The Senior Bowl is soggy, but the action is heating up in Mobile. Why a small-school edge rusher is quickly becoming the talk of the event.
MOBILE — “Hey Jaylon, have a few minutes?”
Every time Jaylon Ferguson is anywhere but sleeping or on the practice field, this sentence follows him.
Coming into the Senior Bowl, there were only three players participating who were deemed likely first-round picks. Ferguson wasn’t among them.
Quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Drew Lock seemed likely to go in the opening round along with EDGE rusher Montez Sweat. Ferguson has now inched into that group, according to NFL personnel people.
Scouts love his size at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, giving him the versatility to play as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 or as a five-technique defensive end in the 4-3. He also has the ability to go into a wide-nine stance outside the tight end, depending on the front. While Ferguson says he can play in any scheme (something said by every player, ever), he prefers to have his hand in the dirt as an end.
After redshirting as a freshman with Louisiana Tech, Ferguson produced eye-popping numbers. The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year notched 17.5 sacks as a senior and totaled 45 overall during his time with the Bulldogs, a record for FBS. The record was previously held by Terrell Suggs, who totaled 44 at Arizona State.
On Tuesday, Ferguson spoke at length to the media inside the convention center. At one point, he looked up with a sheepish grin and stated that the best part of the whole situation was looking up at the banner hanging above him. The banner was of Terry Bradshaw, a fellow Louisiana Tech alum who was taken first-overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970.
While Ferguson won’t achieve those heights come draft night, he’s moving in the right direction.
From the Notebook
– Ferguson isn’t the only defensive end/linebacker making waves here. Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines has been garnering attention as a potential second-day pick. He’s had a large contingent of support from his alma mater here this week. At one point, four different representatives were strolling around on Wednesday morning on the second floor of the Renaissance Hotel, talking to NFL scouts and coaches.
– Of all the offensive lineman here, it’s Dalton Risner of Kansas State who is generating the most buzz. At 6-foot-4 with 34 1/4-inch arms, Risner has the measurables to play at tackle, but most impressively, has the versatility to play tackle, guard, or center. For now, he’s safely a top-50 pick in the eyes of most teams, with the chance to continue climbing towards and into the first round with a good pro day and combine showing.
– Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham had a nice day of practice Tuesday in front of teams and media, but there are questions remaining. For example, why did Stidham struggle as a senior at Auburn, throwing only 18 touchdowns while completing a career-worst 60.7 percent of his throws? When asked about what will make him great at the NFL level, Stidham continuously said his leadership abilities. When asked for a physical gift, Stidham again talked about leadership and smarts. At some point, the physical attributes have to be what sells a team.
– With the weather drowning out practice for everyone save two handpicked employees per team, some have decided to flee Mobile early. While most of the teams and their personnel will leave Thursday during a typical week, there have been a few Wednesday exits this time around. Much of the Cleveland Browns contingent took off to get back to headquarters, confident in their work from the first two and a half days.
– He’s not a sexy name, but Foster Moreau is getting some attention after a nice day of practice and Tuesday and impressive interviews. Moreau was an inline blocker at LSU for the most part, playing the traditional H-Back role. However, the 22-year-old believes that playing in a pro scheme with the Tigers is a benefit, even if it kept his numbers down (22 catches this season). Moreau is going to be a third-day pick because of his limited college tape in the passing game, but he’s a high-upside name to watch.