Round 2: Louisiana Tech OLB Jaylon Ferguson
6-5, 271 – Senior
Previous Pick: Maryland SS Darnell Savage, Jr.
Tampa Bay takes advantage of a deep and talented group of pass rushers with Ferguson, who has first-round production, but slips to the second round due to average athleticism, evidenced at his pro day where he had a 4.82 time in the 40-yard dash and an awful 8.08 time in the three-cone drill, needing to do it at least seven times to record a score because he kept slipping and falling. Ferguson is not a player with great flexion and the ability to bend. He’ll never be compared to the likes of Florida State draft prospect Brian Burns, or Tampa Bay’s own Jason Pierre-Paul, but there is still a lot to like about Ferguson.
Finishing his career with an FBS-leading 17.5 sacks, Ferguson became the NCAA’s all-time leading sacker with 45 sacks, breaking the record held by future NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs. Ferguson had a productive season as a freshman before a breakout campaign as a sophomore where he recorded 14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. After an underwhelming junior season where he became a marked man, Ferguson did the wise thing by returning to school, adding some size and strength and having a monster senior season.
“Sometimes you worry about a player coming back of Jaylon’s status and what he turned down,” Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz said. “Sometimes players come back to protect something. I think Jaylon’s not coming back to protect something, he’s come back to prove something.
“I think he’s a guy that came back for the right reasons. He didn’t come back just to elevate his draft status. He talked about coming back. He talked about having four bowl rings and wanting a conference championship. … The NFL is not where you go learn what to do. You go show what you can do. I think he realizes he had a little growing and developing to do, I think it was an incredibly mature decision on his part. He wants to get a degree, he is one class away. I think those are all incredible reasons for him to come back.”
Ferguson’s Louisiana Tech Career Defensive Stats
2015: 35 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 FFs, 1 PBU
2016: 49 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, 3 FFs, 2 PBUs, 2 FRs
2017: 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks
2018: 65 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, 3 PBUs, 2 FFs, 1 FR
There was some controversy about Ferguson being disallowed to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine this year due to an arrest during his freshman season for engaging in a fight at a McDonald’s. Safarrah Lawson, Ferguson’s agent, issued a statement on Ferguson’s behalf back in March to address the situation.
“Jaylon is a great person who made a mistake 4 years ago before he started playing college football. He was involved in a scuffle that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor simple battery. He received a deferred judgment and $189.00 fine, a proper punishment for a fight between two teenagers. Since that day Jaylon has been a fine and upstanding student athlete that personifies the things we are trying to teach our young people today.”
Ferguson has told NFL teams that his role in the altercation was in self-defense, and he began that process by meeting with teams at the Senior Bowl where he had a good week of practice and had a sack in the game. Ferguson showed heavy hands and very good speed to power with his bull rushes, long arm and inside moves in Mobile, Ala.
“He’s got a great drive, which is the No. 1 thing you look for in pass rushers,” Ferguson’s pass rush coach Chuck Smith told The Advocate. “He can move very well from side to side. He’s tall. He’s long. He’s the prototype everybody wants.”
Ferguson has been compared to Marcus Davenport, another long edge rusher that was drafted in the first round by New Orleans last year after playing a smaller conference school at UTEP. He can record sacks in bunches, evidenced by 13 multi-sack games in his four years for the Bulldogs. He does have good film against the likes of Power 5 schools like Mississippi State, LSU, South Carolina Kansas State and Texas Tech over his career. Ferguson recorded two sacks against Mississippi State last year and one against LSU.
Tampa Bay had Ferguson in for a Top 30 pre-draft visit and see him as a player that could eventually replace Pierre-Paul or Carl Nassib, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Bucs love the fact that he can get to the quarterback rushing from the left and the right side of the line, in addition to his varied arsenal of pass rush moves.