The Ravens needed help after the surprising departure of Terrell Suggs this offseason.
A little more than a month later, Baltimore drafted the player who broke Suggs’ career college sacks record.
The Ravens selected Louisiana Tech edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson with the first of their two third-round picks, the 85th pick overall.
Ferguson was the all-time sack leader in FBS history with 45 career sacks, including 17 ½ sacks last season. Ferguson broke the previous FBS sack record of 44 sacks set by Suggs, the Ravens’ all-time sack leader.
“It’s a dream come true. At the same time, it’s a lot of pressure,” Ferguson said on a conference call. “Those are some big shoes to fill behind Terrell Suggs. I have my work cut out for me.”
Upgrading the pass rush was one of Baltimore’s top pre-draft priorities after losing linebackers Suggs and Za’Darius Smith during free agency, two players who combined for 15 ½ sacks last season. The 6-foot-5, 269-pound Ferguson will be given an opportunity to play as a rookie. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said the Ravens were explored trading up to get Ferguson and were happy when he fell to them.
“He’s a guy that we spent a lot of time watching this year,” Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said. “Had him into Baltimore two weeks ago I believe, spent some time with him. He’s a guy whose skillset really fits who we are as a defense. Big hole for us. We lost some really good pass rushers and we think that Jaylon can come in, add to the younger guys that we have, and really help us on third downs and passing situations.”
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh says Ferguson has the size and ability to be effective as a run defender as well as a pass blocker.
“A big physical guy like that can set an edge and rush the passer is perfect,” Harbaugh said.
Ferguson was disappointed he did not go earlier in the draft, but he vowed to use that for motivation.
“I’m a little surprised, but I’m off the board now and ready to get in and start working,” Ferguson said. “Now that I’ve got my home I’m ready to get my feet.”
Ferguson had his invitation to the NFL Combine rescinded after a background check turned up an off-field issue that made him ineligible. He was convicted of simple battery following a fight at a McDonald’s during his freshman season. Per NFL rules, that made Ferguson ineligible for the combine.
Check out the Louisiana Tech product who set the career NCAA sack record and showed out at the Combine.
“I was disappointed because I had worked hard,” Ferguson said. “At the same time, I understood because it’s [the] rules. I’m still blessed to get the opportunity to play NFL football so I don’t hold it against nobody. Time to move on to the next phase.”
DeCosta said he was comfortable with drafting Ferguson after the Ravens gathered information.
“We get outstanding information from school, coaches, teachers, various people,” DeCosta said. “When we bring players in, they meet with coaches and scouts, they meet with a lot of people in the building. We got great feedback. I had a great visit with him, I know the coaching staff had a great visit with him. We had an outstanding comfort level with him. He’s a good fit.”