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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Leo Chenal-6.jpg

NFL Draft preview: Where will our Badgers end up?

Next Thursday, the National Football League will hold the 2022 NFL Draft live from Las Vegas. The Wisconsin Badgers have several top prospects in this year’s draft class, including three players with All-Big Ten honors. But where will they end up?

Leo Chenal - LB

Pro Comparison: Demario Davis

Projected round: Round 2

Potential Teams: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets

The star of this year’s class of NFL-ready Badgers is Leo Chenal. The Grantsburg, Wisconsin native was nothing short of a force on the nationwide-best Badgers defense this season, racking up 115 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. After a dominant year, Chenal was named first-team All-Big Ten and received the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award, designated for the top linebacker in the Big Ten. Leo is an athletic freak—he scored a 9.99 RAS at the Combine out of a possible 10.00, which ranked fourth out of 2,188 linebackers from 1987 to 2022—and thrives in both run defense and pass rush. Where Chenal struggles is in coverage—he lacks NFL-level change-of-direction speed which is crucial in a league where linebackers are assigned to cover dynamic playmakers like Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Regardless, coverage skills can be taught—but Chenal’s pure athleticism can’t.

Jack Sanborn - LB

Pro Comparison: Kyle Van Noy (if he was an ILB)

Projected Round: Round 4

Potential Teams: Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders

The Badgers boasted not one but two All-Big Ten linebackers in 2021, with linebacker Jack Sanborn complementing the aforementioned Leo Chenal. Sanborn was a crucial member of the Badgers’ defense since his sophomore season and had his best output this past year, racking up 89 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and five sacks. Like Chenal, Sanborn thrives in both pass rush and run defense. However, Sanborn lacks the eye-popping athleticism his counterpart behind the line has, and as a result he will likely drop in the draft. Look for a team like the Seattle Seahawks or Las Vegas Raiders to target Sanborn in round four.

Jake Ferguson - TE

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Pro Comparison: Owen Daniels

Projected Round: Round 4

Potential Teams: Green Bay Packers, Washington Commanders, New York Giants

Barry Alvarez’s grandson has finally declared for the NFL Draft after a spectacular four-year career at Wisconsin. Ferguson could be seen as a high ceiling, low floor prospect at the tight end position. He thrives in his ability to catch any pass thrown to him, and he regularly bailed out both Jack Coan and Graham Mertz when they were under pressure. Where Ferguson desperately needs to improve is pass protection, as he struggled against edge rushers like George Karlaftis and Boye Mafe. However, after notching All-Big Ten honors this past season and performing excellently at the Senior Bowl, Ferguson should go around the third or fourth round, especially in a draft mostly devoid of tight end talent.

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