In less than a week, more than 200 football players will hear their named called in Radio City Music Hall in New York City during the National Football League’s draft. While the draft is the beginning of the NFL dream for all of the players chosen, it is also a source of pride for universities to see their programs produce professional-level talent.
In recent years the University of Wisconsin has produced some of the NFL’s brightest stars with two-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt and Super Bowl Champion quarterback Russell Wilson. Since 2009, according to National Football Post, Wisconsin has had 20 players drafted in the NFL which is good for 12th-most picks during that period of time. And, since 2009, former Badgers have accumulated a combined 160 starts in the NFL. Only four schools have more combined starts in that time.
Wisconsin doesn’t have any sure-fire first round prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft, but does boast a number of players that have the ability work their way into significant roles on an NFL roster.
With the draft kicking off Thursday, here is a list of players that have the best shot of hearing their name called in New York:
Chris Borland, ILB
All-American linebacker Chris Borland has the best chance of any Badger to get his name called in the first round of the draft Thursday. Borland wasn’t happy with his performance at the NFL combine, particularly his 4.83 time in the 40-yard dash, but improved on his numbers some at Wisconsin’s pro day. His size — 5-foot-11 and 248-pounds — is the biggest concern for NFL teams and will likely be the reason he falls to the second round should teams pass on him with their first picks. ESPN’s draft tracker has Chris Borland rated as the second-best inside linebacker behind C.J. Mosley from Alabama. In their latest mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have Borland going 34th overall to the Washington Redskins. It is looking more likely that Borland will fall to the second round, but as Montee Ball found out last year, sometime waiting to be drafted a little later means you land in a better situation. Either way, Borland will have a very good chance to make an impact on the field from day one.
Dezmen Southward, S
After Borland, it gets a little murkier when determining which former Badger will be picked next. Before Wisconsin’s pro day, chances are Southward would not be this high on the list, but after wowing scouts with a sub-4.4 40 time and a 42-inch vertical jump, Southward saw his stock soar. He probably didn’t have the senior campaign at Wisconsin that he was hoping for, but he still has the athleticism that might be enough to entice an NFL team to use a fourth-round pick on him. The safety position in this year’s draft has a definite group of four to five guys who have separated themselves from the rest, but after that it is a toss up. We’ll have to see if Southward’s pro day performance was enough to boost him to the third round, but chances are his name will be called somewhere in the fourth or fifth round.
Ryan Groy, OG
Ryan Groy has the legacy of Wisconsin offensive lineman behind him, which should help him move up a couple of picks. Groy was the anchor of the Badgers’ offensive line last season and would be able to move into an immediate backup role in the NFL and possibly be molded into a solid starter a few years down the road. Teams are always on the lookout for players that will bolster their depth on the front line and Groy would be a good value in the fourth to sixth round.
Jared Abbrederis, WR
Jared Abbrederis won’t wow you with his speed or strength, but he has above-average hands and runs strong routes. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash at the combine and posted a 30.5-inch vertical jump. Abbrederis has the chance to work his way into a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver position for a team early on. This year has one of the deeper wide receiver groups that has been seen in some time which could cause him to fall a little. Abbrederis will likely be drafted between the fourth and sixth rounds.
Tight end Jacob Pedersen and running back James White will be drafted. White’s stock will suffer by the suddenly decreased value in running backs in the league, but can serve a change-of-pace back that several if not all teams use now. Pedersen did enough in his time in Madison to warrant a pick. There are several other defensive players that have a chance at being drafted this weekend, Beau Allen, Ethan Hemer and Brendan Kelly all have a chance to have their names called.