Badgers Draft Preview

With the annual NFL draft beginning tonight in New York City, at least 10 former Wisconsin players are hoping to hear their name called over the three day event. BadgerNation looks at the candidates.

After all the workouts, combines and in-person meetings over with, the only thing now for a select few former Wisconsin football players to do now is wait and hope to hear their name called over the next three days of the NFL Draft.

Last year Wisconsin had three players selected in the first five rounds of the draft, including an addition three players sign free agent contracts. Scouts believe at least five former Wisconsin players could be selected during the event, which begins tonight with the first round at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Below is the order I believe these former Badgers will come off the board.

Chris Borland - second round:

There's a possibility that Borland could sneak into the late first round, which would make it four straight years a Wisconsin player was selected. Borland would likely be a first round pick if he was a little taller or had more speed but due to his limitations and injury concerns, it will scare some teams off.

The one thing you can't knock Borland is his heart and love of the game. During his time at Wisconsin, Borland finished in the top five in school history in solo tackles (234), tackles for loss (50) and is the all-time leader in fumbles forced in his career (15). Although Borland doesn't have the speed scouts are looking for, he makes up for with his instincts and his ability to always be able to find a way to make a play. One of Borland's best plays of the year came against Ohio State when he was able to stuff Ohio State's running back Carlos Hyde at the one-yard line preventing him from scoring.

Borland is going to have to go to a team that has a good defensive line where it will allow him to continue to be a productive player. The Green Bay Packers or Denver Broncos could be fits for Borland due to both teams having a need at the inside linebacker position.

Jared Abbrederis - third or fourth round: Like Borland, Abbrederis became one of the most productive players in Wisconsin history after accumulating 202 receptions for 3,140 yards, and 23 touchdowns. This year's wide receiver class is talented and deep, which will push Abbrederis down draft boards. The deep class, however, may allow Abbrederis to find himself in a good landing spot.

Abbrederis was able to catch scouts attention after he was able to consistently beat Ohio State's Bradley Roby, where he was able to show his reliable hands and his route running ability. The knock on Abbrederis is he struggles at times against bigger cornerbacks. Abbrederis may not necessarily see the field a lot in his rookie year but what will help him is the fact that he has shown the ability to play special teams, particularly in the return game.

Abbrederis could find a home either in San Francisco or for the Carolina Panthers. Even though the 49ers already have proven wide receivers in Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, there's not a lot depth behind them. I think the Panthers will be the team that ends up drafting Abbrederis. The Panthers' cupboard is practically bare at the wide receiver position.

James White – fifth or sixth round: No one is going to mistake White as a three-down back but he showed during the draft process that he has the ability to come in and help a team on third down with his ability to catch the football. White tied for second on the team with 39 receptions and was third with 300 receiving yards. Throughout the draft process White has shown with his 4.57 40-yard dash speed that he can accelerate when he hits the hole and can beat defenders in space. With running back decreasing in value due to the NFL becoming a pass-first league, White should be able to carve out a nice NFL career with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

The New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears or San Diego Chargers all could be good fits for White. The Saints lost running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles during the offseason and could be looking for somebody to replace him in their offense. The Chargers have always had success with players who have the ability to catch the football out of the backfield, and White could help the Chargers in the passing game.

Ryan Groy - sixth round: It may take a couple of years before Groy can make an impact on the team that drafts him. Groy at this point in his career is a better run blocker then pass blocker and he has shown the ability to pull effectively on run plays. Groy is a versatile athlete who can play guard, center or tackle, which will benefit him at the next level. Despite Groy having the ability to play across the line, he doesn't consistently play with leverage due to him playing too high. Groy also needs to try and become more physical when finishing off blocks. If he can fix those two things he'll be able to have a nice career.

Miami, Tennessee or St. Louis could be fits for Groy. Tennessee still needs help a long the offensive line and the Titans are familiar with Groy with former offensive line coach Bob Bostad now with the organization. St. Louis could be the best option for Groy because the Rams are a stronger run team and have struggled to keep Sam Bradford healthy and upright.

Jacob Pedersen – sixth or seventh round: After winning the Big Ten Tight End of the Year as a junior, Pedersen set career highs in receptions (39) and receiving yards (551) in his final year at Wisconsin. Pedersen does a good job of catching the football naturally despite not being the fastest player he finds ways of getting open. Pedersen isn't a great athlete but finds ways to make up for it in different areas by being a crafty route runner and his body control.

Green Bay could be a fit for Pedersen but the Packers will probably address their need at tight end in the middle rounds of the draft. The New England Patriots could possibly be the landing spot for Pedersen, considering Rob Gronkowski can't stay healthy. The Patriots need to start building some depth behind Gronkowski, and the Patriots could be interested in Pedersen due to his skill set.

Dezmen Southward - seventh round or free agent: It didn't like Southward was NFL material after his final season at Wisconsin, but he could slip into the last round after lighting up Wisconsin pro day. Southward has great athletic ability, running the 40 in the 4.3 second range. He's got great upside with him having only played organized football for a little more than five years. Southward will get his chance of playing safety but there are scouts who believe his best position at the next level is cornerback, a position he struggled with in coverage this past season.

Southward was never a ball hawking safety - only recording two interceptions in his career - but has shown to be a solid tackler (152 career tackles). With Southward's speed and solid tackling he should be able to have success as a gunner on special teams, as he slowly works his way on to the field as a safety. New Orleans or the New York Jets could be two landing spots for Southward. The Saints lost safety Malcolm Jenkins during the offseason and even though they are pretty set at the safety position, it would allow Southward to continue to refine his game as a defensive player.

Beau Allen - seventh round or free agent: If Southward was the winner of Wisconsin's pro day then Allen was a close second. Allen, who wasn't invited to the NFL combine, did an impressive 30 reps on the bench press during Wisconsin's pro day. Only five other defensive tackles who were invited to the combine were able to do 30 or more reps on the bench press. Allen's stats won't jump out to you because of the requirements of the 3-4 system but Allen's natural size makes him a much better run defender than getting after the quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers or New England could be two teams interested in Allen. The Patriots already have Vince Wilfork but he's getting up in age and his presence would allow Allen to continue to develop. The 49ers have a couple of talented edge rushers but there's not a lot of experience behind Justin Smith. Allen would have a chance to learn and when he's ready would be able to help occupy space where the 49ers pass rushers could make plays.

Brian Wozniak - free agent: Wozniak was never a productive receiver in the passing game but did show he was a threat in the red zone for Wisconsin this past year recording four touchdowns. Wozniak also has the ability to be a solid blocker in the run game. Wozniak had a meeting with San Diego during the pre-draft process. Tight end isn't a position of need for the Chargers but San Diego could bring him in after the draft and could continue to see what he can do as a tight end.

Brendan Kelly - free agent: Kelly missed Wisconsin's pro day due to a hamstring injury, another red flag in Kelly's medical history. Kelly struggled to stay healthy during his Wisconsin career but showed he can get after the quarterback (12 ½ sacks) and make plays in the backfield (18 tackles for loss) when he was healthy. The question is where do you line up Kelly? He may be a better fit at defensive end then at outside linebacker but if that's the case he'll have to try and put more weight on his frame.

Ethan Hemer - free agent: Hemer was hurt by the defense switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, moving from defensive tackle to an unnatural defensive end position. After being named honorable mention by the coaches as a junior, Hemer posted career lows in tackles (13) and tackles for loss with two. Hemer had a solid pro day and it could allow him to have a try out with a team.

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