Badgers look to make impact on various NFL rosters

After a successful career at UW, undrafted free agent Dare Ogunbowale hopes to have a similar impact on the Houston Texans next season.

Image By: Jessi Schoville

Only three players on the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2016 roster heard their names called in the 2017 NFL Draft, but eight of them now have NFL contracts and are working with various pro teams to prepare for the preseason.

As expected, outside linebacker T.J. Watt was the headliner of Wisconsin’s draft class, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round with the 30th overall pick. He’ll have the opportunity to play against his brother, and former Wisconsin standout, J.J. Watt for the first time this Christmas when the Steelers head to Houston to take on the Texans on December 25.

The youngest Watt was later joined in Pittsburgh by quarterback Bart Houston, who went undrafted and initially unsigned. After a tryout with the Oakland Raiders, his NFL future was in doubt until mid-May when the Steelers offered him a spot.

Offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk also made it in as a first-round pick, going 32nd overall to the New Orleans Saints, who acquired the pick in a trade with the New England Patriots. Ramczyk is still recovering from the hip surgery he had in January, and if he’s back to full strength soon, he’ll have an opportunity to compete to start at right tackle in the Big Easy.

Outside linebacker Vince Biegel has the opportunity of a lifetime to play for his hometown team, drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the first pick of the fourth round. He too should be in line to see some playing time in year one, if he can recover from the injuries he suffered this offseason.

Many draft analysts were expecting Corey Clement to hear his name called on the third day of the draft. However, Clement never got the call during the draft. Instead, moments after the draft concluded, the senior running back opted to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, joining a very crowded backfield where he’ll have his work cut out for him to make the roster.

Fellow running back Dare Ogunbowale was quick to sign with the Texans following the draft. He will also face a bit of an uphill battle to make the roster as a rookie, but his special teams experience with the Badgers will only help his chances against the competition in the backfield.

Wide receiver Rob Wheelwright signed with the New York Giants and went to their rookie minicamp, but he was not retained on their roster following those initial practices.

Cornerback Sojourn Shelton has an excellent opportunity to stick with the Arizona Cardinals on a depth chart thin behind the starters in the secondary. He fits right in with the other smaller defensive backs on their roster.

One way or another, the NFL received a fresh injection of Cardinal and White into their training camps.

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