonewalled. That is how he wants it to appear to his opponent, because from there, he can push-pull the blocker at will, discarding him and giving him free run to the quarterback. See clip below. That is where a significant majority of Ferguson’s pressures come from. He wins by winning early, getting the blocker exactly where he wants him, and then manipulating him as he wishes. He also possesses a strong bull rush, thanks to his consistent leverage advantage. Ferguson’s speed-to-power transition is excellent, and he has shown he can bully all manner of opponent, from the SEC to Conference USA. That said, Ferguson is not a typical edge style of rusher. He is not a real bender, does not rely on speed or ability to get the corner or work traditional counter moves. When he gets the edge, it is typically because of that push-pull attack. The below clip is a good example of his tendency when attempting a speed rush. He engages, tries to turn the corner with a strong rip and ultimately ends up on the ground prematurely. His flexibility leaves just a little to be desired. Overall, Ferguson’s got the little things down. His leverage is impeccable, his plan works a lot and he has a number of the necessary physical traits to win battles.
Just as his leverage is a big help to his pass rush, Ferguson uses his hands and strong legs to win a lot at the line of scrimmage. He has the burst off the ball to initiate contact, the length to maintain separation and the hand placement and strength to discard. As an edge setter, there may not be anyone better in this draft. He is too long and too strong in the trunk to be pushed outside. Ferguson’s read-and-react is spectacular, he is disciplined against all manner of scheme and he can finish plays up and down the line. There is nothing “situational” about Ferguson. He has more than enough ability to play in any scenario.
Even though the Vikings are set as far as starting ends go, and have found a solid number three in Stephen Weatherly, no team can ever have enough talented pass rushers. The ability to cycle in a myriad of options on the edge has helped the Eagles, Jaguars and Bears develop some lethal defenses. Tashawn Bower has not developed as much as some hoped he might, and was largely inactive this season. Ferguson brings three down ability and an NFL frame to an already strong defense. It would be a depth addition, and a welcome one. However, his future as a Viking will likely come down to his draft position. Ferguson’s athletic traits have him projected as a day two guy at the moment, with some even placing him in round four. However, his production, strength and frame point to him going much earlier. As stated before, how Ferguson tests is going to matter quite a bit. If he posts some strong numbers, teams may go for him in round one. At 18 overall, Ferguson is not a great option for the Vikings. But should he slip into rounds two or three, Minnesota could steal a really good player.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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