A hot topic with the NFL Draft is always pass rushers: everybody needs them, and almost nobody has them. And since you are reading this on a website focused towards the Jacksonville Jaguars, I know that you definitely do not remember what it is like to have them.
For the 2016 NFL Draft, you have heard about the same three or four names over and over.
All of these guys are expected to be picked in the first round or, at worst, in the first 50 picks.
But, what about the pass rushers after them? The guys that will be littered throughout the third through seventh rounds of the draft? Is there any pass rusher in the middle of the draft who deserves some attention?
Well, if you believe in following the smoke to the fire in regards to pre-draft interest, then you will think that the Jaguars likely believe that Maryland pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue is worthy of such attention.
I'm told OLB Yannick Ngakoue (Maryland) met w/#49ers scouts after his pro day. He also met w/Titans, Dolphins, Eagles, and Jaguars.— Ryan Sakamoto (@SakamotoRyan) March 31, 2016
Production in a bad situation
Over the last two seasons, the 252-pound Yannick Ngakoue racked up production as a pass rusher for Maryland. During that time, he earned 19 sacks and 28 tackles for a loss. His 13 sacks in 2015 alone were good for the third highest sack total in the NCAA last season.
On the surface, those are really impressive numbers for a 20-year-old pass rusher. The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that the Maryland football program struggled as a whole over this period, going 10-15 over those seasons, including a 3-9 season in Ngakoue's breakout 2015 campaign.
Despite being surrounded by talent and a program that struggled to put together solid seasons, Nkagoue was still able to produce and stand out on an NFL level.
How does he win?
Considering that Ngakoue will likely be picked as purely a pass rusher first and everything else second, looking at how he wins when he pins his ears back to get to the quarterback is the most important aspect of viewing him.
It is clear when watching Ngakoue work against college offensive tackles that his most preferred, and most effective, way to get to the quarterback is by sheer force and utilizing his length, motor, and surprising power for a 250-pound defensive end.
You can see that right off the snap, Ngakoue positions himself to get under the right tackle's pads. If you are going to move a larger force, which will always be the situation in Ngakoue's case, then there is nothing more important than leverage.
A big part of being a successful pass rusher is not only having ways to win but understanding exactly what those ways are. Knowing who you are and what you do well as a player can do wonders, and this is an area that Ngakoue excels in.
Outside of winning with a bull rush, Ngakoue shows the requisite flexibility around the corner that is coveted in pass rushers. As he showed in the above gifs as a power rusher, he is able to play with a low center of gravity.
One thing that is also evident is that Ngakoue does not have many, if any, athletic traits that pop out on screen. This was backed up by some poor testing at the NFL combine as well.
This adds another layer to the areas where he is going to have to proof to be sufficient in, in terms of winning as a pass rusher. Since he will likely not win with pure athleticism, he is going to have to rely on things such as motor, awareness, and technique.
At the end of the day, Ngakoue's upside is limited. He does not have any physical traits that stand out in a huge way. The way he produced at the college level, while impressive, is also an area of concern in projecting him as an NFL pass rusher. When you have a 250-pound edge rusher whose primary way of winning is through a bull rush, it is questionable how well that will really translate.
With that said, there is a reason that Ngakoue is seen as a late Day 2, early Day 3 prospect and not propped up as an early-round selection. There is a reason that he is seen as a third or fourth wave pass rusher.
As a non-premier draft selection, Ngakoue will hold some value. He is a smart player who already shows some technical prowess. There is not much room for him to realistically improve because coupled with his limited upside, he is already proficient in most areas you would expect him to be.
As for fitting with the Jaguars, they seemed to be set on finding somebody who is more of a situational pass rusher than they are finding a true every-down LEO. Their interest in Ngakoue makes sense in the regard that he can step in and be able to contribute right away.