When NFL hopefuls are competing and trying to make themselves more appealing to pro scouts, coaches and executives, they have to find every way possible to contribute on the field and offer value to a team. At the Wisconsin Pro Day Wednesday at the McClain Center, many of the Badgers headed for the draft did just that.
It’s about showing they are versatile. None of these UW prospects are projected to be early draft picks, so they are going to have to make an impact on their prospective NFL team in more ways than they were used to.
For fullback Derek Watt, that means moving around at different tight end spots and increasing his special teams workload.
“I’ve been working actually quite a bit on my long snapping,” Watt said. “It’s just another way to show I can do something and try to get on a roster and stay on a roster.”
He played almost exclusively out of the backfield during his time at Wisconsin, but he lined up in-line with his hand in the turf for a good portion of the field drills in front of scouts. He showed the reliable hands he had throughout his collegiate career, despite tweaking his hamstring earlier in the afternoon during a drill.
One of the men who blocked alongside Watt on many plays over the last four years also had to show teams he is more than just a one-position player. Tyler Marz played left tackle exclusively as a Badger, but at the East-West Shrine Game last month, he played right tackle.
A number of NFL teams see Marz as a guard at the next level. Even at 6 feet 7 inches tall and 316 pounds, the interior may be a better fit for the lineman in the NFL because of his slow feet and sheer power. He improved on his 40-yard dash from the NFL Scouting Combine, but for an offensive lineman, it just doesn’t matter as much as most other positions.
“Whatever a team needs me to do,” Marz said. “If I need to start snapping the ball, I’ll do that.”
The UW OT seemed to help his draft stock with his performance, as did outside linebacker Joe Schobert. He had a good showing at the combine, so he didn’t run all of the speed drills, but he looked quick and fluid on every rep he participated.
“I felt good,” Schobert said. “All the scouts and stuff kind of make people nervous, but you just have to remember you’re doing what you’ve always done, so it was good.”
He was able to improve his vertical and broad jumps by a few inches each, and the dozens of scouts and executives in attendance seemed to perk up whenever it was his turn to take the field.
Wisconsin Head Coach Paul Chryst is chatting it up with Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien pic.twitter.com/z6rSwFqoaC— DailyCardinal Sports (@Cardinal_Sports) March 9, 2016
Joel Stave also seemed to be satisfied with his combine performance, opting not to run any of the measured drills and instead only throwing in front of scouts. He did connect with wide receiver Alex Erickson on a few deep balls, but on many of his underneath throws, the ball didn’t seem to have enough velocity, and his receivers had to slow down to catch the ball on time.
This was a little bit surprising considering Stave was visibly more muscular, having added 15 pounds since the end of the season.
“To be honest, I don’t really feel a whole lot different,” Stave said. “I’m so long and tall that I have a lot of room to keep filling out without feeling a whole lot different.”
It didn’t help that Erickson had a few drops during field drills, but he impressed with a 4.44 40-yard dash. The surface of the McClain Center is a softer turf than most, so that might have helped with his time, but NFL teams were impressed nonetheless. Scouts from both the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns spent a lot of time talking to him after the drills were over.
Ted Thompson is taking a really close look at WR Alex Erickson. Even cheered him on during this drill— Lorin Cox (@CoxSports1) March 9, 2016
In total, scouts and executives from at least 26 NFL teams were present, including all four NFC North Teams. Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien were the most notable evaluators present.
All of these men had an up-close look at what the Wisconsin NFL Draft prospects had to offer. The participating Badgers did a lot to show their versatility and hopefully convince some of these big-time decision makers to give them a shot at making their NFL dreams a reality.