The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted former Maryland defensive end and linebacker Yannick Ngakoue in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday, with the 69th overall pick. Ngakoue is the second Maryland player taken, following Sean Davis, who went to the Steelers 11 picks earlier.
Ngakoue has the physical gifts to be a menacing NFL defender and the versatility to do it at any number of spots. He started at Maryland as 3-4 base scheme outside linebacker, but he often played closer to the middle of the field when Maryland entered nickel packages. When Maryland's defense transitioned to a 4-3 look last year, Ngakoue put his hand in the grass and lined up as an end, and he was a complete monster.
He set Maryland's single-season sacks record, with 13.5. Sacks are a notoriously poorly and inconsistently tracked stat in college football, but Ngakoue finished a listed second nationally behind Penn State end Carl Nassib.
Ngakoue was a four-star recruit in Maryland's 2013 class. He played inside linebacker at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, the local power built up by current Maryland secondary coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim. Mike Locksley recruited him to Maryland, and the Terps ultimately signed him after he verbally committed and then decommitted.
During his college career, Ngakoue showed an aptitude for defending the run and rushing the quarterback. During his first two seasons, his best asset was his lateral movement and block-shedding, which helped him set the edge against opposing tailbacks.
As a senior, Ngakoue refined his bull-rushing ability and became a terror for quarterbacks.
It's not sexy, but Ngakoue can also spy mobile quarterbacks effectively. He has solid straight-ahead speed (a 4.75-second 40-yard dash time) and can chase players to the boundary if they get loose.
Ngakoue is not a finished product. He'll need to get better in pass coverage, and NFL offensive linemen aren't as easy to handle as those in the Big Ten and ACC. But Ngakoue has real upside, and now he'll start on the journey to realizing it.