It could be the jersey number, but there are a lot of similarities between Dallas Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson and Travis Kelce. If you don’t believe it, take it from Kelce himself. According to Bob Brookover at NJ.com, Kelce was asked if other tight ends around the league reminded him of himself and his play style.
“There are a few great tight ends out there,” Kelce said. “I don’t know if there are any that remind me of myself, but there are a few guys I’m excited about. Kyle Pitts (of the Atlanta Falcons) being one of them. (Jake) Ferguson down in Dallas and (Daniel) Bellinger over in New York. I’m excited to see how these guys manifest over the next few years and we’ll see where they can take their game.”
Ferguson finds himself on a respectable list with former first-round pick Pitts and Bellinger, another highly drafted rookie from the 2022 class. Kelce has played in the NFL for ten years and knows a thing or two about being successful at his position.
If Ferguson has a chance to live up to the legend, he’ll need to add a few more trophies to his ledger. No. 87 for the Chiefs is a Super Bowl champion, a member of the Hall of Fame 2010 All-Decade team, a four-time All-Pro, and an eight-time Pro Bowler. Kelce is playing in his third Super Bowl on Sunday and could cement himself as an all-time great with a win.
Comparing rookie seasons
Entering their draft classes, Kelce stood out as a better prospect than Ferguson. The Chiefs took him in the third round, while the Cowboys selected Ferguson in the fourth.
As a rookie, Ferguson was highly productive compared to Kelce’s 2013 season. The Chiefs expected big things from their young tight end before a sore knee led to missing practice and, eventually, needing surgery which ended his season. Kelce appeared in one game and failed to record a number in any statistical category.
Ferguson, on the other hand, played in 16 games for the Cowboys in 2022 and started eight of them. He ended the year catching 19 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The impressive stat line isn’t the yardage but the reliability when Dallas’ quarterbacks looked in his direction. Ferguson had a catch percentage of 86.4, which ranks second among tight ends behind Will Dissly and in front of Bellinger.
Expectations for year two
Kelce returned with a vengeance after recovering from his knee surgery, finishing the 2014 season with 67 receptions, 862 yards, and five touchdowns. That would be the final season Kelce wouldn’t be elected to the Pro Bowl.
The question for Cowboys nation is Can Ferguson have a similar leap in his second year? It’s certainly possible, given the uncertainty around the return of Dalton Schultz. The Cowboys struck gold in the development of Ferguson and fellow rookie Peyton Hendershot. The two rookies helped fill the void when Shultz missed time with a knee injury.
What Dallas does in the upcoming draft will be telling about the coaching staff’s trust level in Ferguson. It bodes well for No. 87 that Mike McCarthy continually spoke about his play throughout the season and was impressed with his progress.
Mike McCarthy referring to Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot as "frick and frack" in the presser was for sure the highlight— Hailey Sutton (@_HaileySutton) October 24, 2022
But in all seriousness, he had high remarks for that entire room, specifically their commitment to football and their love of the game.
If the Cowboys don’t select a tight end high in the draft and let Schultz walk, there’s no reason to doubt Ferguson could replicate a similar stat line to Kelce’s second season. Dak Prescott counts on having a reliable tight end to throw to, having shown chemistry with Schultz over the years. 2022 was an anomaly for both players missing games and not playing together as much.
The 2021 season is a more substantial sample size to determine what Ferguson can become. Schultz was a go-to target for Prescott, and he totaled 78 catches, 808 yards, and eight touchdowns. If Ferguson can take the next step and be close to the 800-yard mark, then he’ll be well on his way to eventually being asked for comparisons of himself to other players in the league at the Super Bowl.