This group of Wisconsin Badgers looking to extend their playing careers has been through a lot. They've played for three head coaches, lost two Rose Bowls and ended on a high note, beating college football blueblood USC in the Holiday Bowl last Dec. 30.
However, collegiate success isn't always indicative of NFL success. Southern Utah for instance, a FCS program, will have two, potentially three players drafted. I'd say that Wisconsin is about on that same pace. Considering the lack of talent the Badgers had on the team this season, relative to others, two to three draft picks isn't a bad haul, and certainly doesn't hurt on the recruiting trails.
In this exercise, I'm going to "mock" where this year's group of Badgers might end up.
With the 132nd pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens select: Joe Schobert, LB, Wisconsin
Baltimore decides to use one of its three fourth-round compensatory selections on the All-American linebacker from the Badgers. Schobert was a sack master his final season in Madison, but projects as a SAM linebacker in Baltimore's 4-3 hybrid scheme. He'll also be used as a situational pass rusher, as well as a special teams contributor. A solid value and a nice landing spot for both parties here.
With the 195th pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Houston Texans select: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Bill O'Brien was present in Madison for Wisconsin's pro day, and reportedly took a liking to the winningest quarterback in school history. Stave fits the mold of an O'Brien quarterback: a tall, solid passer in the pocket who excels in play-action passing. Stave is likely a practice-squad guy for a year, but he'll stick as a third-quarterback, or even a backup, for a few years. His football intelligence and moxie in the film room helps his case.
With the 216th pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select: Tyler Marz, OL, Wisconsin
Dallas adds some depth to its offensive line here with Marz. A three-year starter at left tackle for the Badgers, Marz projects as a guard at the next level. A typical Wisconsin offensive lineman, he's better in a phone booth, but could play right tackle in a pinch. He gets the most out of his natural talents. Marz joins former teammate Travis Frederick on the Cowboys' offensive line.
With the 249th pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs select: Tanner McEvoy, ATH, Wisconsin
In this instance, the Chiefs would likely be drafting McEvoy as a flex tight end. Kansas City often employs three tight ends, and the more athletes it can put on the field while still making the defense respect the running game, the better for Andy Reid. McEvoy is very green and all potential at this point, but after a year or two in the weight room and on a practice squad, he should develop into a nice swiss army knife on offense and special teams.
Priority free agents
WR Alex Erickson, Miami Dolphins: Erickson has been a bit under-the-radar since the season ended, being overlooked for the major collegiate all-star games despite being a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2015. Miami met with Erickson extensively at his pro day, and the Dolphins will look to leverage that into Erickson choosing to take his talents to South Beach. (I'll see myself to the door.)
FB Derek Watt, Houston Texans: Houston is one of the few teams in the league that still employs fullbacks, and this may be some lazy analysis, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Texans' best player doesn't make a push to have his little brother in town with him.
DB Darius Hillary, Carolina Panthers: Hillary is an interesting case. Despite starting for the past two years, he hasn't had a ton of production. However, he tested very well at Wisconsin's pro day, and teams surely took notice. Carolina plays a bit of off-man and zone; this scheme fits Hillary pretty well, as it doesn't force him to be super physical at the line of scrimmage.
DB Michael Caputo, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have brought in players like Caputo in the past, more football player than athlete, but who will come in and work their tails off for a chance. He'll play every special team and can provide depth at safety.
LB Jesse Hayes, Cincinnati Bengals: The son and nephew of NFL coaches, Hayes got an invite to the NFLPA All-Star Game in California and had one of the more noteworthy hits of the week in practice. Fairly flexible in scheme, Hayes fits as a SAM linebacker for Cincinnati.