2016 NFL Draft Sleeper Profile: Josh Ferguson


Sep 12, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; Illini running back Josh Ferguson (6) eludes Western Illinois Leathernecks defensive back David Griffith (38) at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing this series of explorations in the 2016 NFL draft class, trying to find sleepers along the way takes us to the next offensive position on the board:  running backs.  An old school favorite for so many, the upcoming class looks like another strong one headlined by names like Ezekiel Elliot and Derrick Henry.

One that probably won’t jog many memories at the moment is Josh Ferguson.  Well best get to know him now, because he’s sure to have the attention of NFL teams already.

Position:  RB

School:  Illinois

Year:  Senior

Height:  5’9″

Weight:  200 lbs


A homegrown product for the in-state Illini (Naperville), Ferguson will immediately draw critical eyes from scouts and coaches for the simple fact that he’s short at just 5’9″.  However, history shows shorter running backs can be very effective in the pros if they have the talent.

Ferguson turned himself into a starter at Illinois with all-around capabilities.  Last season he posted 735 yards rushing (5.0 per carry) and 427 receiving with nine total touchdowns.  He developed a reputation for big plays, regularly posting runs or receptions of 20+ yards.


  • Size can be an advantage behind big offensive lines, causing defenses to lose track of him.
  • Seems to have sufficient bulk, allowing him to absorb contact well and break tackles to create YAC.
  • Vocal on the field, willing to fire up teammates and challenge them to be better.
  • Natural, soft hands that allow him to make catches with almost boring regularity.
  • Excellent vision.  Follows his blockers very well and knows where and when the holes are going to be. Unafraid to cut back into the middle of the field.
  • Good, smooth acceleration once the ball is in his hands.


  • Can be a little indecisive at times, relying too much on blocking and not enough on his own improvisation.
  • Recent shoulder injury points to questions about his ability to endure starter-level carries through a full season.
  • Lack of size and length makes him a difficult sell as a short-yardage option, especially behind weaker offensive lines.

Pro Comparison:  Giovani Bernard

He’s the same size as the Cincinnati Bengals standout, with a similar versatile skill set.  Bernard can run between the tackles, off tackle, and catch passes out of the backfield.  Josh Ferguson is less proven than Bernard was at North Carolina by the time he declared for the draft, but the similarities are striking.

Probable Draft Range:  Late 2nd to Early 4th Rounds (if healthy)

Next: 2016 NFL Draft Sleeper Profile: Carson Wentz

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