MADISON, Wis. — The sight of Natrell Jamerson bench-pressing 405 pounds on Wisconsin’s max-out day last summer came as no surprise to anybody affiliated with the football program. But it did confirm to the general public what those close to Jamerson already knew.
Jamerson is a workout warrior, a bad man in the weight room whose brute strength and freak athleticism pack an explosive punch when unfurled on the field. Give him some time to train specifically for an event or a position change, and his ceiling is as high as anybody.
So as Jamerson prepared for drills at the NFL combine and then Wisconsin’s pro day, he had little doubt the numbers would reflect favorably on him. When showtime arrived, he delivered.
Jamerson’s 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the combine tied for the second fastest among safeties there. His 25 bench-press reps at 225 pounds tied for first. Two weeks later, Jamerson excelled at pro day, increasing his vertical jump from 35 1/2 to 38 inches. He improved his broad jump by three inches to 10 feet, 3 inches.
“I’ve been putting in work for a while now, so I was already expecting a good outcome,” Jamerson told Land of 10. “Just seeing the results that I got was reassuring.”
The question now is: Just how much has Jamerson enhanced his draft stock? While the numbers are impressive, there appears to be some debate on that topic.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller did not list Jamerson in his seven-round post-NFL combine mock draft. CBSSports.com lists Jamerson as the No. 11 free safety and the No. 242 player overall. There are 256 picks in the draft. WalterFootball.com ranks Jamerson as the No. 13 safety overall and lists him as a potential fourth- to sixth-round pick.
But Jamerson’s agent, Chris Martin of OTG Sports Management, said Jamerson already had a number of private visits lined up with teams and has heard his client could be drafted anywhere from the third to fifth round. Martin described Jamerson as an explosive, dynamic athlete whose combination of speed and strength makes him an attractive pro prospect.
“You like that because now you’re thinking, ‘All right, with these athletic tight ends, if teams put him in as a nickel, you can’t run right at him because he’s strong enough that he can take it on,'” Martin said. “I think that’s where a lot of nickels in the NFL become liabilities because they can only cover but yet they can’t take on in the run game. He’s going to be in demand because he can do that. He is a valuable asset because he has what we call scheme diversity. He can play safety, he can play corner if needed. And he certainly can play nickel.
“With the way the world is with these athletic tight ends, you’ve got to have guys that can cover. He’s shown that he has Saran Wrap coverage. He didn’t give up many balls at all this year. And he didn’t miss tackles. I think that’s what’s going to ultimately move him up. And that’s what teams have said.”
Jamerson demonstrated his versatility while at Wisconsin. He played wide receiver during his freshman season before moving to cornerback. He was the team’s primary kick returner as a sophomore in 2015 and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against Maryland. Jamerson played in eight games in his junior season, which included two starts at nickel corner. But he really blossomed after transitioning into a starting safety as a senior.
Last season, Jamerson started all 14 games for Wisconsin’s Orange Bowl-winning team and tallied 51 tackles, 10 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. Both of his interceptions, including a pick-6, came against Northwestern and earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. He was a key reason Wisconsin ranked No. 2 nationally in total defense and No. 1 in pass efficiency defense during the season.
“You saw it this year,” said former Badgers safety Joe Ferguson, who also participated in pro day. “He’s just the best athlete on the field pretty much most of the time. Any time he can get out there, he has the ability to make a play just because of how athletic he is. This year, he worked on his instincts and knowledge of the game. That got a lot better and that translated into a lot more plays.
“He’s really just hitting the tip of the iceberg with his potential. Any time you’re an athlete like that, you’ve just got to work on some of the little things and clean up your game. The sky’s the limit.”
Jamerson was invited to participate after the season in the East-West Shrine Game and was tremendous during practice, praised for his awareness and ability to be around the ball. He earned defensive MVP honors in the game after he picked up a fumble and returned it 68 yards for a touchdown.
The fact that Jamerson thrived despite playing safety for just one season is something he is selling to NFL teams.
“That’s kind of the conversations I have a lot,” Jamerson said. “I only played safety for one season. So there’s a lot of room for improvement. But to be where I am now after one year, it kind of speaks for itself. I’m only playing that position for one year and I’m looking to get drafted by some team. If I had more experience at that position, there’s no telling what position I’d be in now.”
Jamerson is still finishing classes at Wisconsin and has been training on campus in the lead-up to the draft. Jamerson, for his part, said he was confident he would be an NFL draft pick. He noted many teams were looking at him as a safety, while others were talking to him about being a nickel corner. But, as he showed at Wisconsin, wherever teams want him to play, he’ll be ready to accept and embrace the challenge.
“I think he has special DNA,” Martin said. “It’s important to him to be great. He’ll never be outworked. He’s an absolute grinder. He’s got an incredibly high football IQ. He can process information quickly.
“When people are assessing him and evaluating him, they’re looking at the big picture on this guy. I think as we get closer and closer to draft day, you’re going to hear more and more he’s going to continue to bubble up higher and higher. He’s going to check all the boxes.”