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: 244 pounds
- Wingspan: 77 3/8″
- Arm: 32 1/4″
- Hand: 9 3/8″
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?
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 2021.
Ferguson has solid straight-line explosiveness off the line of scrimmage, and his long strides help him gain speed quickly. With his burst, he accelerates quickly in the open field and stretch seams. He also possesses enough long speed to challenge linebackers in intermediate and deep zones, along with good lateral finesse and agility. Ferguson is a great run-after-catch threat, and sinks his hips and leans fairly well as a route runner, too.
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 a great 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 are sturdy. 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 actively extends for passes, fights through contact at the catch point, and isn’t fazed in contested situations. He can make some steely, acrobatic catches as a result.
Ferguson isn’t quite as appealing as a blocker, but he does have some redeeming qualities there. The Wisconsin TE has solid extension and uses 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. Quite a few of his touchdowns have resulted from him sneaking through to the end zone and exploiting open spaces. He also uses physicality at the stem very well.
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 could sink his hips more often. 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 he does have some upside there given his athletic traits.
Consistency was an issue for Ferguson in previous seasons, but he put it all together with a strong campaign in 2021. Focus drops still show up, of course, and Ferguson needs to continue minimizing those.
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 a good athlete, 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.
I wasn’t sold on Ferguson’s utility outside of his contested catch ability before the season. But Ferguson’s 2021 film opened my eyes to his run-after-catch value. His explosiveness allows him to get into space, where he has the speed to stretch the field. He also brings some lateral agility and has the toughness and contact balance to barrel forward for tough yards. Wisconsin gave him plenty of RAC opportunities, and he made the most of them.
Ferguson isn’t a very consistent blocker nor is he a well-developed route runner. Aside from in-breaking routes, his route tree’s variance is minimal. He did improve slightly here in 2021, but there’s still room to further refine his game.
Nevertheless, Ferguson has the athleticism, instincts at the catch point, and run-after-catch ability to be a solid starting tight end at the next level. He’s more natural in-line, so he’ll want to keep improving his blocking at the next level. But Ferguson did what he needed to do in 2021. He developed and showed off starting potential. That, combined with his strong Senior Bowl showing, could earn him Day 2 draft capital.
Ferguson’s Player Profile
Sometimes football is a family business. In fact, Ferguson’s older brother, Joe Ferguson, played safety for Wisconsin from 2013-2017. 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 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. Ferguson worked hard to reach 230 pounds before weigh-ins, but there was still more acclimation that needed to occur before he 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.
Ferguson has always been productive, but 2021 was his best season yet. The Wisconsin TE logged 46 catches for 450 yards and 3 touchdowns. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a result, ending his career on the highest note he could.
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. He only built on that momentum with a strong 2021 season, putting up great numbers even with shaky quarterback play.
By now, Ferguson has established himself as a potential starting tight end at the NFL level. He possesses a great combination of size and athleticism. He’s a natural catcher with great reach, focus, body control, and hands. And his urgent style as a runner with the ball in his hands only compounds the appeal.
After showing out at the Senior Bowl with high-flying catches, big plays after the catch, and tough receptions amidst contact, Ferguson could be one of the first tight ends off the board. Combine testing will be big, but as his high school testing numbers indicate, he’s already one of the better athletes in the class. There’s a lot to like with Ferguson. And in a good situation, he could go on to be even more productive at the next level.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Jake Ferguson
Positives: Talented three-down tight end who was consistently productive throughout his college career. Starts with terrific knee bend as a blocker, fires off the snap, and plays with leverage. Solid route runner who quickly gets in and out of pass routes, adjusts to errant throws, and extends his hands to make receptions away from his frame. Uses the sidelines well, gets vertical, and contorts to make the difficult catch.
Gets down to scoop up low throws. Uses his hands to separate from defenders, fights hard to come free, and possesses soft as well as strong hands. Tracks the pass in the air, nicely makes the over-the-shoulder reception, and possesses outstanding eye/hand coordination. Plays big-boy football and takes a pounding yet holds onto the throw.
Negatives: Must improve his blocking strength and rarely finishes off opponents. Lacks elite tight-end speed.
Analysis: Ferguson made an impact at Wisconsin the moment he stepped on the field as a freshman and was consistently productive his entire career. He’s not an elite tight end, but he’s a reliable player who will have a long career at the next level once he improves his playing strength.