You will not find anyone in Madison with a cross word to say about Jared Abbrederis. From his work ethic to his character and his play on the field at a position where help had a tendency not to be around, you have a player who's pretty close to universally well-liked. But if a well-liked collegian was guaranteed NFL success, Tim Tebow would have won three Super Bowls by now.
But we're moving up. The pros beckon. Abbrederis will be drafted, there's no question of if here at all. The real question is what is a team going to get in him. Is the Wautoma, Wis., native bound to make magic in the pros?
He's definitely going to be a media favorite from jump street. The narrative writes itself: A walk-on quarterback who took to the wide receiver position so well he played regularly as a redshirt freshman and grew into one of the best the Badgers have ever had at the position. There will be adjectives. Truck commercial adjectives by the paragraph.
But this sells Abbrederis short. He's definitely football-intelligent, and no one is doubting the toughness or the character. But here's the secret: Jared is a good athlete, and arguably the best cornerback he faced had to deal with him one-on-one and got eaten alive. Sure, Ohio State's Bradley Roby has probably been slandered in front offices about the nation for being a man of low moral fiber, but Abbrederis' 10 catches and 207 yards on one of the higher-upside players in the draft isn't just on grit and pluck and other sports forum-based adjectives.
Of course, Abbrederis comes in close to a finished product. He has top-notch route-running skills, with a double-move or two in his bag of tricks that would get him open deep. He also has very soft hands, and was forced to develop a good catch radius in the past couple of seasons for no particular reason. He keeps good control of his body, and will consistently be in the right spot for the ball.
Also, he's good at finding a way to get off the jam through hand-fighting. There's going to be an adjustment process between Madison and his pro destination, but between the underrated athleticism and the bag of tricks in the passing game, Abbrederis is a definite high-value selection in Round 3 even when you discount the whole "need to block well to start at receiver in Wisconsin."
What's more worrisome is the fact that Abbrederis does have a problem getting back to full speed quickly when he's forced to break stride on a play. This never happened in Madison, as the quarterbacking was sublime. But with athleticism that is best described as underrated? it is the one trick Abby could stand to improve.
The most worrisome thing? He dealt with a few concussions, as he missed six quarters in 2012, was knocked out of that year's Penn State game and this year's Northwestern game. He also had to miss time in the Iowa game with a chest injury this past season. He's been able to manage pain well otherwise, but if he somehow slides into the weekend, this will likely be the cause.
All in all, if you're getting Jared Abbrederis, you're getting someone who can be a quarterback's best friend. He can save bad quarterbacks and turn good ones into something special. He played under three different offensive coordinators in his final three years as a Badger and grew into a star despite that potential mess.
I know some would expect me to throw out some sort of lazy, racially-matching comparison, but I'll be honest -- Abbrederis isn't Eric Decker or a not-racist Riley Cooper. He's on that Derrick Mason path. He's got polished skills and underrated athleticism. Mason had a fine, lengthy career. With good health, Abbrederis should do the same.