As an NFL personnel guy for most of my adult life (where you evaluate players for a living, for real) when I see signings, potential trades etc., it usually sends me right to the source in order to make sense, or not, of any particular move. That source is the film room.
Nowadays, there seems to be a bit of the herd mentality when it comes to assessing both NFL
and college football players. One media source or one talking head makes a statement, without watching video, and everyone runs with that being “the gospel.” It’s a fast take, it’s easy and can result in many clicks in a short amount of time. I get it.
I find, that if I can get a couple hours of non-distracted film time, rather than make a phone call and join the herd, it can answer a lot of questions and maybe connect a few dots with why teams do what they do, or not. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do know that as they say, “the eye in the sky, does not lie.” I recently took to the film room to answer the following. Why haven’t the Jaguars been able to trade defensive end Yannick Ngakoue?
This move will probably be the next, on the radar move, you hear about. His situation has been very public since his twitter war with the owner’s son, Tony Khan, last spring. The Jaguars franchise tagged player (for $17.7 million) has made his feeling known, he does not want their money nor to play for Jacksonville. Which is a whole different column/ story but I’ll stick to the evaluation part.
First, the numbers part- 25 years old, 4 years in the league, 37.5 sacks, 1 pro bowl.
Impressive, right? I’ve heard some, that I really respect say- “he’s their best defensive player.” Seems like an easy trade to make if he’s that good. I’m not here to criticize the Jags decision making, even though I think they have made more mistakes than any team or front office could ever fathom over the last 7 years. After watching film on Yannick, the numbers don’t add up, in my opinion. Here is what your team should expect to get, if they pull the trigger and acquire Ngakoue from the Jags.
First and foremost, you will get a pass rusher, but it comes with some strings. One can’t deny
the 37.5 career sacks, but you’re getting a situational rusher who is 6020 and weighs 250
pounds. Not your traditional DE package in size. He uses upfield speed and “get off” which is his strength, but lacks natural lean or any variety in his pass rush tool box. He’s most effective as an outside speed rusher in nickel or sub downs (3rd downs) where he can try to run around a bigger tackle.
He’s really a LB frame playing DE in a big man’s game and because of it, he does not have the
ability to turn that speed into power and get push to collapse the pocket with strength or a bull rush. Most teams are not looking for that type of package. In fact, that’s probably why he was a 3rd round pick coming out of college. He plays a position that a lot of NFL defenses don’t have. He is not big nor physical at the point of attack, on 1st or 2nd downs specifically. His lack of ideal size translates into a liability vs the run as a defensive lineman, especially on mixed downs, unless he’s chasing down from the backside. He can run very well and is light on his feet through traffic. His strength is in pursuit. I see him getting handled by a single blocker and struggling to separate and make a play vs. the run too often though. He does not play with heavy hands and therefore gets positioned too easily in my opinion.
This is the kind of information and evaluation is what most NFL teams will have on Ngakoue.
They all watch film and assess how he would fit in their system. Its why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors- each pick his or her own flavor. The Jaguars may indeed find a taker but many teams will share my assessment that his skill set, is not for every defense. We are not talking about the Bosa brothers or these other 3 down defensive ends in the league who have been paid big money.
The other hurdle to making this deal is, teams are very reluctant to give up high choices for
players who have one year on a contract (in this case it’s a one year franchise tag). So, any deal for a high pick would have to be done simultaneously with a contract extension. I just don’t see his agent and a team agreeing on a contract that values his play, THE SAME. My guess is, this is precisely why this trade has not happened yet. If the player some see on film, matched the numbers on paper, some team would have given a 1st round pick already. In my opinion, it’s not going to happen. In fact, if I was Yannick- I’d run into the office as fast as I could and sign up for the $17 million, on a one year deal, add another 8-10 sacks to my resume and prepare to be a free agent in 2021.