By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
For over a decade the Jets have been searching for a dynamic pass rusher, and this year is no different. Although the early returns are good on last year’s 3rd round pick out of Louisville, Lorenzo Mauldin, they are going to need a starter on his opposite side. There is also no guarantee that Mauldin will develop into a sack master, although even if he does, you can never have enough pass rushers in a league that is so reliant on the passing game.
Considering that the Jets have a number of holes to fill, and the organization has taken defensive players in the first round for the past six years, they may look to the middle rounds of the draft to find someone to fill their other starting outside linebacker spot.
One prospect that is currently expected to be available on Day 3 of the draft, although some draft pundits have him going towards the end of the 2nd, is Maryland’s Yannick Ngakoue (pronounced IN-gah-kway). Viewed as a prototypical pass rusher, Ngakoue could be just what the Jets are looking for.
With a good amount of success against last year’s 5th pick in the first round, Iowa LT Brandon Scherff, as well as when matched up with projected 2016 first round picks’ Michigan State LT Jack Conklin and Ohio State LT Taylor Decker, Ngakoue has proven that he can excel against first-rate competition.
Entering the NFL as a junior, Yannick had 37 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 13 sacks, 45 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble in 2015 alone. His 13 sacks were good for 2nd in the Big Ten and 3rd in the NCAA. Ngakoue was also named to the All-Big Ten First Team in 2015.
During his three years with the Terrapins, Yannick accumulated 83 tackles, 32 for loss, 21 sacks, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. For his exceptional play in his sophomore season, when he totaled 37 tackles, 13.5 for loss, two passes defensed and six sacks, he received All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
Although not blessed with the ideal height for an edge rusher, Ngakoue is a solidly built physical specimen with a sudden burst and incredible flexibility. He also has the agility and proper hand technique to avoid being held up by offensive lineman the majority of the time. Ngakoue is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback, never giving in until the signal caller is either on the ground or is forced to throw it away.
Despite the fact that he has had success in setting the edge against the run, Ngakoue could benefit from some NFL coaching to improve upon his overall run defense. Much stronger against the passing game, he tends to get sealed off by TE’s when defending the run and can get pushed away from the ball carrier once a blocker gets a hold of him.
Another area that Ngakoue can use work some on at the next level is his comfort as a stand-up pass rusher. During his three years with Maryland, he lined up mostly in a three-point stance, so he may initially struggle in his transition to OLB in the NFL. However, the Terrapins did line him up in many different spots to accentuate his abilities, so it is not as if he has no experience on the outside.
Certainly still a work in progress, Ngakoue did show some improvement in his awareness against the run in 2015. He also possesses the skills and motor to excel on the professional level. With the proper guidance, there is no telling how far his potential could bring him. The thought of Ngakoue and Mauldin terrorizing quarterbacks together for the next few years is definitely an intriguing one.
You can read my Jets Pre-Combine Mock Draft article from 2/24/16 by clicking below:
You can read my article from 2/19/16 on NYJetsNews.Com about a few options for the Jets in the 1st Round of NFL Draft by clicking the following link: