Five former Wisconsin Badger Football players showcased their talents in front of scouts and GMs from all 32 NFL teams this past week with hopes to raise their draft stock and make a lasting first impression.
Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland, Ryan Groy, Jacob Pedersen and James White joined dozens of other NFL prospects in Indianapolis to compete in the six-part combine. For those unfamiliar with how the combine works, it is a set of different types of events that test a player’s agility, strength, lateral quickness and everything in between.
The 40-yard dash, bench press (225lbs.), vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill and the shuttle run are the six events that the draftees participate in. While it is important for players to make their mark at the combine, success in drills does not always translate to success on the field.
From walk-on to first team All-Big Ten selection, Jared Abbrederis came along way in what seems to be a true underdog story. He turned scout’s heads at the combine after posting an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds that was later officially clocked at 4.50, per NFL.com.
Abbrederis left Wisconsin with a reputation of being one of the nation’s best route runners and exerted top-notch numbers in an offense where running was the focal point. Defenses failed to stop him despite knowing he was the premier wideout within the Badger’s offense.
His route running and exceptional work ethic has got him heading in the right direction on draft boards across the NFL and he will most likely end up the second Badger taken come May. His size fits the prototypical NFL slot wide receiver, but his strength has some scouts alarmed as he was only able to put up a mere four reps on the bench press; which put him dead last for wide receivers. However, a report has come out that he has already added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and weighed-in at the combine at 195 pounds.
Linebacker Chris Borland began his combine day very impressively as he notched 27 reps in the bench press, which was good for fifth best amongst linebackers. His 40-yard dash time (4.83) and vertical jump (31”) did not impress scouts, but when was the last time a linebacker was known for his vertical jump?
While his 5’11” frame has some scouts skeptical, his ability to fill holes quickly and make plays at the point of contact is what has scouts falling in love with his talent. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay dubbed him the best tackler in this draft class and it is no coincidence that his 14 career forced fumbles stand as the all-time best in Wisconsin history.
Borland’s height, like former teammate and super bowl champion Russell Wilson, is what is keeping him out of the first round which is utterly ridiculous. He has something you can’t teach and that’s heart and the drive to be great. He will get drafted somewhere in the second day of the draft and whatever team gives him the shot will not be disappointed with this kid’s ability and character.
Coming off an impressive Senior Bowl, tailback James White looked to climb up draft boards with his performance at the combine. Known by some of his former teammates as “mighty mouse,” there was nothing mouse-like about his bench press numbers.
White put up 23 reps on the bench press, which put him at fourth amongst running backs. For what it’s worth, his 23 reps were two more than potential top pick, defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney.
He was never known for his strength in college but that is precisely what pleased scouts during his workouts. His 4.57 40-yard dash time was average for backs but where he separated himself from the pack was in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle.
His 4.20 20-yard and 11.76 60-yard shuttle were good for eighth and sixth amongst running backs, respectively. His exceptional lateral quickness and ability to stay in the backfield to throw a block will likely have him as a third down back on an NFL roster come training camp.
White does not have the makeup of an every down back in the NFL but his speed and experience with splitting carries will land him a spot on an NFL roster. He was never the featured back during his tenure at Wisconsin so he is not a back that necessarily needs 20+ carries a game to make an impact.
He also was a return man for the Badgers throughout his career so that is another upside he has going for him as teams are always in need of an impactful returner. According to ESPN, he is currently projected as a mid 4th-5th round pick.
Tight end Jacob Pedersen and offensive linemen Ryan Groy also exhibited their talents alongside their fellow teammates and put up average numbers at best. Both, according to CBSsports.com, are projected to go as early as the sixth round with the possibility of going undrafted.
The Badger’s pro day is set for March 5th at Camp Randall and will be the final time these players have to impress scouts and GMs. The 2014 NFL Draft begins May 8th and all Wisconsin fans are sure to tune in to see what Badger is selected first.