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DE Jaylon Ferguson on Senior Bowl radar for Dolphins and Jaguars?

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Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

While he didn’t go to a Power 5 school, there is a player on display at the Senior Bowl, who is already turning heads to be a possible great pass-rusher in the NFL. And the question now becomes: how much attention should the Jaguars and the Dolphins be paying to defensive end Jaylon Ferguson?

If you don’t know the name, Ferguson is a former defensive star at Louisiana Tech. Playing for Coach Skip Holtz’s squad and he was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. He was a third-team All-American from the Associated Press this past season. Ferguson led the nation with 17.5 sacks and another 26 tackles for loss for a combined gaudy 43.5 hits behind the line of scrimmage playing for the Bulldogs.

And, this week in Mobile his 6’5, 270 lb frame (shown above in Hawaii Bowl in December) has scouts and personnel people drooling at his potential.

One such talent evaluator is former NFL Defender Bucky Brooks, who is now an analyst for the NFL Network and in this video piece Thursday afternoon from the Senior Bowl, he detailed how he believes Ferguson is one of two players that are clearly in the mix to be high draft picks in April’s NFL draft:

 

So the question now becomes how interested will the Jaguars be at #7 overall and likewise, for the Dolphins at 13th in the upcoming draft?

The Jaguars do you have outstanding young edge-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and veteran Calais Campbell just made his second straight Pro Bowl in Jacksonville. However, Campbell is 34 and you clearly have to look to the future.

That future, now does not include former number 1 pick, Dante Fowler, who Jacksonville traded away to the Rams in October. So, the Jaguars are looking to reload with pass rushers. And while there is a debate about whether Ferguson warrants being as high as the 7th overall pick, they may start warming up to him after this week.

It would be less risky in one regard for Miami to take Ferguson later in the top 15, but, the Dolphins also have already been burned by drafting Charles Harris from Missouri two years ago, as a defensive end in the first round. Harris has basically been an injured bust for two seasons and that could scare them from taking Ferguson high in the draft.

Then again, the Dolphins are apparently going to be hiring a defensive-minded coach in Patriots assistant Brian Flores, and they need younger pass-rushers. This is, as Cameron Wake will be 37 at the end of the month and Robert Quinn, whom they acquired from the Rams last March, is turning 29 later this year.

So, Miami has to look to for out at end rushers, too.

Further, as most teams realize, you cannot have enough good pass-rushers in the present-day NFL with the number of times teams are throwing the ball against you.

And, there are other pass rushers to consider, including Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, who’s also in Mobile playing in the Senior Bowl Saturday.

Finally, remember that a year ago  the name Marcus Davenport of UT-San Antonio, the CUSA passing star of 2017, was making noise at the Senior Bowl. And, come April of last year, the Saints ended up trading up to the #14th pick to take him.

It cold be a similar story for this year’s smaller conference star, Jaylon Ferguson, too.

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NFL Draft

Update on unsigned 2019 first round picks

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We are now three weeks removed from 2019 NFL Draft and while some of the first round selections are under contract there are others, including in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville who are not.

Up front, you have to acknowledge that with the new rookie salary scale that went into effect with the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, holdouts have become almost like dinosaurs. That is to say, ugly, scary and only talked about in the past tense.

Top pick Kyler Murray of Arizona agreed to his deal late last week before their rookie camp began. While we don’t yet know the contract terms, it is expected that he would get somewhere in the neighborhood of the $22.1 million that last year’s number one pick quarterback Baker Mayfield did from Cleveland.

Interestingly, after that none of the 2 – 7 selections have signed their deals as of yet. This includes LSU linebacker Devin White of the Buccaneers at five and Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen taken by the Jaguars two selections later at number seven. Because six of those seven picks (excluding the Giants taking quarterback Daniel Jones) are on the defensive side of the ball, the belief is that White and Allen with their representation are waiting to see what players Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and Clelin Ferrell are going to get from their teams at the 2 – 5 selections.

Using last year as a reference point Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb got $18.2 guaranteed at the five spot and the Bills gave quarterback Josh Allen $13.7 million. Obviously, the Jaguars Josh Allen is not a quarterback and may see less of a guarantee than that.

It’s also worth noting that picks 8 through 15 have all agreed. That includes the Dolphins taking defensive tackle Christian Wilkins from Clemson. Last year the 13th pick was Redskins defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, who received  $8.7 million guaranteed over his four years.

Once more, holdouts are virtually a thing of the past and all of these rookie deals should be done by training camp time in July. For now though, White and Allen aren’t able to spend money that they haven’t yet signed for off their draft status.

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NFL Draft

Bucs and Jaguars never called Raiders about fourth pick

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After an awful season in 2018, the Raiders were looking to start fresh with a stockpile of number one picks last Thursday night in the NFL Draft. And slotted at 4th overall, Oakland’s coach Jon Gruden and new GM Mike Mayock were potentially in position to take the player that the Buccaneers, specifically, would have wanted. And, do it one pick before them.

However, an exclusive look inside the “Raiders Draft War Room” in real time from last Thursday night has been published by Peter King of Pro Football Talk on Monday.

And in it, King reveals that the Raiders never got a phone call from anyone while on the clock, including the Buccaneers, Gruden’s old team. Or, no phone call from the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were slated to pick three slots later at number seven.

As it turns out, the Bucs stood firm and grabbed LSU linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall selection. There had been great speculation that a team, like the Redskins who were picking 15th or even, the Giants who were picking 6th, might make a call and a move to get either the Bucs fifth pick or higher, the Raiders 4th pick to ensure drafting the quarterback they wanted.

We now know that the Giants, who were obviously certain that the Raiders and the Bucs weren’t going to take a quarterback, went ahead and picked Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at number six.

Giants GM David Gettleman has claimed post-draft that they believed at least two teams, probably the Redskins and the Broncos, would take Jones before the Giants picked at#17 later on Thursday night. Washington did take Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins at 15 and Denver traded up to take Missouri QB Drew Lock early in the second round Friday night.

Back to Thursday, after the Giants took Jones, the Jaguars were next  at number seven. And they wasted no time calling out the name of Kentucky outside edge-pass rusher, Josh Allen, to help bolster their defensive line. Obviously, the Jags knew once the Raiders had taken Clelin Ferrell, defensive end of Clemson, that Tampa Bay was likely going to take a defensive player, also and maybe, even take Kentucky’s Allen, themselves.

What we don’t know and may not ever know, is whether the Jaguars called the Bucs about trading in front of the Giants up to number five to get their guy. Or, if they just “played it cool,” and waited to see if Allen would fall to them. And of course, ultimately, the SEC leading sack man a year ago did fall right to them without having to make a trade.

It’s further interesting from King’s recounting of the Raiders private discussions that later in the night that Oakland was fearful that the Eagles had potentially traded in front of them to grab running back Josh Jacobs of Alabama. That’s who Oakland was slotting to take with their 24th pick. Some have ridiculed Oakland for picking a running back in the first round, however, it’s less risky, financially and otherwise, to do it where they did. In the end, Philly didn’t take Jacobs and the Raiders drafted their back at #24.

However, this also a reminder of what Gruden did when he was coaching the Buccaneers and Bruce Allen was his general manager in 2005. That’s when the Bucs picked Cadillac Williams at running back from the Auburn Tigers at fifth overall. Williams went on to have a great rookie season including becoming the first back in the history of the NFL to run for a hundred yards or more in the first four games of his first season. However, injuries to both knees derailed Cadillac’s career and turned the pick into a bust.

And worse looking back, the Buccaneers and Gruden (and others) could have drafted a certain quarterback early that day in ’05, who plummeted in the first round before going to… the Green Bay Packers.

That player was Aaron Rodgers.

So, time and history will judge how smart the Raiders, Bucs, Giants and Jags did with the 4th-7th selections last Thursday. It’s just fascinating to read the rationale’ behind what the Raiders did and didn’t do.

And, the same with Tampa Bay and Jacksonville right after them.

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