As the calendar turns over into April, football fans everywhere gear up for what is arguably the most important day of the NFL year: the draft. While free agency has made the practice of building a winner a more expedited process, you can look at the roster of any successful team and see that their corps was put together on a late April day.
In recent years, several Badger players have found their way into the first round of the draft, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in 2013. While J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas and Kevin Zeitler each went in the top 32 picks, there doesn’t appear to be that same type of marquee talent coming from Wisconsin this year.
The top prospect appears to be G/C Travis Frederick, a redshirt senior who started 27 games over the last two seasons for UW. The Sharon, Wis., native is ranked as the No. 1 center in the draft by CBSSports.com, but that position is not as highly sought after as others on the offensive line.
Teams at the bottom half of the first round often look to add interior linemen in a low risk spot, so Frederick could end up somewhere between picks No. 29-32, especially to a team like Atlanta who drafted two Badger players just last year (Peter Konz, Bradie Ewing).
Another member of the offensive line, tackle Ricky Wagner, once had the same first round aspirations as Frederick, but after a down year, he has seemingly fallen into the middle-to-late rounds of the draft. CBS Sports has the West Allis, Wis., native ranked as the No. 17 tackle and a fifth-to-sixth round pick. DraftTek.com has him ranked even lower, as they predict Wagner to be drafted in the seventh round.
While Frederick is likely to be the highest drafted Badger, the most talked about player will undoubtedly be running back Montee Ball. The 2011 Heisman finalist and 2012 Doak Walker winner is generally seen as a top-five prospect at his position, but his poor combine performance (4.66 forty time, 15 reps on bench press) has seen his stock fall into the second-to-third round range.
There is still some first-round hope left for Ball however, as Gil Brandt of NFL.com currently has him going to Green Bay at pick No. 26.
The Packers certainly do need a running back, but it would seem to be a bit of a stretch to think that Ball would be their pick in the first round.
The Badgers will also have a trio of defensive backs who will look to make their way into the later rounds of the draft. Shelton Johnson, Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie are all slightly undersized, but each one made valuable contributions over their careers at Wisconsin and can make an impact in the NFL.
Perhaps the biggest riser out of this group right now is Cromartie, after he ran a 4.35 forty at the team’s pro day last month. Pro day times are typically inflated slightly, but the time is impressive nonetheless.
Rounding out the Badger prospects this year is linebacker Mike Taylor. The fifth-year senior recorded 378 tackles and seven sacks in his 47 starts with Wisconsin, but he has battled knee injuries over his career—a major red flag for any NFL team. The Ashwaubenon, Wis., native is still recovering from a sports hernia injury which prevented him from taking part in UW’s pro day.
Taylor is not a great candidate to be drafted by any team this year, but if he can get over his injuries, he should be able to catch on with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
This class may not have the high-end talent of some of its predecessors, but come April 25, we’ll start to see where these Badgers will make their trade in the NFL.
Where do you think the Badgers will get drafted? Let Matt know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.