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Why the Ravens selected Jaylon Ferguson

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To keep being the “Sack Daddy”, of course.

Nearly 100 selections deep into the draft, Jaylon Ferguson was a great value pick. Matthew Judon needed someone to be able to effectively sub as the Ravens rush or joker along the front seven, and Ferguson is that guy. Ferguson’s slide in the draft can be attributed to poor agility scores. However, this is negated by his bevy of pass rush moves. At 6’5”, 270 pounds, he can play both inside or outside. Ferguson (as everyone has now heard) broke Terrell Suggs all-time FBS sack record, although Suggs did this before his 21st birthday.

Ferguson can man the C-gap, B-gap, or go wide-nine. He is stout against the run with good leverage, strong hands, and great play recognition. While he can stand up, his tape shows better explosion out of a three-point stance. Ferguson uses a rip or long arm bull rush to get around the edge. His two hand swipe bats away lineman’s hands while he advances into the backfield. He also had quite a bit of impressive reps on the goal line. Ferguson has attempted a few spin moves, but unsuccessfully for the most part. He also showed up big with sacks against LSU and Texas A&M in 2018.

Let’s take a look at his film.

My favorite aspect of Ferguson’s game is that he isn’t fooled easily by play fakes or play-action-passes. Jaylon always keeps his eyes up. That, combined with his countless pass rushing moves/counters, is why he broke the FBS sack record.

The four “red flag” narratives with Ferguson are as follows:

1) He is lazy and doesn’t play through the whistle, gives up on plays away from him.

I find this to be digging too far into a player. How many snaps do you think Ferguson took in college if he set the FBS sack record? Let me put it this way. . . he didn’t come off the field a lot. Of course you want him to play through the whistle every snap, but very rarely do 275-pound defensive ends play every snap all season. He needs to get a little better conditioning, but there were more examples of him chasing down ball carriers from behind than there were of him being lazy.

2) He has character concerns stemming back to a fight when he was 18 years old.

Young men get into fights sometimes. The Ravens interviewed Ferguson and met with him at least three times. After the whole Ray Rice situation, I doubt Steve Biscotti allows any players with genuine character concerns to be drafted, especially with the Ravens second pick. He also spent his draft day, which is usually time for celebration and partying, helping piece his hometown back together following a tornado. You still want to tell me he’s a bad kid?

“Instead of having a draft party and celebrating a lifelong dream, he’s out helping other people,” Ferguson’s agent, Safarrah Lawson, said Thursday. “It speaks to this young man’s character.”

3) He dominated against small schools and didn’t show up against top-tier competition.

According to sportsreference.com, Ferguson had a strip-sack against LSU, a sack against FAU, two sacks against Mississippi State, and 2.5 sacks against Hawaii. That was just in 2018 alone. Go check his game logs - Ferguson performed extremely well against top competition routinely during his college career.

4) Has no agility or “bend”, his pro-day agility drills mean he can’t be successful at the next level.

Should Ferguson have prepared for the three-cone and other agility drills more? Yes. However, Ferguson shows great ankle flexion, and contorted his body to get to the ball carrier routinely.

Rookie Prediction:

Jaylon Ferguson could’ve been the Ravens first-round pick, and I would’ve still liked it. His combination of vision, technical skill, strength, production and consistency are a recipe for disaster for NFL offensive lineman. I expect big things from Jaylon. This pick really frees up Matthew Judon so that he will be able to pin his ears back and rush more often. Ferguson needs to improve his frame a little more, and becoming more agile and flexible never hurts. Ferguson should play significant snaps against the Cardinals during the first game of the 2020 season and beyond.

“Sack Daddy” will finish with the most sacks of any rookie in the AFC. He’ll record eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and a lot of celebrating in the opponents backfield.