After somewhat surprisingly not being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Badgers tight end Jacob Pedersen agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Pedersen will be among a group of players looking to fill the void left by future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who retired at the conclusion of last season.
Atlanta is starting to look like Madison Southeast, with six former Badgers now on the Falcons roster.
Pedersen’s fellow teammate and tight end Brian Wozniak also signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent, along with quarterback Danny O’Brien. They will join former Badgers Dezmen Southward (drafted in the third round), Gabe Carimi (signed in February), and Peter Konz (drafted in 2012) in Atlanta.
Much like his close friend and former teammate, Jared Abbrederis, Pedersen is somewhat of a self-made player, having to put in a tremendous amount of work to achieve the success he did with the Badgers.
The Menominee High School alum from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was just a two-star recruit coming into college. He had to work his way onto the field as a redshirt freshman, steadily earning more and more playing time during his four years in Madison.
Pedersen proved to be a crucial piece to UW’s passing game during his final two seasons, developing into a serious receiving threat that kept defenses from totally focusing in on shutting down Abbrederis. He was named to the All-Big Ten first team in 2012 by the coaches, and was a consensus All-Big Ten honorable menrion in 2013.
Pedersen’s career numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, but this is in large part because he played for a heavily run-oriented team that also had issues at quarterback in his last two season in college. Despite this, he still finished his career ranked No. 7 all-time at Wisconsin with 17 touchdown receptions, the most by any tight end in school history.
Recent history may also play into his favor when you consider the success of other former Badgers at the tight end position. While Wisconsin is known for its running backs and offensive linemen, their tight ends have been extremely solid as well, with five former Badgers currently playing in the NFL.
Even though he is fairly undersized, Pedersen still brings a lot to the table at his position.
He is a versatile and tough player that gives 100% and is a serious short yard receiving threat thanks to his great hands and excellent field awareness. His body control gives him the ability to adjust and come down with a catch on errant passes too.
Of course his lack of size is viewed as a major drawback by many teams (it’s likely the main reason he went undrafted), and his overall speed and bursts off the line of scrimmage aren’t at the level of a lot of NFL tight ends.
Despite lacking elite speed or strength, Pedersen can certainly be a valuable asset at the next level thanks to his unparalleled work ethic and ability to work with what he has. Former Badger and current Philadelphia Eagles safety Chris Maragos took to Twitter to offer his support after the signing was announced, proclaiming that Pedersen was “a steal.”
Jacob Pedersen is a steal. He’s going to play in this League.
— Chris Maragos (@ChrisMaragos) May 11, 2014
Whether or not Pedersen is able to become a starting-caliber tight end in the NFL remains to be seen, but it would be foolish to write him off completely. He will undoubtedly make the most out of the talent he has and can definitely be a effective addition to the Falcons or any other NFL team.