The University of Wisconsin’s football program has been one of the best in the country for about two decades now. Since Barry Alvarez took over as head coach in 1990, the team has excelled on the field, posting a 248-117-4 record over the last 29 seasons.
While the team as a whole has a strong record of success, many individual Badgers went on to have careers in the NFL themselves. Popular players among this group include J. J. Watt, Russell Wilson and Melvin Gordon. In the 2019 NFL draft, the Badgers again celebrated the selection of several players over the course of the three-night event. NFL teams selected the players as follows:
Michael Deiter, Miami Dolphins (Round 3, Pick 14):
Deiter was the first Wisconsin alumni taken off the board, as he was selected with the 78th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins. Deiter — a four-year starter at Wisconsin — excelled as a blocking offensive lineman, allowing running back Jonathan Taylor to get into open space. He will compete for a starting job with the Dolphins in training camp.
Ryan Connelly, New York Giants (Round 5, Pick 5):
Connelly was able to raise his draft stock during the draft combine, allowing him to be taken 143rd overall and making him the second Badger taken in the draft. Connelly is a shiny linebacker with speed and tackling skills, so look for him to fight for an impact role on a young Giants defense this season.
Andrew Van Ginkel, Miami Dolphins (Round 5, Pick 13):
Taken just 8 picks after Connelly, Van Ginkel will join Deiter in Miami this season as he looks to carve out a spot on their defense. Van Ginkel has a great eye on defense and is a plus-side tackler, finishing with 59 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles his senior season.
David Edwards, Los Angeles Rams (Round 5, Pick 31):
After fellow offensive lineman Deiter was taken earlier in the draft, Edwards was selected late in the fifth round by the Rams. Edwards is unlikely to start this season with there being several talented linemen on the Rams roster, but he will be looking to solidify himself as an option for the future.
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No other Badgers were selected in the draft, but several players did sign as undrafted free agents. These players included Beau Benzschawel (Detroit Lions), Alec Ingold (Oakland Raiders) and T. J. Edwards (Philadelphia Eagles). Benzschawel and Edwards were both projected to be drafted, but after poor performances at the combine, neither heard their name called.
Now, let’s take a look at players on this year’s squad who we could potentially see taken in the 2020 NFL draft, including Jonathan Taylor, Chris Orr, Zack Baun, Tyler Biadasz, Bradrick Shaw and A. J. Taylor.
Jonathan Taylor has starred as Wisconsin’s starting running back for the past two seasons. After an impressive year where he set the all-time freshman season rushing record with 1,977 yards, Taylor performed even better his sophomore year, totaling 2,194 yards and averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Taylor will likely try to match or exceed those numbers this season and hopefully hear his name called in one of the next two NFL drafts.
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Chris Orr and Zack Baun, both senior linebackers for the Badgers, will each look to continue successful college careers for the 2019 Wisconsin football team and earn some attention before the draft. Baun finished last season with 63 tackles while Orr added 27 of his own and with several players from the defense having graduated or moved on to the next level, don’t be surprised to hear either of their names at Camp Randall this year.
Bradrick Shaw and A. J. Taylor have both been solid supporting players on the Wisconsin offense during their college years, so don’t expect this season to be any different. Shaw, a running back, has played in 22 games and gained 822 yards over his career, despite missing all of last season due to injury. Taylor has played in several roles, including wide receiver, running back and kick returner, collecting 1,423 all-purpose yards during his career. Even though neither player is likely to get drafted, they could be signed as undrafted free agents as they would provide valuable depth to any team.
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Lastly, Tyler Biadasz has performed as perhaps the best center in college football over the last two years with Wisconsin. Even though he will only be a junior this year, don’t be surprised if he gets drafted next spring. Biadasz has started all 27 games in his first two seasons at Madison while protecting the backfield — namely Jonathan Taylor — that has put up ridiculous numbers in both seasons.
Considering so many Wisconsin players have gone on to have successful NFL careers over the past few decades, it’s no wonder that players like those named above and potentially more will hear their names called in the next few NFL drafts as they hope to follow in the footsteps of so many before them.