Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football: Wisconsin finds success in pre-NFL Draft workouts

Allen, Bortolini, others impress with advanced skill sets
Soren Goldsmith

The University of Wisconsin football team sent three of their team members to the NFL Combine that took place from Feb. 29 to March 3. Running back Braelon Allen, offensive lineman Tanor Bortolini and linebacker Maema Njongmeta showcased their talents to scouts from across the NFL in the hopes of being selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, which will take place April 25–27.

The NFL Combine is an invitational event that allows draft prospects to show their strengths in six different events — a 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, shuttle run and bench press. Only about 300 prospects are invited to the NFL Combine each year, but they have the opportunity to opt in or out of events at their discretion.

Bortolini, a Kewaunee, Wisconsin, native, played almost every position on the offensive line during his time at UW, showing his versatility as a prospect. He elected to compete in every event at the combine — recording first place finishes in the 3-cone drill and the shuttle run out of 28 and 26 competing offensive linemen respectively, while also finishing second out of 49 offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash.


Bortolini’s only struggle was on the bench press, where 21 reps at 225 lbs. was only good enough for 25th place out of 28 offensive linemen. Post-Combine, ESPN ranked Bortolini as the sixth-best center out of 12 and 122nd best prospect overall in the 2024 draft.

Allen suffered an ankle injury during the Badgers’ game against Ohio State University in October, but that didn’t stop him from coming back and putting up over 200 yards and four touchdowns in the final two regular season games — including the winning overtime touchdown against the University of Nebraska in a 24–17 victory.

The Fond du Lac native was more selective at the combine, only competing in the vertical jump, broad jump and bench press. But Allen still showcased his strength, which was one of the key aspects of his role at UW.

Allen finished 19th out of 21 running backs in the vertical jump, 15th out of 20 running backs in the broad jump and an impressive second out of 11 running backs in the bench press with 26 reps. ESPN rated Allen eighth-best running back out of 28 and 151st overall.

Njongmeta was the final Badger invited to the combine and was the most selective in terms of events of the three. He competed in both the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run, finishing last place in both.

Irrespective of his combine results, Njongmeta has been described as an solid, albeit “old-school” linebacker and will need to continue to prove himself in order to land an NFL roster spot.

Njongmeta’s best season as a Badger came during his junior year, where he recorded 95 total tackles, one interception and three-and-a-half sacks. This stat line shows his strength as a pass rusher, which he’ll need to emphasize this off-season. ESPN ranked Njongmeta as the 25th best inside linebacker out of 25 and 329th overall in this upcoming draft.

The combine was not the only place where Badgers were able to show off their abilities in front of NFL scouts, as UW’s Pro Day — a combine-like event that colleges host for prospects to try to raise their draft stock — took place March 15.

A scout from every NFL team excluding the Los Angeles Rams attended the Pro Day, according to Badgers Wire, where star quarterback Tanner Mordecai, offensive lineman Michael Furtney, outside linebacker C.J. Goetz, safety Travian Blaylock and German prospect — and Joe Thomas’ protégé — Marlon Werthmann, among others, including the three combine participants, garnered the attention of scouts from across the league.

Blaylock put up some of the most impressive results during Pro Day, recording a 39-inch vertical jump that would’ve seen him go top-five at the combine alongside a 4.42 40-yard dash, which would have listed him at two at the combine for safeties.

Mordecai also put up a phenomenal Pro Day — recording a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4-foot-5 vertical jump, both results which were better than any quarterback at the combine.

Though the Green Bay Packers don’t currently have a former Badger on their roster, this off-season could change that. The green and gold have the joint-most number of picks in this year’s draft with 11 and with five of those coming in the first three rounds.

The Packers had a busy March — releasing running back Aaron Jones, offensive lineman David Bakhtiari and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, while signing running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney to fulfill team needs. The Packers also have a reported $21.9 million in cap space to spend, meaning there could be another notable free agent signed or trade made before the first game of the season in the fall.

Green Bay will select their first pick at No. 25 in this year’s NFL Draft. While it may be likely early on in the first round, most of the aforementioned Badgers will still be on the board looking for a new home.

Names like Allen, Bortolini and Njongmeta have a chance to join a short list of the UW-to-Green Bay pipeline from the college to the NFL stage.

Most notably, Mark Tauscher — the current color analyst for UW’s football team — enjoyed a 10-year career with Green Bay. Tauscher earned a Super Bowl ring with the Packers back in 2011, flipping between the tackle and guard position on the offensive line.

Our very own Badgers are equally set up for success thanks to last season’s film, some promising combine results and a vastly underrated Pro Day performance from what UW’s fanbase and staff hope may be some future NFL stars.

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