This year’s draft is particularly deep along the defensive line. General manager Mike Mayock called it the best he’s seen in the last 10 years. Gruden went on to explain what production looks like in his eyes.
“Can you win your one on one?,” Gruden asked. “Can you win in adversity, when the back is chipping? Can you line up on the left side? Can you line up on the right side? Can you go inside over the guard? And what’s your playing style? Can you play 75 to 80 percent of the snaps?”
Sounds like not only is Gruden looking for guys with production but also guys who are versatile. Gruden wants a guy with a variety of pass rush moves and one who is solid against the run.
By now you’ve heard of the draft’s top pass rushers like Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Clelin Ferrell, Montez Sweat, and Brian Burns. All highly productive and well-rounded edge players who should hear their names called in the first round.
But there are some other names you may want to become familiar with as the draft approaches. There are names you won’t hear in round one but could also fit Gruden’s criteria of high production throughout their college career including two players in the top 10 of the NCAA all-time sack leaders.
Jaylon Ferguson, Louisana Tech
You want production, how does the NCAA all-time sack leader sound? Ferguson’s stock is trending upward after a stellar career with Louisana Tech. The four year starter racked up 45 career sacks, breaking Terrell Suggs record of 44. (Suggs achieved 44 in three seasons)
Ferguson added 67.5 tackles for loss, 187 total tackles, and seven forced fumbles. The Raiders got an up close and personal look of Ferguson at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he will not be allowed to participate in on the field drills at the combine because he was convicted of a simple battery charge during his freshman year following a fight in McDonald’s.
There’s been talk of Ferguson creeping into the first round conversation, but more likely he falls to the second round. Ferguson could be a target for the Raiders in round two if he slides and should the Raiders address other needs in round one.
Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
A product from Old Dominion, a program not exactly known for stellar pro prospects, might be one of the most underrated edge rushers in the draft.
Because Ximines doesn’t play in the Big 10 or SEC he has flown under the radar. If you pop in his tape and take a look at his stat line you will see why he is included in this list.
Another four year player, Ximines finished his career ninth all-time in the NCAA with 33 sacks. In addition to getting after the quarterback he made 176 tackles, 51 of those for a loss, and a remarkable 11 forced fumbles. Ximines is a play maker with a nose for the ball.
Joe Jackson, Miami
Joe Jackson is the seventh ranked defensive end according to Mel Kiper’s positional ranks. Jackson opted to leave “The U” after his junior season. Nonetheless, his production is impressive coming out of the ACC.
In three seasons Jackson collected 22.5 sacks, 35.5 tackles for loss, five pass deflections, and five forced fumbles. Coming into college, Jackson was long and lean with a quick first step. After bulking up some 30 pounds there are questions about his explosion.
Jackson is physically gifted but needs to improve in several areas to reach his high ceiling.
Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
Now, this guy has “Gruden Grinder” written all over him. Smith is an undersized hybrid defensive end/linebacker from small school Northern Illinois of the MAC conference.
His 15 sacks in 2018 ranked fourth in the NCAA, and gave him 30 for his career. Like Jackson, Sutton has decided to forego his senior season to pursue the NFL.
At the combine he measured in at 6 feet tall and 235 pounds. Sutton will most likely need to make the transition to full time linebacker and occasionally come of the edge as a situational rusher.
Keep an eye on how Sutton performs at the combine.