As the Good Ship Badger makes the transition from the hustle and bustle of the season to the murky, fog-filled waters of this thing called "the offseason," we can cast our eyes back to the past and into the future. Hopes, dreams, inspiration and flowery prose live here.
Today, we're going to get started on the NFL Draft side of the equation with a tale of the left tackle who did not have the senior year that everyone had expected going in. Today, we're discussing Ricky Wagner.
What's good about Wagner is that he's got some real experience on the offensive line. He made 36 starts at both left and right tackle in his three seasons as a starter for the Badgers. He also chose to play football despite having five scholarship offers to play Division I basketball at two-hundred-and-forty pounds, and after ending his career in Madison over three hundred pounds, the fact that he seems to have maintained most of his athleticism is impressive.
Wagner will likely be at right tackle on your depth chart, but here's the thing. If he had to move to the opposite side of the ball, he could still do some things well. I know there were some issues in the Senior Bowl in handling the elitest of the speed rushers, but his pass-blocking technique has been generally solid and he can move and punch pass rushers away from a quarterback's blind side if he has to.
That being said? There's a certain archetype that the Badgers' offensive linemen have. They're big, beefy and they just maul people in the trenches who find themselves a little short in the pass-blocking game. Wagner's different. You saw it at the NFL Combine. It's not just the fact that Wagner only threw up 20 reps on the bench press. Wagner's never been a mauler. He can make running lanes and open holes. But even in preseason scouting reports, from where there was talk of him as a first-round pick, Wagner was considered to be a player who had issues sustaining his blocks.
And after this year? Wagner still has some serious questions about his technique.
Boy Ricky Wagner sure did a lot of holding at Wisconsin. Fights up under shoulder pads on the outside and grips. Won't work in the NFL.— Alex Dunlap (@AlexDunlapNFL) April 1, 2013
The other thing is -- while a good offensive line coach will probably get him to tighten up the technique and he can improve his strength -- Wagner might be at his peak athletic level. And this means his ceiling may not be as high as a fifth-round offensive tackle's could be.
But all in all? If you're in Day 3 of the NFL Draft and you're looking for someone who could well be a third tackle on your team with relative speed, Ricky Wagner's a strong choice. But for someone who could have been a first-round pick with a good season? He's going into his NFL career with a lot more to prove than he could have.