Former Wisconsin players sign free agent deals with N.F.L. teams following the 2016 draft

Wisconsin's former starting quarterback, left tackle, receiver, safeties, cornerback and tight end all sign free agent deals following the N.F.L. draft.

QB Joel Stave

Minnesota Vikings

Bio Info

Whitnall High School (Greenfield, Wis.)
6-5, 236 pounds
4.80 40-yard dash
33 1/4-inch arm length
10 3/4-inch hands
33.5 vertical jump

Scout Pre-Draft Rankings
No. 23 quarterback in the draft
No. 420 overall prospect

Wisconsin Career: A career filled with ups and downs, the former walk-on quarterback finished his college career as the winningest quarterback in Wisconsin history with a 31-10 record as a starter. He started six games as a redshirt freshman at UW before a broken collarbone ended his season, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,104 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. An honorable mention All-Big Ten pick as a sophomore, Stave’s sophomore year was the best with 61.9 completion percent, 2,494 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Passed over for the starting job as a junior in the nonconference season before being given the job back one game into conference play, Stave helped lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten West Division title and finished the year with 53.4 completion percent, 1,350 yards, nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions in an offense not tailored to his strengths.

Under the guidance of head coach Paul Chryst, Stave completed 60.8 percent of his throws for a career-high 2,687 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite throwing 11 interceptions, Stave delivered with the game-winning drive on the road against Nebraska and completed 18 of 27 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown in the bowl win over USC, leading the team to the winning field goal despite a broken nose.

Expert Breakdown: “Looks the part with good size and a pretty, over-­the-­top delivery. Plays in pro-­style offense and is experienced under center. Steps and drives the intermediate throws and ball comes out of his hand with a tight spiral and heat on it. Possesses above average arm strength and was asked to make NFL throws in his offense. Rhythm passer able to throw with timing. Comfortable and efficient on roll outs and bootlegs.

“Accuracy and ball placement are hit or miss. Throws at or slightly behind moving targets rather than throwing them open. Below average pocket mobility. Shows signs of pocket panic dropping eyes at early signs of pressure. Can't win with his legs. Plays with blinders and will make throws with no awareness of safeties lurking. Poor decision making and accuracy on third downs attempting to fit throws into impossible spots.

Stave has size, a strong arm, loads of experience and plays in a run­-first offense, yet he's produced 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over the last two seasons. For all the physical boxes he checks off, issues with accuracy and decision-­making have been too present in his game and fans at Wisconsin let him know about it. Stave throws as pretty a pass as any quarterback in this draft, but very few quarterbacks have been able to overcome his weaknesses and become reliable NFL quarterbacks.” – NFL.com

Stave Says: “I think this process I’ve only helped myself. I think the way we finished this season with the bowl game win and putting on a little bit weight, I think I threw pretty well at the combine, I threw pretty well (at UW pro day), I’ve tested pretty well. I think that’s only going to help me.” 

OL Tyler Marz

Tennessee Titans

Bio Info

Springfield High School (Springfield, MN)
6-7, 325 pounds
5.54 40-yard dash
33 1/2-inch arm length
10-inch hands
19 reps on the bench at 225 pounds

Wisconsin Career: One of the most durable players on Wisconsin’s offensive line, Marz started 40 straight games for the Badgers and was the team’s starting left tackle over the last three seasons. Marz was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2013 and 2014 and a second-team selection by the media last season.

Expert Breakdown: Shoots his punch with decent timing and placement. Scans for blitz possibilities and processes post snap movements quickly to assess his task. Not the quickest pass sets, but finds his way in front of rusher. Looks for work down the field. Plays with little knee bend and his upright pass sets get him knocked back into the pocket by even average bull rushes. Consistent leaner who struggles to sustain and secure without falling off blocks. Doesn't possess athletic qualities to climb and get cut­off blocks. Issues with core strength and bend will always plague contact balance.

Marz might not check the strength and athleticism boxes to make an NFL roster. At some point, he might be asked to move inside to guard or maybe even center due to his limitations.

WR Alex Erickson

Cincinnati Bengals

Bio Info

Darlington High School (Darlington, WI)

6-0, 195 pounds

4.52 40-yard dash

34.5-inch vertical

14 reps on the bench at 225 pounds

4.14 seconds on short shuttle

Scout Pre-Draft Rankings
No. 42 receiver in the draft
No. 352 overall prospect

Wisconsin Career: Another walk-on success story for the Badgers, the offense would have been major trouble had Erickson not developed into a reliable No.1 receiver over the past two seasons. Mirroring the career of current Green Bay Packers receiver Jared Abbrederis, Erickson came to Wisconsin as a former high school quarterback and joined the team as a sophomore as being a full-time student as a freshman.

After starting three games in 2013 (finishing with nine catches for 127 yards), Erickson led the team in receiving each of the next two seasons, including earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last year after catching 77 passes for 978 yards and three touchdowns.

Expert Breakdown: “Comes off the line with good lean and play speed into routes. Good hip sink with tight footwork into and out of his breaks. Instinctive inside his routes. Able to adjust routes to leverage more throwing space for quarterback. Tough and more than willing to work the middle of the field from the slot. Heavily targeted over last two seasons seeing just over 35 percent of Wisconsin's targets come his way. Expected to help in running game and does his job.

Cornerbacks aren't buying what he's selling as a deep threat. Has little to no separation speed vertically. Defenders will squat and search for break­points of his routes from off coverage. Not sudden enough with his press release. Cornerbacks can beat him up with jabs into his pads before he's able to get into his routes. Disappointing touchdown production with just six career touchdown receptions. Very average after the catch.

Solid collegiate receiver with the toughness to make contested catches and work the middle of the field. Erickson doesn't have the speed necessary to work from the outside, but should get a look from the slot in an NFL camp. While his athletic attributes won't blow anyone away, he does have some ability to open small throwing windows with some of his short area footwork and should get a chance to compete for a back-end roster spot.” – NFL.com

Other signings

Michael Caputo to New Orleans Saints

Darius Hillary to Cincinnati Bengals

Tanner McEvoy to Philadelphia Eagles

Austin Traylor to Dallas Cowboys


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