The Raiders and 49ers have already spent significant time with Jaylon Ferguson during the pre-NFL-draft process.
The Senior Bowl provided both teams an opportunity to evaluate him up close during an intense practice week and the college all-star game itself. The Louisiana Tech edge rusher worked with the 49ers-led South squad, which spent part of one day with North coaches from the Raiders.
“(The Senior Bowl) is a great opportunity because both teams coaching here are looking for pass rushers,” Ferguson said early in the Senior Bowl week. “I feel like I’m one of the top pass rushers in this class, and I get my chance to show that I’m coachable and that I can rush the passer.”
Ferguson’s right. The Raiders and 49ers need help off the edge, and the NCAA’s all-time sack leader can certainly rush the passer. Ferguson also had a chance to showcase that quality, his work ethic and character working with the Bay Area teams at the Senior Bowl, something that will prove harder to do with others after getting his NFL Scouting Combine invite revoked.
Ferguson was disinvited after a background check turned up a simple battery conviction that disqualified him from combine participation, per NFL rules. According to NFL Network, the league told clubs that players wouldn’t be invited if they had prior convictions involving violence.
Ferguson's incident was not news to those working with him at the Senior Bowl.
Missing the combine is a major blow to Ferguson, a smaller-school talent hoping to show he has the tools to compete with top competition. He also planned to use the combine to show he has grown from past mistakes.
The NFL’s decision was unpopular around the league and with Ferguson’s agency, STL Sports Group, which issued this statement Thursday morning:
“We disagree with the NFL’s position with regards to Jaylon Ferguson. Jaylon is a great person who made a mistake 4 years ago before he started playing college football. He was involved in a scuffle that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor simple battery. He received a deferred judgment and $189.00 fine, A Proper punishment for a fight between two teenagers. Since that day Jaylon has been a fine and upstanding student-athlete that personifies the things we are trying to teach our young people today. The past four years at Louisiana Tech Jaylon has been a team leader who has led on and off the field clearly learning from the lessons of his past. As opposed to penalizing and vilifying the future players of the league, we would hope the league would allow Jaylon and other similarly situated players the opportunity to prove to potential employers that they are remorseful, and have learned from their mistakes, accepted responsibility, want to be good role models and are better people now for it. No person is perfect, and people are entitled to second chances and opportunities and one would hope the NFL as an open-minded Industry Leader, Diverse League and Business would want to see the best in their players, educate them and help them mature, learn and be better people.”
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Ferguson will still have opportunities to speak with teams during private facility visits and show physical skill at Louisiana Tech’s pro day.
That will be important after missing combine drills, so he can prove similar to a role model the Raiders drafted and the 49ers tried to acquire via trade.
“I model my game after Khalil Mack,” Ferguson said at the Senior Bowl. “He’s an aggressive guy who can transfer speed to power and is a big, strong man. That’s my game right there.”