The Football Bowl Subdivision (or "FBS", as most commonly refer to it as) has been around for quite some time. It has been around since 1978, in fact. Anytime you have a group or league that has been around that long and you break a record within it, you know you're doing something very right.
That's the case with Louisiana Tech redshirt senior pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson, who is now the FBS' all-time sack leader.
Ferguson entered his final collegiate game with 42.5 sacks for his career, 1.5 sacks shy of former Arizona State's Terrelle Suggs, who finished his career with 44 in 2002 for the all-time record. Ferguson capped off his career with a 2.5 sack bowl game to move to 45 total sacks -- one better than Suggs.
(Although, we do have to note, while Ferguson now holds the "official" NCAA record, the NCAA did not begin officially tracking sacks as a statistic until the 2000 season. The unofficial NCAA sack record is held by Alabama's Derrick Thomas and Arizona's Tedy Bruschi, who both were credited with 52 sacks by their schools during their playing careers.)
But we're not here to talk about those two guys. We're here to talk about the new man on top.
Ferguson has been as high as No. 19 on Mel Kiper's 2019 NFL Draft big board, and that's high praise, especially with this edge class.
So let's get into Ferguson's tape ourselves to see if the stats really tell the whole story.
Play No. 1: Superman Hands
Jaylon Ferguson is a very interesting eval, and we'll get to all the details of that, but something he really boasts in his game is the strength he has in his hands to rip off offensive tackles.
Ferguson is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. He looks lean in his frame, but he can really throw people off if his hands are where they need to be.
Ferguson didn't go up against the best competition while playing at LA Tech, and that is part of what goes into his projection to the NFL. But even when you see guys going up against lesser competition, you can't just write off their dominance. This is who they have in front of them and they're manhandling them like they should.
Ferguson's FAU tape from 2018 especially showed dominance against inferior opponents, mainly via the use of his hands.
Play No. 2: Stiff Speed
There are times where I watch Ferguson just move up and down the field and I thought, there's no way this dude can be a speed rusher. And then, on the other hand, I'll see plays like the one above where he can explode off the snap and into the edge of the pocket.
But even when he does get a good, explosive jump, Ferguson, as you would expect with a player who is of his size and length, does have his limitations with flexibly and bend. I don't think it's a glaring weakness or anything, but when you talk about him as a Top 20 or just a first round guys, this is where he would fall short of say Brian Burns -- a player of similar build.
Ferguson has the speed to get off the ball and around the edge, but sometimes he's reckless with it.
As shown in the clip above, Ferguson has a tendency to go too fast for his own balance. I do think he got a little push in the back on that play, but he also stumbled a bit and couldn't maintain control.
As a speed rusher, Ferguson has some tools and some potential, but it definitely needs refinement. He just needs to know his plan a bit better when speed is his choice of attack on certain plays. This will help him be more in control and more effective.
Play No. 3: Big Boy Adjustment
Where I didn't downplay his competition early, I do have to note that there certainly was a difference when Ferguson went up against Conference USA offensive tackles and Power 5 offensive tackles -- if nothing else but for the size.
Ferguson does have very strong hands and can get off blocks (which is obvious with him recording 45 sacks in his career), but sometimes it's delayed. Sometimes it's him running into an offensive lineman, getting stonewalled, and then waiting a second before ripping off of them. That didn't happen as much in the Mississippi State game.
This is an area in which I think Ferguson needs to improve when it comes to pass rushing with a plan. Against Conference USA opponents, Ferguson could have all his momentum stopped and yet get off the blocks because he was better than his assignment. That won't fly in the NFL. The skill gap won't be that far in his favor.
What he needs to do is have more of an idea in his head of when the first move or attempt doesn't work, he has to be more precise and smooth into a counter. I think he has the talent to do so. He's just not used to having to do it.
Play No. 4: Can Be Quick-Twitch
There are plays of Ferguson, say when he's trying to contain an RPO or when run plays don't go directly at him, that I feel like his speed and shuffling is too slow moving laterally. But then there are other times, like in the clip above, where he can just explode in different directions.
Though the gap in good and bad is somewhat perplexing, he definitely shows that he has the talent and athletic ability to move north to south and side to side.
Play No. 5: One-Trick Pony (But A Damn Good Trick)
As mentioned before, Ferguson's pass rush strength is in his hands, and his go-to pass rush move is a push-pull where he can rip off and throw aside offensive tackles -- even when they think they have him locked up.
The clip directly above actually isn't a repeat clip of the one before. Those are two different reps against the same offensive tackle in the same game, and he couldn't handle Ferguson either time.
Ferguson is a speed-to-power kind of rusher, and it can come from a stand-up or hand-in-the-dirt position. I think right now I prefer him as a 3-point rush end, but as I continued to watch, he continued to do good things from a stand-up position, too.
I like Ferguson. I'll admit that there is a good amount of refinement to do, but I'm hoping to get some more tape on him before my final evaluation, because there are some things to really like. The hand usage makes me a big fan, but the lack of bend and natural speed rush flexibility cools me off a bit.
Even though stats can often lie to us, anytime you're the all-time leader in a category as important as sacks, you deserve a good look from all 32 NFL teams. Ferguson will get his fair share of looks just like Marcus Davenport did coming out of UTSA last year.
Davenport went first round, could Ferguson?