Summary: LSU has been a factory for NFL defensive talent, and Ferguson is their top lineman for the 2014 NFL Draft. Ferguson is a fast disruptor who is also strong at the point of attack. Like many Tiger draft prospects, Ferguson has a rare combination of size, power and speed.
It took a while for Ferguson to get on the field for LSU. In his first two seasons, he had other tackles ahead of him like Michael Brockers, Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. Ferguson was a backup in 2012 and totaled 14 tackles. He was a reserve as redshirt freshman as well in 2011, notching 13 tackles.
Ferguson won a starting spot next to Johnson in 2013 with Logan and Brockers in the NFL. Everybody expected Johnson to have a breakout season and be a dominant force for the LSU defense, but it was Ferguson who made the biggest impact up front. The redshirt junior started out hot, but cooled off some down the stretch. He recorded 58 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. He was impressive against Alabama. Ferguson decided to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, but would have had a shot at the first round in 2015 by returning to school and getting better.
Ferguson uses his great get-off and explosion to cause disruption off the snap. He is strong for his size and holds his ground in run defense. Ferguson has good speed to close and does a nice job of pushing the pocket.
Ferguson is a nice mold of clay for the NFL. He has a skill set, but needs developing. Ferguson needs to build up a repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He needs to avoid playing too high and maintaing good pad level. With his size, strength and speed, Ferguson could end up being a steal in the 2014 NFL Draft if he lands with good coaching.
His best fit would come in a 4-3 defense as a three technique defensive tackle, but he could also play nose tackle. In a 3-4 defense, Ferguson could play end, but that isn't as good of a match for what he does well. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Ferguson has been graded as high as the second round.
Player Comparison: Rocky Bernard. Ferguson will definitely be drafted ahead of where Bernard went. In the 2002 NFL Draft, Bernard was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks. That turned out to be an excellent selection, as Bernard went on to have a successful career with Seattle and the Giants. Even though Ferguson will go higher, he has a similar skill set to Bernard and could have a comparable career.
Bernard has averaged three sacks per season with an abnormal 8.5 sacks in 2005. I could see Ferguson's career production being similar to Bernard's.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Oakland, St. Louis, New York Giants, Dallas
The highest that Ferguson could hope to go would be in the second round. Jacksonville needs help all over its defense, including the inside of their defensive line. The Jaguars had a pathetic pass rush in 2013 and getting Ferguson to cause disruption on the interior would help.
The Bears lost Henry Melton in free agency and could use a young difference-maker at tackle. Ferguson's size and speed combination fits the profile of a lot of Phil Emery's draft picks.
The Raiders need to improve their defensive tackles, as they almost drafted one in the first round last year. Oakland has to get better at rushing the passer, and Ferguson could have an impact in getting Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith to move off a spot. Ferguson makes a lot of sense for the Raiders if he falls to their pick in round three.
In the NFC East, the Giants lost Linval Joseph in free agency and have some older veterans at tackle coming back. They could use some talented youth. Dallas needs to land a three-technique pass-rusher, and Ferguson would be a good fit for Rod Marinelli. He can be paired with Henry Melton next year, and after that, Ferguson could take over as the three technique. If the Cowboys don't draft a defensive tackle in the first round, they could target Ferguson on day two.