At last month’s NFL Scouting Combine, six former Wisconsin football players showcased their skills as they looked to enhance their stocks before the draft takes place May 8-10. Let’s take a look at each of these six UW alums and preview their NFL futures.
Jared Abbrederis, WR
Most of Abbrederis’s combine results place him in the middle and lower tiers among the wide receivers that participated. He struggled with a 30.5” vertical jump, the third lowest among that drill’s participants. Abbrederis recorded his 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, an average score. He posted his best scores in the cone and shuttle drills, finishing just below the upper echelon at his position.
Abbrederis may have finished with mediocre numbers at the combine, but they surprised no one. His athletic shortcomings were already known throughout college. Abbrederis’s strength lies in his instincts and reliability. He runs his routes well, possesses good hands, and rarely makes glaring mistakes. A former walk-on player that turned himself into an All-Big Ten receiver, Abbrederis has beaten the odds before. He will get drafted in the middle rounds, and has a chance to contribute on special teams and develop into a dependable possession receiver off the bench.
Chris Borland, LB
Borland seems to be attracting the most attention among this year’s Wisconsin draft entrants, mostly because of his size. Detractors have pointed out his 5-foot-11 height and short arm length, and have questioned whether he can succeed when matched up with bigger blockers in run defense and tight ends in pass coverage.
Borland’s speed and agility numbers match up with the other inside linebackers at the combine. Borland’s primary strength is, well, his strength. He bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times, the second best at his position behind only Michigan State standout Max Bullough. He is a solid, occasionally emphatic tackler, and understands how to play the game. Borland will likely be drafted on the second day, meaning he’ll be selected in either the second or third round.
Ryan Groy, G
Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 316 pounds, Groy is a behemoth of a man. Despite his massive size, Groy remains quick for his position, He finished fourth, second, and second among guards in the 40-yard, cone, and shuttle drills, respectively, though it must be noted that. Because of his athleticism, scouts like his potential in a pull-blocking scheme.
Despite Groy’s physical talents and his experience playing in a pro-style offensive scheme at Wisconsin, he is only projected to go in the seventh round. Most scouting websites believe a backup role is his NFL ceiling.
Jacob Pedersen, TE
Pedersen has limited athletic ability, finishing near the bottom of most speed and agility categories among tight ends. He did, however, excel in both the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle drills. Unfortunately, Pedersen did not participate in the bench press to show off his strength, so he leaves a lot of questions unanswered for scouts. He has average height at 6-3 but weighs a below-average 238 pounds.
Pedersen’s NFL.com draft profile mentions his potential to play multiple positions and catch passes out of the backfield, but doubts his ability to be a conventional tight end. He is projected to either be selected on the final day or go undrafted.
Dezmen Southward, S
Southward only participated in the 40-yard dash. He ran a 4.5, good for fourth at his position. Scouts like his size at 6-foot-0, 211 pounds, and his versatility. He occasionally covered slot receivers and even worked at cornerback this past fall. However, Southward, who only began playing football as a high school senior, is still learning the game and lacks the instincts of more experienced players. He is not a ballhawk safety or a playmaker, and often fell out of position in one-on-one matchups.
Like Groy and Pedersen, Southward seems poised to fall to the later rounds or go undrafted. Because of his inexperience, he will need to initially earn a roster spot via special teams.
James White, RB
Despite an insanely productive collegiate career, White never was the feature back at Wisconsin, splitting carries with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. White also split his carries in high school, sharing the backfield with current Bengals running back Giovani Bernard. While in college, White carved out a role as a change-of-pace back that complemented the more complete running styles of Ball and Gordon. At the combine, White finished in the middle of the pack in most categories.
In order for White to succeed in the NFL, he will need to retain the change-of-pace role that he was so adept at in college. Though he is vastly undersized at 5-9, 204 pounds, he could become a Darren Sproles or Jacquizz Rodgers-type player. He is projected to go in the fifth round.