After improving his all-around game in 2019, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue isn’t viewed as one of the top 10 best free agents in the 2020 offseason by one major platform but is still seen as one of the top edge defenders on the market.
On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 50 available free agents in the impending offseason. Ngakoue, who is Jacksonville’s most anticipated free agent in several years, was listed 18th by PFF. Ngakoue is the No. 3 ranked edge defender on the list, behind Shaquil Barrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
While an argument can certainly be made for Ngakoue to be higher on this list after a rebound 2019 season, in which he improved as a run defender on his way to notching eight sacks and four forced fumbles, PFF makes the argument that Ngakoue has been a good but not dominant player, hence his ranking at 18.
“Ngakoue has followed his collegiate profile as a good pass-rusher and below-average run defender (career-high grade of 60.0 in 2018). His best season came in 2017, as he graded at 81.0 overall to go with an 88.2 pass-rush grade and 82 total pressures (14 sacks, 15 QB hits, 53 hurries). Over the last two years, he’s posted pass-rush grades of 76.8 in 2018 and 77.5 this season, both solid numbers but not at the 2017 level that had Ngakoue looking like the next great pass-rusher in the NFL,” PFF said. “At just 25 years old, he looks like a strong presence off the edge for the foreseeable future, but his questionable run defense coupled with the fact that more valuable positions are hitting the open market has us lower on him than most.”
It is a bit surprising to see Ngakoue this low on PFF’s free agent rankings considering his age, track record of production (37.5 sacks and 13 forced fumbles in four seasons), and the value of his position. With that said, there are a number of talented offensive weapons and other front-seven defenders in this year’s free agency crop, such as Barrett and Clowney, Corey Littleton, Jack Conklin, Justin Simmons, A.J. Green, Amari Cooper, Chris Jones, and Brandon Scherff.
Considering the position Ngakoue plays and his history in the NFL, he is almost assuredly going to command one of the largest contracts amongst all edge players in the NFL. Whether the deal comes from the Jaguars is a whole other question, but Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said bringing back Ngakoue would be the team’s top priority moving forward after the 2019 season ended.