5 Plays: Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

Yannick Ngakoue has become known (I think?) in the hitsquad group chat simply as “Maryland dude”.  Because, even though I am the only one in the chat who has watched him, I talk about him anyway.  The more I think about it, the more I realize his nickname is fitting in more ways than one.  For a player who has a possibility of going early in the draft and making an immediate impact in the NFL, Ngakoue has not received much attention at Maryland.  He has been All-B1G and Honorable Mention All-B1G in his three year career, yes, but from a player of his caliber you would expect his name near the All-American roll call.

Part of his nameless face is being played out of position at Maryland.  Ngakoue was recruited and played almost exclusively as a 4-3 defensive end, somewhere that he probably should not spend much time in the NFL.  Rather, Ngakoue should make a move off-the-ball like so many other athletic college EDGE rushers have done in the past few years.

1. Out of Position

Ngakoue simply is not strong enough to remain an EDGE rusher in the NFL.  This can be seen in his pass rushing but more notably in his run defense.  On plays like this, where Ngakoue is tasked with taking on a pulling guard, or even facing any offensive lineman directly off of the snap, he severely struggles to hold his ground.  Part of that is his inability to keep his pads down after contact is made, but it is also a lack of strength.  If whichever team drafts Ngakoue were to keep him on the edge, he would most likely be limited to a role as a situational pass rusher.  With the consistency that Ngakoue gets bodied by run blocking offensive linemen in college, it’s hard to believe he will have better luck in the NFL.

2. Heat Seeking Missile

Although Ngakoue struggles defending the run when lining up on the ball, he excels when off the ball.  Yet, Maryland rarely gave him the opportunity to do so.  This play is one of the very few examples of Ngakoue lining up off the ball.  He isn’t really defending the run here, but the same conclusions can be made.  Sorting through traffic is his strong suit and it pops whenever he is given the opportunity to display it.  This is where the heat seeking missile aspect comes into play.  The best abstract picture I can come up with that parallels Ngakoue’s pursuit ability is the opening space battle scene in The Return of the Sith where Obi-Wan and Anakin are trying to escape droid missiles.  You’re probably not going to escape them unless you’re a really good at maneuvering in space, and even then it’s going to be really difficult.

3. One Trick Pony 

Like I said, Ngakoue’s lack of strength affects both his run defense and pass rushing.  Too often does he try and win with upper body strength and/or complex combination moves and it fails.  That’s not to say he isn’t capable of being a good pass rusher and pressuring the quarterback, he is.  Ngakoue just needs to embrace his ability as a speed rusher, winning with his natural athleticism.  That is something that he hasn’t seem to have done.  There are often plays like this where Ngakoue tries to use his upper body to beat the offensive tackle and his pass rush ends up stalling.  If he ends up being moved off the ball, it should’t be a huge issue.  Opposing offensive linemen could key in on his one dimension, it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re quick enough to stop it.

4. Winning With Athleticism

Ngakoue struggles to consistently pressure the quarterback since he often tries to win in ways that don’t bring out his strengths, but when he does win it can be devastating for an offense.  Not only is he athletic enough to overwhelm blockers with his quickness and speed, he also knows how to use his athleticism to his advantage.  Like you see in this play, Ngakoue takes a slow approach on the offensive tackle rather than being overly aggressive, like many athletic and inexperienced pass rushers do.  Once Ngakoue makes his move he can overwhelm even the most athletic offensive tackle with bend and quick hands to match.  His ability to close on the quarterback in the blink of an eye is a cherry on top of the sundae.

5. Forceful Tackler

Perhaps the most important job that a linebacker has is to effectively bring ball carriers to the ground.  This is something that Ngakoue is both very good at and struggles with at the same time.  For the most part, he is a consistent and effective tackler, but every so often he goes for the knockout hit and ends up allowing the ball carrier to escape with poor technique.  It is a blessing and curse, as sometimes he ends up making a big play and rallying the defense.  Better tackling technique can be taught and I would expect a defensive end prospect to be less polished of a tackler than a linebacker prospect, but it is something an NFL team will need to note.

Ngakoue needs to be drafted by a team with a creative defensive coordinator.  Going to a team that will make him play in a cookie cutter role on the edge is going to waste his talents.  Using Ngakoue similarly to how the Vikings have used Anthony Barr or even how the Patriots have used Jamie Collins will maximize his potential and earn a team full return on their investment.

“Maryland guy” is good.

Anthony Chiado

Anthony Chiado

Senior in high school. Written and video content for Playmaker Mentality. Analyst for Optimum Scouting. Kevin Colbert hates me.
Anthony Chiado

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Senior in high school. Written and video content for Playmaker Mentality. Analyst for Optimum Scouting. Kevin Colbert hates me.