Through the first quarter of the 2016 season, a lot of players on the Jacksonville Jaguars have surprised me -- some good, some bad. Blake Bortles looks to have regressed, Jalen Ramsey is (somehow) doing even better than I thought he would, and Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith are playing some of their best football under new defensive coordinator Todd Wash.
But if we’re talking about the biggest surprise of the season overall, the conversation begins and ends with third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue.
Coming out of Maryland, Ngakoue was a pure pass rush specialist. He was drafted with the best-case scenario being that he’d fill the role as rotational pass rusher. Instead, he’s grown into an every-down LEO who is getting more snaps than Dante Fowler, who was drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
But it’s not simply Fowler’s underperformance that has given Yannick this opportunity. His strength, speed, and technique is very, very good and he’s having as good a start for a rookie pass rusher as he could.
Just look at what he did against Anthony Castonzo in the game against the Indianapolis Colts last week...
Yannick Ngakoue sack #3 on the season. pic.twitter.com/XwpfkAtfFq— Christian (@FBLRave) October 3, 2016
...or the Baltimore Ravens the week before.
All told, Yannick is the team’s best edge rusher and it’s not even close. And the fact that a third-round pick is a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate is probably the most surprising thing. We knew Jalen Ramsey would be good. Yannick? No idea.