Jake Ferguson 2024 Fantasy Outlook: Could He Emerge as an Elite Top-5 Tight End?

Key Takeaways

  • The Cowboys were the top passing attack of 2023 and have a wide-open pecking order for targets behind CeeDee Lamb.
  • Jake Ferguson flashed great promise in his first year as a starter and has the traits and environment that could lead to a Year 3 explosion.
  • Jake Ferguson’s steady targets in a high-flying offense give him a path to a Top-5 Fantasy Football ceiling at a Round 8-9 price tag, making him a great buy right now.
Jake Ferguson has ELITE Top 5 TE Upside for 2024 Fantasy Football

Introduction: The 2024 Tight End Fantasy Market

The Tight End position is one of the toughest to nail in fantasy football, largely because there are so few reliable options. Fantasy Points’ Scott Barrett has historically assessed the position as “the oligarchs, and then the peasants,” which has been quite accurate historically:

For years, it was essentially Travis Kelce, sometimes Mark Andrews, and very few options behind them to rely on. Tight ends were always volatile, and most fantasy owners were hoping for TD Dart Throws each week. Moreover, it was the position that faced the greatest bust/injury risk, and consistently has been the lowest collective-scoring position in fantasy.

In 2023, the TE Landscape evolved. Kelce seemed to lose a step, Andrews got hurt, and a ton of young, athletic freak tight ends either closed the gap, or even climbed to the top:

In 2024, Kelce and Andrews are now going 2-3 rounds cheaper than last year. Meanwhile, Sam LaPorta is the TE1, Trey McBride the TE3, and Dalton Kincaid is going TE4. Elite TEs are going cheaper, while mid-round TEs are going earlier than ever before:

Pete Overzet has a phenomenal thread analyzing the state of the 2024 TE Fantasy Market here, too:

In the thread, Overzet highlights how an Elite TE has often been essential to going on a deep fantasy playoff run, whether in Redraft or Best Ball. While a TE rotation can sometimes sustain for the regular season, fantasy managers often need those “huge spike” weeks that only a high-end TE can provide.

Many, including Pete, assume that this is limited to “The Big 7” in 2024: LaPorta, Kelce, McBride, Kincaid, Andrews, plus George Kittle and Kyle Pitts (lol).

I think a TE is going 2+ Rounds later than all of these guys but has all the ability and fantasy environmental factors to explode into the Top-5: Cowboys TE Jake Ferguson.

Cowboys’ Passing Attack: A Ripe Fantasy Environment

Last season, the Cowboys ranked first in total points (30.1), passing yards (265.8), pass attempts (37.4), and passing TDs (2.2) per game. Despite a putrid start to 2023, they achieved this in the bottom third of the league in passing and scoring.

The Cowboys ranked bottom-five in pass rate over expectation through the first six weeks. Then, they evolved into a passing bonanza, ultimately pushing Top-3 in pass rate:

The impact on Dak Prescott and this overall offense was massive. Prescott went from the QB22 (14.6 FPPG) through six weeks to the QB1 (26.8 FPPG) over the final 11 games. He was Top-12 in 82% of his final performances, and this offense as a whole exploded:

Why am I confident we’ll see second-half Prescott and the high-flying Cowboys for most of 2024? Look at the Cowboys’ offseason moves. An ancient Ezekiel Elliott has replaced Tony Pollard. They have no choice but to chuck it. The potential of the Cowboys’ passing game could significantly benefit Jake Ferguson.

Entering 2024, the team lost Michael Gallup and added no one besides fifth-round rookie Ryan Flournoy. Behind CeeDee Lamb, the table is wide open for massive shares of one of the juiciest Aerial Pies in the NFL—especially with the running game looking non-existent this year. Brandin Cooks is the Cowboys’ No. 2 wideout, providing a reliable target alongside Lamb.

Enter Jake Ferguson.

Jake Ferguson: Plenty of 2024 Fantasy Upside in Round 8+

Jake Ferguson has the upside to be the second-highest target earner on the 2024 Cowboys.

Among TEs, he already ranked third in total routes (511) and 7th in targets (102), despite not playing a full-time role until Week 6. He notched 5+ targets in 12 games, which yielded a steady share of TE1 weeks (per RotoViz). His impressive catch rate significantly boosts his fantasy value:

Similar to Dalton Schultz before him, Ferguson was highly-utilized in the Red Zone, too. He finished as TE 1 in targets from inside the 20, TE1 in targets from inside the 10, TE2 in End Zone targets.

Unfortunately, he was unbelievably unlucky in converting these looks into TDs, as he scored -3.8s over expected (per Hayden Winks). In fact, no one is more due for positive TD regression than Ferg:

Of course, we already saw that TD regression hit in the playoffs, where Ferguson hauled in an absurd 10 rec (12 tgts), 93 yards, and 3 TDs for 37.3 PPR FPs vs. the Packers! His performance in PPR scoring leagues was outstanding. Imagine if he can string together similar TD luck across the full season. Ferguson continues to show promise and potential for a breakout season.

Then consider: Ferguson was actually good! He was 2nd in missed tackles forced and 6th in yards after catch per reception among TEs. His receiving yards further contribute to his overall fantasy value. Ferguson has all the makings of an elite fantasy TE, but goes 3+ rounds later. After him, the position gets ghastly, so I typically hammer Ferguson in Round 8.

Ferguson himself believes he is only “scratching the surface.” He plans to take his game to an even higher level next season:

“There’s so many things that I want to get better at and I know I can get better at. We watch film every day of different games, even the practices we’re doing now and I’m like, ‘OK, I can get a lot better still.'”

His coaches agree, with Mike McCarthy adding: “Jake has so much more to give.”

Even Dak Prescott joined in on the hype: “Obviously, you see the jump he made from Year 1 to Year 2,” Prescott said, “and he’s improved his intensity in his preparation just in this offseason — the way he’s treated his body, the way that he’s been communicating with me throughout the offseason, whether it’s catching and throwing, he’s a big-time playmaker for this team, this offense.”

In short, Ferguson enters 2024 as a third-year pro with a year under his belt and in an even more favorable position to see volume in 2023’s top-passing attack. Despite already finishing as a Top-6 TE during last year’s final 11 games, Ferguson has the potential to take a significant step forward.

Ferguson slides in as my TE9 and 90th overall player in my 2024 Fantasy Football Rankings. He ranks 82nd (+20 ECR) in my Top-200 Best Ball Fantasy Big Board. After him, there are no other tight ends I prefer in the middle rounds.

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