With the initial craze of free agency now behind us, it is time to look forward to the 2022 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Ravens currently have 10 picks, including the No. 14 overall pick — their highest since drafting All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in 2016.
One of the team’s under-the-radar remaining needs is at tight end, where they need a complementary pass-catching threat to take some pressure and attention off of First-Team All-Pro Mark Andrews.
A prospect they could target late on day two or early on day three that can fill that role, still vacant since the Ravens traded away Hayden Hurst in the 2020 offseason, is Wisconsin’s, Jake Ferguson.
Despite playing in an offense that didn’t provide him with ample opportunities to catch passes or consistent quarterback play, Ferguson still managed to emerge and establish himself as a reliable target. He made plays for the Badgers over the middle, down the seam, in the red zone, after the catch, and on third down in crucial situations.
Jake Ferguson at 6’5” 250 pounds is a wrecking ball after the catch. Very physical player when going for contested catches as well. Go to third down player for Wisconsin. @ArrowheadLive pic.twitter.com/qXdBg1GBsJ— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) March 31, 2022
He bailed out his quarterbacks when they were off target—which was often—by making great adjustments to the ball no matter how high or low, as well in front or behind him. Ferguson hauls in anything that gets within his wide catch radius, makes contested catches, and high points, and focuses on the ball to ensure he comes down with it when defenders are tight in coverage.
Even though he didn’t put up prolific stats in college for the Badgers, he was durable, reliable, consistent, and productive with at least 30 or more catches and two or more touchdowns in all four of his seasons.
His body control and spatial awareness show up well in the end zone when he makes incredibly acrobatic, sometimes even one-handed, catches look routine. He showcased his impressive receiving skills at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he stood out in the week of practice and carried that momentum over into the game.
You can make strong argument that @BadgerFootball TE Jake Ferguson has the most natural hands of any prospect in 2022 #NFLDraft. The guy literally catches everything. One of best grabs of @seniorbowl week here with great backline awareness & toe-tap. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/VmSe1iwr1o— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 19, 2022
In the all-star game itself, Ferguson led the National team in receptions with three and recorded a game-high 62 receiving yards—25 of which came on the catch and run touchdown below.
Ferguson does a great job of creating separation at the top of his route stems whether they’re breaking to the inside or out. He is savvy when using his hands to swipe or slip through pressure that defenders put on him when he needs to get open quickly and present himself to the quarterback.
He makes tough grabs in traffic, absorbs big hits when he catches the ball, fights through contact, and does his best to either break tackles or make would-be-tacklers miss in open space once he gets a full head of steam after catching the ball in stride.
While he is a more than willing run blocker, he is better suited lining up in the slot and assisting with the occasional chip before heading out into his route pattern rather than lining up next to a tackle as an in-line true ‘Y’ tight end with his hand in the dirt.
By no means is that to insinuate that he is a finesse player that will never be able to hold his own on an island against a defensive end or outside linebacker. Blocking is just not one of his strong suits coming into the league and in order to get the most out of him right away, allowing him to do what he does best makes the most sense if he is drafted by the Ravens.
He has high-end tight end No. 2 tight end potential as a move/F tight end that serves as a more capable blocker downfield after lining up split outwide or in the slot. His ball skills are excellent and his route running improved each year during his collegiate career.
The grandson of former Wisconsin head coach and athletic director Barry Alvarez, he hails from a football family and is used to making the most of his targets in a run-first offense. The Ravens currently have a pair of picks in the third round and five in the fourth—the most they have in any round.
Selecting Ferguson with one of their fourth-rounders or even their second third rounder would be a sound investment and effectively replace the failed 2021 experiment that was Josh Oliver.