Smooth as Jazz: Ferguson kicking down NFL door

CRAIG HALEY (STATS FCS Senior Editor=)
The Associated Press

(STATS) - With his touchdowns as smooth as his first name, wide receiver Jazz Ferguson occasionally puts a little extra into his end zone celebrations.

"I have this dance that I do when I score," the 2018 FCS All-American at Northwestern State says. "People thought I smelled a bad odor or something like that. Back in the '70s, '60s, '80s, when they used to freestyle, they would put their hand over their mouth."

Not too tight of a hold, though, because there's a lot to talk about with Ferguson heading toward the NFL Draft next month. The early-entry prospect who renounced his final season of eligibility - not common for FCS players - is generally viewed with a fourth- to sixth-round grade.

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His fun-loving dancing aside, Ferguson can make an even stronger case to NFL teams: "I'm 6-5 running 4.4," he says.

Very few wide receivers in the draft class can match Ferguson's combination of size and speed. At the NFL Combine, he measured 6-foot-5, 227 pounds, yet both of his 40-yard dashes were under 4.5, with a low of 4.45.

Scouts got another look on Wednesday at Northwestern State's pro day, where Ferguson bettered his times in the 5-10-5 short shuttle (7.09) and 3-cone L-drill (4.34).

He's worked feverishly on his route running during the buildup to the draft, which be held Aug. 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee. He uses his long frame and instinctive ball skills to create a big catch radius.

"For sure, I'm a deep-ball threat. I was able to show that by running a good 40 at the Combine," said Ferguson, whose given first name is Jazmond.

"I'm a competitive guy in general. Strong-hands type of guy, catch-in-traffic type of guy."

Ferguson's original intension was to return for his senior season at Northwestern State, but his breakout 2018 campaign helped change his mind. Following ineffective seasons in 2015 and '16 at LSU, where he a failed drug test and struggled academically, he transferred to NSU in 2017. He sat out one season to focus on academics, then caught 66 passes and set single-season school records with 1,117 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches last year. He was the Southland Conference offensive player of the year and a second-team selection on the STATS FCS All-America Team.

After NSU staff received positive feedback on Ferguson's draft status, he decided to join his brother Jaylon, a Louisiana Tech defensive end who could be selected in the first round, in the draft.

"The door was open," Ferguson said, "so why not kick it in?"

There are plenty impressed already. Writes Lance Zierlein on NFL.com: "Ferguson is a big target with instinctive feel for body positioning, which tilts contested catches in his favor. He's too reliant upon his physical gifts and needs more schooling and route polish, but he could find a back-end roster spot with a chance to work his way up the depth chart with time."

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