MADISON -- For the Wisconsin Badgers' draft hopefuls not invited to the NFL combine, Wednesday's Pro Day in Madison was their one chance to appeal to the 31 members of NFL personnel representing 26 different teams in attendance.
Other than the five Division III athletes working out in Madison, the Pro Day really isn't much different than the combine, simply in a much smaller venue with less media coverage.
The 12 Badgers in attendance represented themselves well, and some certainly made themselves a little more money than they were in line to make. Tanner McEvoy, Joe Schobert and Joel Stave did not run on Wednesday, which put some extra attention on the others in attendance.
The following players worked out Wednesday:
- Mike Caputo
- Alex Erickson
- Darius Hillary
- Shelton Johnson
- Tyler Marz
- Drew Meyer
- Tanner McEvoy
- Joe Schobert
- Joel Stave
- Austin Traylor
- Derek Watt
- Isiah Cage (UW-Eau Claire)
- Aaron Karlan (UW-Stevens Point)
- Zach Kasuboski (UW-Oshkosh)
- Andrew Robinson (UW-Platteville)
- Joe Sommers (UW-Oshkosh)
Alex Erickson was definitely one of the standouts in the McClain Center on Wednesday. Erickson, who was oddly not invited to any postseason all-star games or to the combine after posting an All-Big Ten First Team season as a senior, took advantage of his opportunity. Starting with an official 40 time of 4.44, Erickson showed that he has the speed to make a difference at the next level. Another test that will be to his advantage was his pro agility time. Often called or referred to as a "5-10-5" drill, Erickson posted a 3.88, a head-turning time. He also posted very respectable numbers with a 34.5" vertical and a 9'8" broad jump. Erickson definitely boosted his stock with NFL personnel, and will be vying to be a sleeper at the end of the draft or an undrafted free agent.
Another winner from Wednesday's Pro Day was cornerback Darius Hillary. He posted a 4.46 official 40 time, which is a very good time for him. He also impressed with a 35" vertical and posted a 10'5" broad jump, easily the best posted by any prospects in Madison. Hillary will be a mid-to-late-round selection, but he's a high-floor type player, the type of player Wisconsin has been known to produce pretty regularly.
While Michael Caputo also did well, Derek Watt maybe did more so. Watt, with both brothers in attendance, ran a 4.69 with a 33.5" vertical and a 4.19 pro agility. These are all positive numbers, as they will show teams that holds more value than simply a blocking fullback. Watt is extremely comparable to Bradie Ewing, maybe just a tad slower. Watt will excel in special teams in the NFL, either as a kick/punt coverage guy, or as a long snapper. He can also line up at tight end, as the more things you can do, the harder is for team's to cut you.
Overall, the former Badgers all performed pretty well, but there were some less impressive than others. Tanner McEvoy performed well in the events that he participated in: 33.5" on the vertical jump, a 6.89 three cone and a 4.25 pro agility are all encouraging. However, he didn't run a 40, and that's the most disappointing. By no means is this a reflection of McEvoy, rather his draft stock. As he wasn't invited to the combine, pro day was his best chance to show a larger amount of teams what he can do. He said after the workouts were concluded that he was likely suffering from some knee tendinitis. While he caught the ball well, his 40 time would have likely been an impressive one for a person of his size.
The only other player one could maybe say had a bad day would be Jesse Hayes, but that's not true. It wasn't a bad day, his numbers just weren't what the other players had. A participant in the NFLPA game, Hayes had a highlight mid-week with a hit that knocked the feet out from under a running back during practice. However, on Wednesday, his time of 5.03 in the 40 and a 8'9.5" broad jump weren't all that impressive. Hayes will be looking to improve these numbers in private workouts with NFL teams.
Overall, pro day was a win for the participants. It was a job interview in front of NFL personnel, and ultimately the opportunity is all these players can ask for. It shouldn't be surprising if nearly all 12 former Wisconsin players get brought in for opportunities in a minicamp.