The NFL Draft starts with the first round on Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT and while no Wisconsin Badgers are expected to be selected until the third day of the Draft, it’s still a fun night of the year for football fans. We gathered the brightest minds that, uh, our B5Q Slack channel had to offer and asked them some questions about the top-rated quarterbacks in the draft, who the Packers (and Eagles, wooooo!) should draft in the first round, where any Badgers players might end up and more!
One of the more heated debates of #DraftSZN has been what order the top quarterbacks should be drafted in. Please rank your top-five QBs, by where you think they should be drafted NOT what you think will actually happen, and explain your work.
Owen: To me it’s fairly easy at the top. Lawrence with a bullet, then Fields. You could convince me either way on how to stack Wilson/Lance (I haven’t studied the QBs this year so I’m not gonna pretend I have). Lance has only started one season but has immense physical tools and is 20 years old. Wilson has a lot of moxie and Manziel-like characteristics and creativity, but is a bit more reckless than you’d like (though it’s easier to pull the reins back than to coax aggressiveness out). Mac Jones is No. 5 but I think he’s a player with a high floor but a lower ceiling than the other four. An Alex Smith type.
Tyler: I think all four outside of Lawrence are bigger question marks than some make them out to be. I like what Trey Lance has shown in his limited time at NDSU. He’s got all the tools and takes care of the football. That for me is what drops Fields down. I just don’t know if I buy it. Sometimes he looks unreal (Clemson) and sometimes he looks lost (Indiana, Northwestern). Add in the track record of Ohio State QB’s in the league and it makes me question if he’s as good as some say. Wilson to me is a bit reckless like Owen said above which makes me a little hesitant there too. Jones I think could be good in the right system but I’d much prefer landing either of the others.
Belz: Lawrence and Fields are an easy 1-2 for me, just like they were in the 2018 recruiting class out of high school. They have been wildly successful at every level they have played at, and their physical traits are higher than any other quarterback in my opinion. I think the rest of the group: Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Zach Wilson are all a bit more of an uncertainty to be honest. Lance and Wilson have probably the highest upside of the three, but Lance has only started for one season at the FCS level while Wilson played phenomenally well in 2020, but was fairly pedestrian in 2019. Mac Jones has the size and was recruited to play at Alabama for a reason, but he is the least mobile and are his numbers inflated by having amazing weapons around him?
If I had to put a pecking order down I would say: Lawrence, Fields, Lance or Wilson (they are both high risk/high reward to me, and then Jones. Taking quarterbacks in the first round has traditionally been a crapshoot, but I think Lawrence and Fields are the safest bets, regardless of if Wilson winds up being selected at No. 2.
Drew: I feel like people have been overthinking the quarterback rankings for this year’s draft. Is there too much time between the end of the season and the draft? Do people just need to say crazy stuff in order to get those sweet, sweet clicks and engagement?
Trevor Lawrence is the top QB prospect in this year’s draft. After that Justin Fields is clearly the second best signal caller in the class. He was dominant at Ohio State and looks the part of a future franchise quarterback. After that, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance round out the top-five. Am I still scarred from having a former NDSU QB be my favorite team’s franchise QB and flaming out spectacularly? Who’s to say.
Who should the Packers (and Eagles!) pick in the first round?
Owen: For the Packers, I’ve kind of narrowed it down to three guys. Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood, Northwestern CB Greg Newsome, and Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham.
Leatherwood has both guard and tackle experience and is a plus athlete for a man of his size. He could be a swing tackle early (if Billy Turner starts at RT), he could play guard (if Elgton Jenkins plays center or RT), or could start at tackle (if Turner plays RG). Newsome would provide Green Bay with two legitimate dudes at cornerback, essentially allowing Kevin King to be CB3 which makes me feel a lot more comfortable. We are still to see how GB’s defense will differ under Joe Barry, but more off coverage is likely in the future, so Newsome will thrive there. Basham is, to me, basically a duplicate of the Rashan Gary pick, just at the right pick. Preston Smith is likely in his last year in Green Bay, and at worst, he’s the 3rd pass rusher behind Z. Smith and Gary moving forward, and could be a starter as early as 2023 if Smith is a cap casualty at any point. Strengthen strengths so they never become weaknesses.
For the Eagles, one of the CBs (Surtain or Horn) or one of the Bama receivers (Smith or Waddle) would all be solid picks for Philly moving forward.
Tyler: The Packers should draft Kyle Trask and watch the state of Wisconsin literally burn to the ground. Alright but seriously I think Green Bay can go a lot of different ways whether it be on the offensive line, at corner or wideout. I personally would like to see a cornerback taken like Caleb Farely or Greg Newsome. Would I be upset if they went to one of the other two? No. Offensive line is always important and the Packers do need a wideout at some point but I think there is enough depth there to get that later.
Eagles? A wideout seems like the too easy answer which does not bode well in Green Bay or Philly. I think a playmaker makes plenty of sense for a team that just doesn’t have a ton of explosiveness right now.
Belz: I know most Eagle fans will want a wide receiver, but with how deep the WR class is I think they should pick someone up in the secondary. If Patrick Surtain II is still around I think he’s the pick, otherwise Caleb Farley would also make a ton of sense if they feel ok about the status of his back procedure. Jaycee Horn is another talented corner that wowed in his pro day.
As a Packer fan I think an offensive lineman would be nice, but depending on how things unfold in front of them I think a defensive player is more likely. GB loves to take edge guys early in the draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do it again. However, for the sake of this exercise I will say either safety Trevon Moehrig of TCU, cornerback Caleb Farley if he falls to them, or Tyson Campbell of Georgia. All three are bigger defensive backs that could be potential fits.
Drew: The Eagles need someone, anyone, that can be a dynamic receiver of the football. Alabama’s WRs DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle would be awesome. Florida’s TE/WR Kyle Pitts would be amazing. However, I think that all three of those guys will be gone by the time the Birds pick at No. 12 and, if one of them is left I think Howie Roseman will talk himself out of selecting them. Soooo, with that being said I think the pick the Eagles make is South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. Cornerback is another huge position of need for the Eagles so this is fine and good...but I really would like an exciting player on offense for Jalen Hurts or ::shudders:: Joe Flacco to throw to this year.
I think the Packers could go two different ways in the first round: corner or offensive line. Why would they ever pick someone that could be a weapon for Aaron Rodgers? They wouldn’t! I think CB Asante Samuel, Jr. out of Florida State would be a nice fit for Green Bay and he could step in right away as the starting nickelback and then take over for Kevin King the following year. As for the o-line, I think Texas OT Samuel Cosmi or Alabama IOL Landon Dickerson would fit in well for Green Bay.
In most mock drafts the only two Wisconsin Badgers that are picked are Day 3 selections CB Rachad Wildgoose and OL Cole Van Lanen. Where would be an ideal spot for the two of them to end up?
Owen: For Wildgoose, in lieu of picking an arbitrary team, I’m going to cop out and say any team that’s going to play a lot of man coverage. New England and Miami (his hometown) both make a lot of sense. Van Lanen could actually be a good fit in Green Bay late in the draft, but Houston or a team that’s going to let him play guard (I’m glad he tested well but I never saw a 90th percentile athlete on his film), he’ll do well.
Tyler: I don’t know of a certain location but I think both will be solid Day 3 steals for a team. Wildgoose can fit in a lot of places because he play inside or out. I think with the right fit he will be a sleeper pick. CVL is going to be a steal too and can move around the line. He’s a Wisconsin lineman...it’ll workout wherever he goes if you just play the percentages.
Belz: I think Wildgoose could make sense for a lot of teams given his physical ability as a tackler and his ability to play on the outside or in the slot. I’ll say either Detroit or New England for him. Cole Van Lanen I think will wind up with a team like the Rams or the Texans late in the draft. Both teams are in need of interior offensive linemen and tackles, he could hypothetically play either at the next level.
Drew: I have seen mock drafts that have either Wildgoose or Van Lanen going to the Eagles and, quite frankly, they both would fill needs on that horrible team, especially if Van Lanen moves inside to play guard. I could see the Ravens taking Van Lanen in the sixth or seventh round as they currently have two Wisconsin natives, UW’s Kevin Zeitler and Michigan’s Ben Bredeson on their o-line, and need some depth after trading starting tackle Orlando Brown to the Chiefs.
As far as Wildgoose goes, a team like the Steelers or the Cardinals (or, again...the Eagles) could make him their second corner picked as all three of those teams need an influx of talent at the position.
Which other Wisconsin player could you see latching on to a team as an UDFA and making a name for himself?
Owen: Because Adam Bay is mentioned twice in here already (at the time of my responses), I’ll say Garrett Groshek. I’ve gone on the record that I think he’ll make a practice squad or at the very least be WAY too hard to cut than he should be.
Tyler: I would agree with Owen and say Groshek. I think he can play in the league or make teams look twice once he’s camp. He’s a guy that has had a chip on his shoulder and found a way throughout his career. You need those guys on your roster or on your practice squad. I hope he does land somewhere.
Belz: Adam Bay is the top long snapper, but I also think Isiahh Loudermilk is a player that could find a home. He is a massive human that was a multi-year starter for the Badgers. His size alone will give him a chance in the league. If he is able to stay healthy and demonstrates his versatility in a camp setting, he could make a roster.
Drew: I see no reason why LS Adam Bay shouldn’t have a decade-long NFL career. Some smart team will snap him up and not worry about the position until 2032.
Looking ahead to 2022, because why the hell not, who do you think will be the top Wisconsin NFL Draft prospect?
Owen: Realistically, Jake Ferguson and Jack Sanborn are the easy answers. However, for the sake of variety, Faion Hicks has received some attention on Twitter before, and I think he could find his way onto more radars with a full season in 2021.
Tyler: Mickey Turner made it sound like Barry’s gran...I mean Jake Ferguson has really grown in spring ball. Add in that he’ll hopefully be healthy, and the offense wont be completely out of sync, and I think he’s due for a big year. Sanborn will be a solid player wherever he ends up, just a tackling machine like Ryan Connelly. Benton, Hicks can make jumps up for sure with big years.
Belz: Like Drew mentioned I think Benton is a player to keep an eye on, especially if he has a big year. However, I think Jake Ferguson will be the first player off the board. He could have a nice senior campaign with a full complement of wide receivers potentially available. Last season teams were able to key on him once Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis went down, and his blocking ability has steadily improved. Jack Sanborn is another guy that could enter the conversation if he produces at a high level.
Drew: If he goes pro, Keeanu Benton will be the first Badger off the board, but I’m not sure he will. Of the seniors on the roster I like CB Faion Hicks to have a big final year in Madison and move him up to a late Day 2/early Day 3 pick for UW.