With the NFL draft less than a week away, several former Badgers will patiently wait to hear their names called by NFL Commissioner, Rodger Goodell.
Last year’s draft class featured three Badgers having their name called on draft day, with an additional four players signed by teams after the NFL Draft. With those seven added to NFL rosters last season, the grand total for former Wisconsin players currently in the NFL stands at 31.
While Montee Ball was probably the most widely known Wisconsin draft pick of 2013, he was the second Badger taken last year. The Dallas Cowboys, with somewhat of a reach at the time, selected center Travis Frederick with the 31st pick. And to say the least, it worked out quite nicely for them.
The Cowboys got the top-rated center in Frederick, and he showed why he was given that title by NFL scouts. Frederick started all 16 games for Dallas last season and was a part of the fourth rated offensive line in the NFL, according to profootballfocus.com.
For Frederick to come into the league right away, and play probably the second toughest position on the offensive line, speaks wonders not only about his ability but also the preparation he received while at Wisconsin. It’s what the program has turned into, a run-first offensive that benefits from running behind what is usually the biggest line in the country.
It takes an awful amount of talent for a franchise to entrust such responsibility into a rookie, especially when you have a veteran quarterback like Tony Romo. Being a Dallas Cowboy already adds more pressure to a young starter, thanks to all the media attention provided by their owner Jerry Jones, and it looks as though it will not impact Frederick’s performance.
Frederick was not the only Wisconsin lineman to be taken in last year’s draft, as the Baltimore Ravens selected Rick Wagner in the fifth round. Wagner got his opportunity last season thanks to injuries, and made his first of two career starts at right tackle against the Green Bay Packers in week 6.
That was not the only action Wagner saw in the 2013 season as he played at some point in all 16 games for the Ravens. He currently stands as the No.1 right tackle on their depth chart so he should be the full-time guy come spring camp, but Baltimore is very thin at the offensive line position so expect them to add at least one through the draft.
Ball was the second Badger taken in last year’s draft as the Denver Broncos selected him with the 58th pick. It’s no secret that Denver is a pass-first offense, and rightfully so with Peyton Manning at QB, but when given the chance he made the most of his opportunity.
Ball saw action in all but one game, including the playoffs, last season for the AFC-Champion Broncos. The lone game that he saw no action was Manning’s return to Indianapolis, where the Broncos fell to the Colts, 39-33.
His best performance of 2013 came at a crucial part of the season as Denver headed into Kansas City in week 13 with the division title at stake. Ball had 13 carries for 117 yards as the Broncos just edged the Chiefs, 35-28.
Despite limited carries, Ball still rushed for an impressive 559 yards and four touchdowns which was the second highest among rookies with 120 carriers or less. He responded well after a shaky start to his career, which included two lost fumbles in his first three games, and looks to have the opportunity to be the featured back in Denver’s offense next season.
Most of Ball’s 2013 campaign featured a platoon system at running back with whoever had the hot hand getting most of the carries. But now with the departure of Knowshon Moreno to Miami, Ball rises to the No.1 running back slot on the depth chart. What he does with this opportunity, time will tell, but if it is anything close to his success at UW, the Broncos got a steal in the second round.
The 2014 NFL Draft will begin on May 8th and now the question arises, who will be the first Badger taken?