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A look ahead: Evaluting Wisconsin's 2017 NFL draft prospects

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It's never too early to look toward the future, right?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft, and how players are valued throughout the process leading up to it, is really a funny thing. The Wisconsin Badgers won 10 games a year ago, and with a fair amount of their contributors leaving, logic would lead you to believe that those players must have been pretty good in order to have that much success. You'd also think that those guys must be good enough to not only play in the NFL, but certainly get drafted, right? I mean they won 10 games, ended the season ranked, and beat a USC team that probably doubles Wisconsin's recruiting success. Shouldn't the Badgers have a bunch of players drafted?

Wrong.

Other than Joe Schobert and Derek Watt, the NFL didn't feel strongly about the rest of the Badgers' prospects for them to be worth a draft pick. Many of the Badgers who left after this past season are destined to be better collegiate players than pro players. This has a lot to do with how Wisconsin's recruiting has been affected due to the coaching attrition over the past few years. Joel Stave, Alex Erickson and Schobert were all former walk-ons, as are current players like Dare Ogunbowale and Jack Cichy. So where are all the scholarship athletes?

That should change soon, as two of the higher-profile recruits in recent memory for the Badgers will be entering their final seasons in Madison. Here are Wisconsin's top five draft prospects for 2017:

1. Vince Biegel, OLB, 6'4, 245 pounds

A former four-star recruit from Wisconsin Rapids, Biegel will be a three-year starter for the Badgers, all at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Biegel has been the Badgers' most feared pass rusher, despite Schobert putting up better statistics. Biegel, unlike Schobert, also projects to be able to play the same position in the NFL. Had Biegel declared this season, he likely would have been a Day 2 selection. A good season, as well as some improvement to his pass rush moves and more solid tape in coverage, could bump him up into solid second-round consideration.

2. Corey Clement, RB, 5'11, 214 pounds

A former four-star recruit from Glassboro, N.J., Clement has a chance to reclaim his spot as the top rusher in the Big Ten this upcoming season. Clement's combination of speed, burst and strength allows him to run with impressive balance for a larger back. Thick throughout his physique, Clement has the potential to be a 1,500-yard rusher, and that's while sharing carries with Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal. Clement, as of right now, is likely a third-or-fourth-round pick, solely off of how the NFL values the position.

3. Dan Voltz, OL, 6'3, 301 pounds

A former four-star recruit from Barrington, Ill., Voltz will look to have a healthy fourth season as a starter for the Badgers. Hampered by injuries in all three of his seasons as the pivot, he will either play his customary center position, or he may move to guard, where he played in high school. Voltz is as good as most in the Big Ten when healthy, so that'll be the caveat moving throughout the 2016 season. If he's healthy, he's likely a fourth-round projection. The NFL needs quality offensive linemen.

4. Robert Wheelright, WR, 6'3, 203 pounds

A former four-star recruit from Columbus, Ohio, Wheelright will look to fulfill that potential during his final season in Madison. Largely unproductive for his first two seasons, Wheelright possesses the frame and athletic ability that scouts look for in today's NFL. His one-handed catch vs. USC was a nice way to make up for missing a couple games due to injury at the end of the regular season. Wheelright isn't a burner, but his frame provides potential if he can become a bit more sure-handed. He's a Day 3 prospect at this point.

5. Sojourn Shelton, CB, 5'9, 173 pounds

A former three-star recruit from Plantation, Fla., Shelton will end up a four-year starter for Wisconsin. He burst onto the scene during his freshman campaign, but has looked to match that success since. Shelton will be looked on to provide this young secondary with senior leadership and stability, so a nice senior season of production would go well with that role to appeal to the NFL. Shelton is a small corner any way you look at it, but he plays with a chip on his shoulder and he's very scrappy. He's likely a slot cornerback at the next level due to his lack of height and quickness. Look for Shelton to be picked on the third day of the draft, at this point at least.