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Sunday, November 28, 2021
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Taylor and Cephus put up huge numbers for their positions in the Combine, significantly raising their draft stock.

Badgers impress at NFL Combine, shoot draft stock up

Looking to increase their draft stock, four departing Badger football players recently traveled to Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL Combine. With their talents on full display in front of team scouts and owners, these select Badgers represented Wisconsin proudly — here’s a brief look at how they performed.

The first Badger to take the stage in Indy was wide receiver Quintez Cephus. 

Out of the four Badgers invited to workout, Cephus was the one with the most to prove. Despite his impressive season as Wisconsin’s No. 1 receiver, Cephus was viewed as a late round pick entering the combine, due to a stacked wide receiver class with the likes of Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s Ceedee Lamb. 

Quintez made an immediate splash, gaining the attention of several scouts and GM’s with his impressive bench press, clocking in 23 reps of 225 pounds. It was good enough for first among all wide receivers competing in the event.

Cephus then moved to the on-field drills, where he once again impressed for the most part. Quintez recorded a 38.5’’ vertical jump (good for eighth out of 46 wide receivers), a 124’’ broad jump (17th out of 43), and a 4.33 second 20-yard shuttle (ninth out of 25). However, many will unfortunately overlook these strong stats and instead focus on Cephus’ poor 40-yard dash. 

Cephus finished in 4.73 seconds, which placed him at last among all competing receivers. Although this number should seemingly warrant concern, a deeper delve into Cephus and his playing style argue differently. 

During his time at Wisconsin, Cephus was never viewed as the “deep threat” or “speedster” wide receiver. Rather, he was known for his ability to break away from defenders and make contested catches in big time moments. 

In addition, many past receivers have found immense success in the NFL despite poor 40 yard dash performances. Simply look to Jerry Rice, one of the all time greats to ever play football, who ran an abysmal 4.71 40. Or look at Anquan Boldin, who ran a 4.71as well, but went on to accumulate the 14th highest all-time receiving yards.

Cephus also received praise from other big name prospects after his workout. Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, arguably the top cornerback of this draft class, claimed that Quintez was the hardest receiver he had to guard in college.

“I don’t care what his 40 time was,” he said.  

The next Badger to take the field at the combine was running back Jonathan Taylor. Like Cephus, JT entered the on-field drills with motivation to prove his doubters wrong. Because Taylor is seen as being careless with the football — after his 18 fumbles in college — many scouts didn’t view him as the top running back of his class. 

However, JT shocked scouts and GM’s alike when he recorded a 4.39 second 40 yard dash. This time was not only good for first among all competing running backs, but also ranked fifth best among all prospects who ran the drill that Friday.

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Taylor also impressed scouts with his vertical and agility throughout the other events. He recorded a 36’’ vertical jump (good for 11th out of 28), a 123’’ broad jump (ninth out of 27), 7.01 second 3-cone drill (fourth out of 11), and a 4.24 20-yard shuttle (sixth out of 16). 

However, JT’s combine success didn’t end there. Off the field Taylor aced his interviews and media questions. Specifically, Taylor discussed his experience at Wisconsin, praise received from NFL star Patrick Mahomes and his unique approach to football that makes use of his philosophy major. 

As a result of these impressive feats, Jonathan Taylor was awarded a spot on writer Nick Shook’s “2020 All-Combine Offense.” 

Following offensive workouts, defensive prospects took the field to show off their athletic skill sets, including Badger linebacker Zack Baun. Like his fellow Badgers, Baun got off to an electric start, clocking in 24 reps of 225 lbs in the bench press event (good for third out of 27 linebackers). 

Baun didn’t stop there though, as he proceeded to dominate his other on-field events. Baun showcased his agility and speed with a 4.45 40 yard dash (13th out of 30), seven second 3-cone drill (fifth out of 18), and a 4.31 second 20-yard shuttle (10th out of 19). 

Baun struggled slightly in the vertical tests, recording a 32.5’’ vertical jump (tied for 19th out of 31), and a 115’’ broad jump (27th of 31). However, these drills are more important for prospects at other positions, and Baun’s draft stock will likely not be impacted by these numbers. 

Along with his on-field work, Baun excelled in his interviews and press coverage. Hailing from Brown Deer, WI, Baun shared his experience in high school, where he predominantly played quarterback. According to Baun, playing quarterback significantly helped his athleticism and ability to be patient — skills that were frequently displayed in college. Due to this success, he was also awarded a spot on Shook’s “2020 All-Combine Defense.”     

Although there were four Badgers invited to the NFL combine, only three took the field to participate in drills. Center Tyler Biadasz was unable to participate in events, due to what reports have deemed an AC joint issue. When asked about the issue, Biadasz stated he recently had a scope on his AC joint and likely won’t be cleared for play until late April.

However, this shouldn’t cause any impact on his draft stock due to his impressive career as a Badger. 

Biadasz was a unanimous All-American selection in 2019 and honored with the Rimington award for most outstanding center, something never before given to a Wisconsin offensive linemen. In addition, his appearances in 41 consecutive games from 2017-2019 should erase all concerns on being injury-prone.    

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