Thursday, January 2, 2014

Building The 53 - Top 25 Wisconsin Badger NFL Prospects from 2014 Capital One Bowl

The 19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers played the 8th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks for the first time in the 2014 Capital One Bowl.  This marks the second time in three years that the Gamecocks played in the Capitol One Bowl, two years ago they beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 30-13.  The last time the Badgers appeared in the Capitol One Bowl was 2006 when then first-year Badger head coach Bret Bielema beat the Arkansas Razorbacks 17-14.  Bielema left Wisconsin to become the head coach at Arkansas between the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game and the 2013 Rose Bowl.

Unfortunately the Badgers continued their struggles in bowl games losing their fourth in a row. The Badgers lost three consecutive Rose Bowls: 21-19 to TCU in 2011, 45-38 to Oregon in 2012, and 20-14 to Stanford in 2013.  Following their 34-24 loss to the Gamecocks in the 2014 Capital One Bowl that means the last time the Badgers won a bowl game was the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl 20-14 over Miami.

The Gamecocks have a number of players that will play in the NFL.  The headliner of that group is junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney that declared for the 2014 NFL Draft right after the Capital One Bowl since he will most likely be the top pick. Other Gamecocks that impressed me were quarterback Connor Shaw, running back Mike Davis, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, and linebacker Skai Moore.

There are a number of other outlets where you can get the full recap of the 2014 Capitol One Bowl but I am much more interested in what Badgers from the 2014 Capital One Bowl will succeed in the NFL.  A college player must have been out of high school for three years in order to be eligible for the NFL Draft.  That means if a player red-shirts, he could technically enter the NFL Draft as a red-shirt ("RS") sophomore.  Any underclassmen (RS Sophomore, Junior, or RS Junior) must declare for the 2014 NFL Draft by January 15, 2014.  Here are the Top 25 NFL prospects current on the Badgers' roster:

#25) Young Non-Starting Offensive Lineman:  Seven Badger offensive lineman were taken in the NFL Draft the last three years, which is the most of any school in the country so there is a good chance that one of the following young Badger offensive lineman will be playing in the NFL in three or four years: Ray Ball (SO, G, 6'7" & 321 lbs), Hayden Biegel (FR, T, 6'6" & 281 lbs), Ben Hemer (FR, OL, 6'4" & 275 lbs), Walker Williams (FR, T, 6'7" & 322 lbs), or one of the handful of other big uglies not currently listed on the depth chart.

#24) Kenzel Doe (KR/WR, JR): Every year there is a slightly built but speedy return guy that makes a splash in the NFL.  Doe had a big return in the 2014 Capitol One Bowl to bring the Badgers within three points.  Those are the kind of game-changing plays that could catapult Doe from an undrafted rookie free agent in the 2015 NFL Draft to a spot on the practice squad or even The 53 of an NFL team in 2015.

#23) Vince Biegel (OLB, RS FR): If Biegel can improve his pass rushing moves, look for him to climb this rankings quickly and turn into a nice prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

#22) Pat Muldoon (DE, RS SR): This season Muldoon was named All-Big Ten honorable mention but I am not sure that is enough to get him selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.

#21) Ethan Hemer (DE/OLB, SR): Went from walk-on to finally earning a scholarship a year ago.  At 6'6" and 285 lbs, it will be interesting to see if Hemer can go through a Mike Neal-esque transition from defensive line to outside linebacker in the NFL.  Much like Muldoon, I expect Hemer to go undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft.

#20) Derek Landisch (LB, JR): Despite being a middle-of-the-road recruit, Landisch was named Rookie of the Year in 2011.  Landisch's slight build at 6'0" and 230 lbs means he will really have to show well next season to get selected in the 2015 NFL Draft.

#19) Dan Voltz (C, RS FR): Came to Wisconsin as a tackle/guard but has seen action at center so far for the Badgers.  There is a chance that Voltz could swing to one of the guard positions but given that he is only 6'3", I would be shocked if he got a chance at tackle.  Needs to focus on one position to improve and give scours tape to judge whether he looks like a real NFL prospect.

#18) Dallas Lewallen (C, RS JR): Next season is going to be big for Lewallen because injuries really made it hard to tell whether he can play on Sundays.

#17) Kyle Costigan (RG, RS JR): Switched from defensive line to offensive line before the 2012 season.  The transition has gone better than I expected.  Hopefully with another year under his belt next season he will show enough to get drafted towards the end of the 2015 NFL Draft.

#16) Bart Houston (QB, FR):  The former De La Salle High School player had shoulder surgery on December 1, 2012 and only played in two games this season for the Badgers.  At 6'4" and 214 lbs, Houston projects as an athletic spinner with a good chance to start at quarterback for the Badgers in 2015.

#15) Derek Watt (FB, SO): The cliche description of Watt is to talk about his older brother J.J. but let's focus on Derek.  With all the spread offenses run in college and the NFL, the fullback position is continuing to be marginalized.  That means guys like Watt need to be one of the three or four best at the position along with showing that he can be a contributor on special teams in the NFL if he wants to play on Sunday.  I see Watt as a late round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

#14) Joel Stave (QB, RS SO): I really only ranked Stave this high because he plays quarterback.  Stave commits way too many turnovers, which is unacceptable given that the Badgers have arguably the most productive two-headed running back monster in college football.  With 19 games under his belt, the Badgers expect more from Stave.

#13) Beau Allen (DT, SR): I am shocked how many big-time Minnesota recruits in basketball and football decide to go to Wisconsin over Minnesota.  Allen is the next in a long line of natives of Minnesota that chose to become a Badgers over settling for being a Gopher.  It feels like Allen has been at Wisconsin for a million years given that he has played all four years.  Not sure whether Allen will get drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft but at 6'3" and 325 lbs he looks like a big enough space eater to play in the NFL.

#12) Dezmen Southward (S, RS SR): I was tempted to move Southward much higher on this list given that he is 6'2 and 210 lbs but he did not make enough plays on the field to warrant a higher ranking.  The safety position is weak in the 2014 NFL Draft after Alabama safety Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix.  If Southward tests well at the NFL Combine and Wisconsin's Pro Day, I could see him creeping up the draft board to possibly be a late round draftee in the 2014 NFL Draft.

#11) Tanner McEvoy (QB/S, RS SO): Let me set the stage.  McEvoy red-shirted for the Gamecocks in 2011 before transferring to Arizona Western College where he excelled at quarterback.  The Badgers played McEvoy at safety even though they are going to give him a chance to win the starting quarterback job next season.  Sure McEvoy might be able to spin the ball but at 6'6" and 223 lbs, given the proliferation of all the tall tight ends and wide receivers in the NFL, I would rather see McEvoy stick at safety since there are very few safeties even 6'2" in the NFL let alone 6'6".

#10) Tyler Marz (LT, RS SO): The NFL is looking for the next Joe Thomas as opposed to Gabe Carimi to come out of Wisconsin.  Meritz clearly had the body to be Thomas but those are pretty big shoes to fill given that Thomas is the best offensive lineman in program history.

#9) Corey Clement (FR, RB): Usually the Badgers have a nice stable of running backs but last year was their high watermark in program history with Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon because there is a chance that all three of those guys will get meaningful carries in the NFL by 2015.  With Ball getting drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, everyone moved up one spot in the pecking order with White replacing Ball, Gordon replacing White, and Clement replacing Gordon.  In limited action this season Clement looks like the next coming of Melvin Gordon.  How healthy Clement stays will determine whether he turns into a bona fide NFL prospect by the 2016 NFL Draft.

#8) Michael Caputo (S, RS SO): One of the surest tacklers on the team gives the Badgers a real thumper at safety.  Caputo needs to put on some more muscle because I am still not sure he is strong enough to play on Sundays yet but given that he has the ball skills, two years in the weight room could turn him into a mid-round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

#7) James White (RB, SR): After an impressive freshman season, White has been under the radar as he was overshadowed by Montee Ball the last couple years and Melvin Gordon this year.  Given White's shiftiness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, I see him as a poor man's Darren Sproles in the NFL.  I see White as a late round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft that could be a one of the steals of the draft.

#6) Rob Havenstein (RT, RS JR): At 6'8" and 327 lbs, Havenstein is almost has too big of a frame for the NFL but if Havenstein can perform well while staying healthy, look for him to be a mid-round prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft.

#5) Ryan Groy (LG, SR):  Although guard looks like his best position, Groy can play any position along the offensive line so I see him being the eighth Badger offensive lineman drafted in the last four years.

#4) Sojourn Shelton (CB, FR): Although Shelton is only 5'9" & 172 pounds, he has been the most consistent defensive back on the team while leading the Badgers in interceptions.  Shelton is a pretty good tackler as well despite his slight frame.  If Shelton continues on his current trajectory, he might even sneak into the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. 

#3) Jared Abbrederis (WR, RS SR): Walk-on turned NFL draftee projects as a poor man's Jordy Nelson in the NFL.  I see Abbrederis as a mid-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft unless he can put up impressive numbers at the NFL combine and his pro day to improve his draft stock.

#2) Chris Borland (LB, SR): The first Badger defender named an All American since defensive end Erasmus James in 2004 is probably the best defensive player in program history.  Given all the injuries that Borland overcame in college, there is no question that he has the mental fortitude to play in the NFL.  Borland plays middle linebacker though so at 5'11" and 246 lbs we are probably looking at the defensive Russell Wilson, which means Borland will drop a little too far in the 2014 NFL Draft and three years from now the other 31 NFL teams will ask their scouting department why they didn't advise taking Borland earlier in the 2014 NFL Draft.  After watching Borland's entire career, trust me, whatever NFL team drafts him will not regret that decision.  My guess is that Borland goes in the 3rd round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

#1) Melvin Gordon (RB, RS SO): Although Gordon is eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft, he recently announced that he is going to return to return for his junior season.  No disrespect to Ron Dayne or Montee Ball but even before the season there was talk that Gordon could be the best running back in Badger history.   If Gordon declared for the draft I would rate him as a late first or early second round pick.  Hopefully Gordon will put together a Heisman worthy season next year for the Badgers to make a push for the Top 10 in the 2015 NFL Draft.

If you enjoyed my extended thoughts on the best NFL prospects for the Badgers, make sure to check back as we get closer to the 2014 NFL Draft for even more draft coverage.

No comments:

Post a Comment