Get ready, because I’m about to drop a bomb on you: the Jaguars defense might be good.
Alright, so maybe not the biggest stretch of the imagination to say that. It’s widely known around the NFL that the Jaguars have the league’s best defense, and they are a huge reason why Jacksonville not only currently finds themselves hosting a playoff game, but fighting for a first-round bye as well. As the Pro Bowl votes continue to pour in for the likes of A.J. Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, and Calais Campbell - and rightfully so - there’s one name who hasn't been getting the attention it deserves: Yannick Ngakoue.
Now, most of the folks who follow or cover the Jaguars know just how important Ngakoue is to the Jags defense. His 11 sacks trail only Calais Campbell’s 12.5 this year for the Jaguars, and are actually the 6th best in the league. Even more impressive, Yannick’s six forced fumbles are the NFL’s top mark for the 2017 season.
While you’ve probably heard these stats floated around - and they are certainly impressive season totals for a player in his second year - what you may not know is just how impressive his young career has been to date. Keep in mind when reading the following information that Ngakoue fell all the way to the 69th pick, in the third round, which makes these stats all the more remarkable.
Yannick Ngakoue is currently 22 years old, and the production he’s had thus far in his career is outstanding for someone that age...dare I say elite?
There’s a chance I did something wrong, but if what I’m looking at is correct...@YannGetSacks91 currently has the 5th most sacks all time for a player who is 22 or younger. He still has three more games this season, too. #Jaguars #ProBowlVote pic.twitter.com/bwHfUUAQ9X— Matt Hoffman (@MattHoffmanNFL) December 12, 2017
As you can see in the above tweet, according to ProFootballReference.com, Ngakoue currently has the fifth-most sacks ALL-TIME from a player who is 22 years of age or younger. With three games still remaining this season, he has a chance to jump Pierre-Paul and Suggs for third or second most all time, though it’s unlikely he can match Shawn Merriman’s current top mark (but not impossible!). Also, considering Joey Bosa is still playing the rest of this season at age 22 along with Ngakoue, it’s quite likely Bosa will continue to climb as well.
Speaking of Joey Bosa, I find it interesting to compare him to Yannick Ngakoue, considering they both have impressive numbers and were part of the same draft class. Bosa was the 3rd overall pick in 2016, while Ngakoue obviously went much later.
Just looking at the numbers, I don't think anyone would take issue with either of these players having been the third overall pick. They’re both fantastic, and both should be Pro Bowl players this season.
So, pretty impressive, right? Well, the good news is it doesn't stop there. As you can see in the above tweet, the forced fumbles number for Ngakoue is quite high. It’s so high that I began to wonder how he stacked up to other players in that category as well, and the results weren’t disappointing.
Lord have mercy.
That’s right, Ngakoue has now set the mark for most forced fumbles by a player who is 22 or younger, at least since forced fumbles began being tracked in 1993. Folks, this isn’t just great production, it’s ELITE production. In case you’ve lost track, Yannick Ngakoue is currently fifth all time in sacks and first in forced fumbles for a player his age. While Sacksonville’s pass-rush excels due to multiple pieces, Ngakoue might just be the most crucial one.
Some people have asked me why I sorted this by age instead of games played, and the answer is simple. I wanted to look at upside and potential, and I’ve seen a plethora of examples where age was one of the best indicators of that success. When looking at the above tables, it’s hard to argue that’s not the case. Just look at the names Ngkaoue is beside: Merriman, Suggs, Bosa, Pierre-Paul, Hunter, Williams, Quinn, Dunalp, etc. - that’s some good company to be mentioned with.
It’s time for Yannick Ngakoue to start getting the recognition he deserves. Make sure you vote him to the Pro Bowl, because his season stats certainly merit that. But beyond that, recognize what he has the potential to become. The production he has generated for his age is elite, and the sky’s the limit.