With former top five overall selection Dante Fowler in the news for all the wrong reasons, Jaguars fans do not need to fret. The team still boasts a potent young pass rusher, one who yielded 8.0 sacks as a rookie in 2016. That figure was second in the NFL behind only emerging superstar Joey Bosa’s 10.5, but the Jaguars’ representative came as much greater surprise to most.
Maryland product Yannick Ngakoue was more of a rush specialist than anything in 2016; but to come away with 8.0 sacks was something even the team had to be pleasantly surprised by. Ngakoue’s emergence as a twitchy EDGE defender figures to be a vital boost for the team, as drafting impactful players in the middle rounds is the recipe for success in the NFL.
I’ve alluded several times that the “middle rounds are the money rounds”; the Jaguars appear to have hit pay-dirt with the selection of Ngakoue.
The team selected Yannick with the 69th overall selection in 2016, eighteen slots lower than he was pegged on the 2016 NFL Draft Prospectus board. While we are still early on in Ngakoue’s career, the overall synopsis of his report appears to project accurately:
- Ngakoue’s twitch, burst and cornering ability proved to be useful as he bulldozed his way to a franchise rookie record (and team leading) sack output.
- Ngakoue’s run defending and ability to impact the game in other ways was somewhat tempered by a lack of disengagement at the point of attack. Teams running at Ngakoue were able to successfully keep him pre-occupied and prevent him from challenging ball carriers consistently.
- Jacksonville’s 4-man front prevented Yannick from fully optimizing his short area agility; aligning him tightly to offensive tackles.
- Ngakoue’s top rated traits off his 2015 college film was his first step quickness, effort and flexibility. Those are the same traits he utilized in having a high level of production as a pass rusher during his rookie year.
Going beyond his sack totals, Ngakoue’s pressure output alludes that this isn’t a flash in the pan type of season.
The Jaguars' Yannick Ngakoue finished his rookie season last year with the 2nd most QB pressures among all rookie edge defenders. pic.twitter.com/m9k5ZSKN6F
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 19, 2017
From here, Ngakoue is tasked with playing a more fully developed game. That transition was a large part of why he slipped into the 60s on Draft night and was also a key limiting factor in my own assessment. Continued progress against the run is something I wouldn’t bet against. Ngakoue is going to be given time and by all personal accounts is a tireless worker. He’s sniffed success, it’s time for him to stay on it’s trail in 2017.