Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin TE | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Wisconsin TE Jake Ferguson has been on the NFL Draft radar since his redshirt freshman season with the Badgers. Producing has never been a problem for the Madison, Wisconsin product. However, as consistent as he’s been across his college career, does Ferguson’s scouting report carry enough weight to earn him an early selection in the 2022 NFL Draft? Let’s take a closer look.

Jake Ferguson NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Tight End
  • School: Wisconsin
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 246 pounds

Jake Ferguson Scouting Report

There’s no Kyle Pitts in this class, and Ferguson doesn’t have that upside. Still, very few players do. Draft analysts were spoiled with Pitts, but the 2022 NFL Draft demands recalibration. It’s unfair to judge incoming tight ends against Pitts. But against the traditional tight end mold, how does Ferguson’s NFL Draft scouting report stack up?

Jake Ferguson’s athletic profile

Ferguson has intriguing athletic traits that were visible even in high school. He recorded a 4.73 40-yard dash and a near 35-inch vertical before his frame was fully developed, and that athleticism was on full display in 2020. Ferguson has solid straight-line explosiveness off the line of scrimmage, and his long strides help him gain speed quickly. He also possesses enough long speed to challenge linebackers in intermediate and deep zones, along with some lateral finesse when running after the catch.

Beyond his speed and explosiveness, Ferguson is above-average at changing directions relative to his frame. Additionally, he’s proficient playing the ball in the air. The Wisconsin TE has stellar body control in mid-air and often proactively seeks out the ball with his hands. Furthermore, his vertical athleticism and smoothness allow him to rise and high-point passes in stride.

Execution beyond the physical traits

Ferguson has an adequate athletic foundation, but how does he complement that with execution? Even after three years as a starter, Ferguson is still a work in progress regarding the game’s finer points. Despite this, the Wisconsin TE has some appealing operational qualities.

As a pass catcher, Ferguson’s hands have their moments. He does have a few drops on his résumé, but those are often associated with inaccurate passes. Generally, and particularly in the red zone and other high-pressure situations, Ferguson flashes the focus and strong hands to haul in passes while airborne. He also fights through contact at the catch point and isn’t fazed in contested situations.

Ferguson isn’t quite as appealing as a blocker, but he has some redeeming qualities there as well. The Wisconsin TE has solid extension, and he can use his explosive burst to shoot into blocks. He can absorb power to an extent with his compact frame and owns decent torso flexibility.

Among other things, Ferguson has some awareness regarding defensive blind spots, and quite a few of his touchdowns have resulted from him sneaking through to the end zone and exploiting open spaces.

Areas for improvement

Ferguson’s best plays generate a lot of excitement, but the Wisconsin TE still has work to do. Especially as a blocker, Ferguson is fairly inconsistent. He doesn’t always have the necessary strength to sustain blocks, and he doesn’t generate much movement against larger defenders. Ferguson gets knocked off balance easily due to his relatively light frame and can sometimes take faulty angles.

As a receiver, Ferguson shows room for improvement. He plays with a high pad level and doesn’t always display torso and hip flexibility. His route running isn’t exceptionally sharp or detailed; many of his assignments involve simple flat routes or advances into the seam. Ferguson can improve his route running, but his traits aren’t especially conducive to natural separation, either.

Ferguson isn’t an overwhelming run-after-catch threat, and his feet can be heavy in open space. He’s not a very sudden or twitchy player and largely lacks elite athletic traits. Finally, overall consistency is a question for Ferguson. For example, 3 of his 4 touchdowns in 2020 came in one game. That said, it’s worth noting that a second season with Graham Mertz at QB may result in statistical improvement.

Jake Ferguson’s NFL Draft scouting report overview

With his size and straight-line explosiveness, Ferguson has a strong physical foundation as a tight end. He’s not an elite athlete — but he is a good one — and his ability to gain speed quickly certainly shows up on film. That ability, combined with his size, makes him a definite threat as a seam-buster at the NFL level. Moreover, he can be a formidable red-zone threat with his body control and toughness in contested situations.

His utility beyond seam and red-zone roles, however, remains under question. Ferguson isn’t a very consistent blocker, and he’s not a well-developed route runner. Aside from in-breaking routes, his route tree’s variance is minimal, and he often needs to be schemed open.

As of now, Ferguson can be a role player, but he’s not as versatile or well-rounded as NFL teams may desire. If the Wisconsin TE doesn’t progress further in 2021, that may relegate him to the middle rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft .

Jake Ferguson’s Player Profile

Sometimes football is a family business. In fact, Ferguson’s older brother, Joe Ferguson, played safety for the Wisconsin Badgers from 2013 to 2017. Jake, meanwhile, came on in 2017 and redshirted while his brother started five games. Even as the younger Ferguson waited, it was clear that he was just as — if not more — talented than his elder sibling.

As a high school senior, Jake was already four full inches taller than his brother, and he measured in at a hefty 209 pounds. Along with his size, Jake put up impressive testing numbers, including a 4.73 40-yard dash and a 34.4-inch vertical jump. A four-star recruit, Ferguson generated plenty of interest in the midwest; schools like Iowa, Iowa State, and Nebraska all submitted offers for his services.

Nevertheless, for Ferguson, who came from Madison Memorial High School like his brother before him, the choice ahead was never much of a choice at all. Wisconsin football was part of the family business. Therefore, in late March 2016, he officially committed to the Badgers.

Ferguson’s career at Wisconsin

Despite his high billing as a recruit, Ferguson redshirted his first season at Wisconsin. He’d worked hard to reach 230 pounds before weigh-ins, but there was still more acclimation that needed to occur before Ferguson was ready for playing time on Saturdays. Thus, he sat on the bench throughout the season, learning and preparing for the opportunity that was to come.

In 2018, starting tight end Troy Fumagalli entered the NFL Draft, where he was taken in Round 5 by the Denver Broncos. His departure paved the way for Ferguson to earn an increased role on the offensive side of the ball.

Ferguson emerged as a key contributor for the Badgers in 2018. The Wisconsin TE put up 36 receptions for 456 yards and 4 touchdowns, earning a place as the team’s second-highest leading receiver. In 2019, he reprised his role and accumulated 407 yards and 2 scores on 33 catches. And in 2020, Ferguson again returned as the No. 1 tight end, logging 30 catches for 305 yards and 4 scores.

Jake Ferguson’s NFL Draft ascension

On the surface, Ferguson’s production decreased in 2020. Then again, he and Wisconsin played just half the amount of games as the year prior. Ferguson only played in seven contests and still managed to put up comparable numbers to previous campaigns. The Wisconsin TE is clearly trending up heading into 2021. And with Mertz returning under center, that comfort and familiarity will yield high expectations.

By now, Ferguson has established himself as a valuable college tight end. But does Ferguson’s NFL Draft scouting report translate to the next level? Upon study, he possesses enough size and athleticism to earn a role as a receiver, but he’ll have to keep refining his game if he wants to carry his current target share in the pros. He has one more year to do it, and then NFL teams will make their evaluations.

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Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.