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2021 NFL Draft: Way-Too-Early look at Badgers offensive prospects

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I know you’re all thinking about it.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Alright look. I’ve been thinking about it. You’ve been thinking about it. It’s okay, this is a safe space.

We’re all thinking about the 2021 NFL Draft.

While our brains are turning to mush during the pandemic, there’s no better place to put your outlook than into 2021, when things are hopefully less fucked up back to normal.

The 2020-21 rendition of the Wisconsin Badgers will have an interesting combination of prospects, though likely will lack a headliner like the last couple of seasons have given us. By my count (educated guess), there will be six players on the offensive side of the football who should garner looks from the NFL, and four realistic options on defense. The further we get into Paul Chryst’s classes (this will be his second full class of recruits), the more pro prospects there should be, as the depth of the classes (hopefully) should continue to be improved as they get away from the attrition filled classes with transfers/injuries.

Offense

Jack Coan, Senior, Quarterback, 6-foot-3, 221 pounds

Coan, to me, is like Scott Tolzien-lite. He’s hyper efficient, is mobile enough to extend plays and even score at times, but lacks the arm strength to be a legitimate professional prospect. Multiple times last year on deep passes to Quintez Cephus, the ball fluttered and eventually led to interceptions because Coan simply couldn’t push the ball deep enough vertically.

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Coan (I predict he’ll start this season), will leave Madison as a two plus year starter, and will check a lot of boxes for scouts. Experience under center. Top competition. Has called actual plays in the huddle. Has experience making both protection checks and run checks at the line of scrimmage. Back to the defense play-action concepts. Athleticism. However, he simply doesn’t have the juice in his arm to be more than a potential day three pick but more likely an undrafted free agent. Think Jake Fromm, but not in the SEC.

Prediction: Round 7-UDFA

Garrett Groshek, Redshirt Senior, Running Back, 5-foot-11, 220 pounds

Though I swear Garrett Groshek has been in Madison since Gary Andersen, he’ll finally play his final season for UW this year, and he’s done an incredible job of displaying his talents throughout his career as a Badger.

Groshek will never be even an average athlete as a pro, but he simply does everything he’s asked to do well. He’s an effective third down back - pass protection, draw plays, screens, catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s played special teams. He’s going to be tough to cut, but likely just doesn’t have the athleticism or juice to make an NFL team. Simply put, Groshek isn’t good enough as a true tailback to likely warrant a spot in the league.

Prediction: UDFA

Kendric Pryor, Redshirt Senior, Wide Receiver, 5-foot-11, 180 pounds

A victim of the Badgers’ offense, as well as a stacked (for Wisconsin standards) wide receiver room, Pryor should finally have the chance to be a featured target as a senior. He’s made a lot of plays during his career, including a couple touchdowns on end arounds.

Pryor is probably a high 4.4s guy, evidenced two years ago when against Purdue, he ran stride for stride with Jonathan Taylor on his 80-yard touchdown run and threw the scoring block way downfield. A lot of his usage has been from in the slot and used on jet sweeps and other gimmick plays. A more diverse route tree could help Pryor’s evaluation. He’s showed reliable hands throughout his career, and his stock could vary a bit depending on his production this season.

Prediction: UDFA

Danny Davis III, Senior, Wide Receiver, 6-foot, 194 pounds

In the same boat as Pryor, Davis probably could have had a much more productive career had he gone elsewhere, or the wide receiver room not been as deep and talented as it’s been in Madison over the past 3-4 years. Davis really burst onto the scene as a freshman, but has seemingly been unable to replicate his freshman form over the past two seasons.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Iowa at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Davis was an effective deep threat his first season, but has been used more as a possession and intermediate target over the past two seasons. With Wisconsin needing some roles to be filled in the receiver room, Davis should be able to more comprehensively show his skill set in 2020-21. He’s probably a 4.6 guy but his ball-in-hand skills are notable. Plays more like a running back with the ball. Will likely need a big season to get on any radars more than as a priority free agent target.

Prediction: Round 7-UDFA

Jake Ferguson, Redshirt Junior, Tight End, 6-foot-5, 246 pounds

Did you know that he’s Barry Alvarez’s grandson!? In all seriousness, Ferguson is the only underclassman I’m listing in this article, and that’s only because for some reason there was some thought that he was going to leave prior to this upcoming season.

Ferguson is the next in line of Badger tight ends to be solid NFL prospects that should likely go on early to mid day three of the draft. He’s improved a ton as a run blocker during his time on campus, but his soft hands and ability to make defenders miss after the catch despite his lack of twitch are what will make him appeal to NFL clubs. His experience both in-line as a blocker, as well as flexed out as a wide receiver in trips formations will also help expedite his transition to the next level, as he was a wide receiver in high school.

Prediction: Round 3-5

Cole Van Lanen, Redshirt Senior, Offensive Tackle, 6-foot-5, 312 pounds

One of the top recruits of the Chryst-era, Van Lanen waited his turn, co-starting at left tackle with Jon Dietzen in 2018 before starting at left tackle in 2019. A former 4-star recruit out of Bay Port (Green Bay), Van Lanen will likely be the next in the long, long line of Badger offensive linemen in the NFL.

While he plays tackle in college, I suspect he may project inside to guard in the NFL to cover up some athletic shortcomings. He’s not a bad athlete, but in the NFL there’s such a fine line on the edge with the amount of talent at edge rusher, I’m not convinced Van Lanen’s best spot is at tackle long term. He’s a road grader in the run game, and that’s where he’ll make his money. He’s functional as a pass protector, and I think another season of experience will help him continue to develop in pass protection.

Prediction: Round 4-6

Losing Jonathan Taylor from this group hurts it’s upper level potential, but overall a solid group of prospects for a “down” year. Next year, this group could look a lot different, with multiple offensive linemen and surely players yet to make their impact.

In the next article, we’ll take a look at the defensive prospects heading into the 2020-21 season.