With the 2017 NFL Draft fast approaching April 28, ESPN’s foremost NFL draft analyst, Mel Kiper Jr., chimed in on some of the Badgers entering this year’s draft while announcing his latest mock draft last Wednesday.
Junior offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk has cemented his place as Wisconsin’s top overall prospect in the eyes of many across the country. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound behemoth has been receiving consistent early to mid-first round grades from scouts and analysts across the country. Kiper shared a similar excitement for Ramczyk.
“I’m very impressed with him,” Kiper said. “I hold out hope that he can be a starting left tackle in this league, but at the very worst he’ll be a solid right tackle for a long time.”
He then went on to suggest Ramczyk would be better off landing with a more competitive team toward the latter half of the first round so he wouldn’t be forced to carry too much pressure during his rookie season.
Kiper also mentioned Ramczyk to the Denver Broncos with the 20th pick is an opportunity that could allow Ramczyk to develop, since the Broncos have no high-profile quarterback to protect as well as a veteran, well-established offensive line to surround him.
Senior running back Corey Clement is next in a long line of Wisconsin running backs to enter the NFL, following the likes of Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon III and recent Super Bowl LI champion James White. According to Kiper, backs with latter-round draft stock like Clement are being hindered by the incredible depth and talent of the 2017 running back class compared to previous years.
“This is one of the deepest running back classes in a while, and still I only see two, maybe three, running backs [maximum] taken in the first round,” Kiper said.
Kiper doesn’t see Clement as one of the top three backs, putting him squarely behind guys like former Louisiana State University star Leonard Fournette, Florida State University’s Dalvin Cook, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and even the recent noise made by Joe Mixon of Oklahoma.
Suspending Mixon’s intolerable off-the-field troubles, Kiper did give his athletic capability a nod, calling him the most talented running back in this class.
For that reason, Kiper gave Clement a late-second or early third round grade. Even with that said, Clement’s career outlook is far from bleak. Kiper discussed the success of running backs selected in the third round who made an immediate impact, such as David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Despite increased depth at running back position in this year’s class, Clement’s future remains bright, and he has shown scouts he has flashes of the talent and ability necessary to excel in the league for a long time, should he enter the right NFL situation.
Kiper gave outside linebacker T.J. Watt an early second round grade and hinted at a slim possibility he could jump to a surprise selection in the late first round. Kiper substantiated his praised evaluation of Watt with an emphasis on his prolific pass-rushing ability.
Kiper believes Watt’s greatest asset as his defensive versatility to succeed at multiple positions. Watt can play outside linebacker in a traditional 3-4 defensive scheme, but he also has the proven that — if he puts on a little weight — he can play as bruiser, hand-on-the-ground defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
“It’s obvious that his name and the good character that is known to come with it will only help his stock in this draft,” Kiper said, referencing the fact Watt is the younger brother of two current NFL players.
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Now to the other member of the Badgers’ dynamic duo at linebacker last season, senior Vince Biegel. Biegel was a steady presence in the linebacking core for all four of his years with Wisconsin, making all Big Ten teams in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
Kiper gave Biegel a late-third to early fourth round grade and attributed that placement to the draft’s depth at the defensive end and outside linebacker positions. He also mentioned if Biegel drops all the way to the fourth round, he would become an absolute steal for whoever grabs him.
Biegel could make an immediate impact on special teams while developing his pass rush and coverage abilities enough to transform into a successful starter on any NFL defense.