With an esteemed reputation, Wisconsin Badgers are flourishing in the NFL. The Watt brothers, Russell Wilson and recent Super Bowl winners David Edwards and Bob Havenstein are regulars in our Sunday entertainment, however, the rocky road to becoming a star in the league is long and arduous as players are nitpicked and scrutinized heavily.

After a rigorous film review by each NFL team, players first display their abilities at the NFL Combine, also referred to as the “underwear Olympics.” Held annually in Indianapolis, players are selected by the Players Selection Committee and invited to show off their football skills and mental acuities through a series of interviews, medical and cognitive tests, and  physical drills. Everything from IQ to hand size to vertical jump is measured.

This year, five former Badgers were invited to the NFL Combine, which will take place from March 1-7. Here’s a closer look at each player’s potential at the professional level and what their current draft stock looks like. Let’s dive in.  

Jake Ferguson 

Scouts love Ferguson’s experience as a three-year starter, and he is a promising talent at the tight end position. Tight ends often have a longer learning curve at the professional level, but scouts are optimistic that Ferguson can have an immediate impact. The Madison native is viewed as a red-zone and play action specialist as scouts favor his size (6 feet, 5 inches, 244 lbs.), ball skills, and catch radius.

Exceeding 400 receiving yards in three of his four seasons, Ferguson is both reliable and versatile, demonstrated by his strong  performance at the 2022 Senior Bowl. As a blocker, however, Ferguson sometimes struggles. Sustaining blocks is a weakness, and he struggled against larger defenders in his college career. Improving his blocking ability will be critical to his professional success. Many scouts believe he can be a trustworthy TE2 at the professional level. Expect Ferguson to be a fourth- to sixth-draft pick, around the fifth overall TE  selected.  

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Logan Bruss 

As a four-year starter, Bruss has played in 41 games as a Badger. His accolades include All-Big Ten (third team) in 2020 and All-Big Ten (second team) in 2021. The redshirt senior played a multitude of positions in Wisconsin’s offense, including right tackle, right guard and blocking tight end. Bruss is expected to play right guard in the NFL, but his versatility is certainly a strong suit.

At Wisconsin, he mostly played in a zone blocking scheme and wasn’t asked to pull often. He excels in foot speed, quickness, and footwork. With an excellent football IQ, Bruss can react quickly to plays, and is difficult to beat in assignment. Bruss will need to work on strength and getting to the second level of defenders (i.e., linebackers) to succeed in the NFL. Known as a great run blocker, Bruss possesses tremendous lateral quickness that should translate well. A gritty player, the 6-foot-5-inch lineman weighing in at 316 lbs. is currently ranked seventh overall in guards, according to Mel Kiper. Expect Bruss to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick.

Leo Chenal 

Coming off a phenomenal junior year, the 2021 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year shows a lot of promise and you will certainly be seeing a lot of Chanel on Sundays. In 2021, Chanel led the Badgers in tackles (115) and sacks (8). Commanding the No. 1 ranked run defense in the country, Chanel excels in an aggressive defense that is blitz heavy. Scouts expect him to mostly play in early down situations because of his dynamic skillset and versatility.

Known as being consumed by football, the 6-foot-two-inch linebacker weighing in at 250 lbs. possesses tremendous on-field instincts in addition to being a vessel of energy. Despite his above average reads in assessing the rush, Chanel struggles in pass coverage and reading quarterback tendencies. Chanel is currently ranked seventh in interior LBs in Mel Kiper’s mock draft. Most scouts are expecting him to go around the fourth round, however, many Wisconsin linebackers have been severely undervalued, and Chanel compares well to former Badgers like TJ Edwards and Chris Borland.  

Jack Sanborn 

Like Chanel, Sanborn holds a tremendous fervor for the sport of football and is one of the better blitzers in this year’s draft, flashing ferocity in the line of attack and in pursuit. Blitzing in the NFL, however, is decreasing in frequency due to the increase in athleticism, the improvement in play of quarterbacks and skills position players. Say thank you to the Chiefs for this trend. Accordingly, teams are looking for more well-rounded linebackers who can excel in both man and zone coverage.

If Sanborn were to become a three-down linebacker, he would especially need to improve in man coverage. The three-year starter excels at the line of scrimmage as his functional strength allows him to move quickly and efficiently through blocks. Still, Sanborn is a jack of all trades. He had three interceptions in 2019, led the team in tackles in 2019 and 2020, and had the most tackles for loss in 2021 (14.5). Scouts’ project that Sanborn will most likely be anywhere from a third to fifth round pick.  

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Jack Coan 

The former Badger quarterback has the chance to play at the next level, albeit most likely in a backup role or as a game-managing quarterback (i.e. Jimmy Garoppolo). In his one year at Notre Dame, Coan’s highlights included an utter beatdown of his former team and an impressive Toledo comeback victory, among others successes.

There is a dearth of quarterback talent in this year’s draft, and as a result, an anxious team might take a leap of faith on Coan. Scouts love his footwork and his deep throwing ability. Coan has tremendous arm strength and toughness.

To his disadvantage in a world of elite quarterbacks, Coan has a laundry list of weaknesses —mobility, poise and decision-making are among his top struggles. Most scouts have Coan ranked as the No. 10-12 ranked QB in this year’s class, and he will most likely be a seventh round pick or sign as an undrafted free agent.