On the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft, college players across the country will anxiously wait in their homes or hotels before the most important weekend of their athletic careers.
Three Wisconsin Badgers were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, which was the least amount of Badgers taken in the draft since 2010. The last three NFL Drafts have seen a Wisconsin player selected in the first round, but will the 2014 Draft break that streak?
Wisconsin’s 2014 draft class is a bit out of the norm with regards to who will potentially be the first player taken. The three previous drafts have had a Wisconsin offensive lineman selected in the first round, however it seems as though this year’s class lacks a top offensive line prospect.
So if this UW class of NFL hopefuls does not have its usual first-round offensive line talent, who will be the first Badger taken in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Linebacker Chris Borland, despite his shoulder issues, is Wisconsin’s top prospect for the upcoming draft. Borland is the Big Ten’s all-time leader in forced fumbles with 15 and his decorated career, along with his high football IQ has impressed several NFL scouts.
The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year was also a first-team All-American select, the first linebacker to do so for Wisconsin since 1951. While Borland is undersized at 5-foot-11, he makes up for his lack of size with his ferocious playing style and his ability to seemingly always be in on brining the ball carrier down.
He started games as a true freshman when he came to the program in 2009 and his 55 total games played is the second highest in school history. He also was the play caller and captain for the Wisconsin defense, so his leadership skills certainly help with his draft stock.
Plain and simple, Borland can flat out play the linebacker position at a high level and with good health, he can definitely start at the next level. There is a slight chance that a team would reach for him towards the end of the first round, but it seems certain that he is a second day pick.
Draft Prediction: Second Round
Wisconsin’s program is not usually known for generating wide receiver prospects; in fact, since 2006 only four former UW receivers have been drafted. However, their second-rated prospect for this year’s draft is at wide receiver.
Jared Abbrederis will be the second Wisconsin Badger taken in the 2014 NFL draft and whichever team drafts him is getting a serious talent. The former walk-on and scout team quarterback left UW tied for the most receptions in school history with 202.
His 3,140 career receiving yards and 23 touchdown receptions ranked second in the school’s records books and his 2013 total of 1,081 yards was just the fourth 1,000 yard season for a wideout in Wisconsin history. Despite being the obvious go-to WR in Wisconsin’s offense last season, he was still able to put up gaudy numbers against the best that the Big Ten had to offer.
Last season against Ohio State, Abbrederis lit up potential first-round pick cornerback Bradley Roby for 207 yards on 10 receptions. His superb route running and exceptional hands are just a few areas in his repertoire that will land him on an NFL roster come this weekend.
He certainly needs work on his physical attributes, but he has what it takes to be a successful slot receiver in the NFL. He is sure-handed, sneaky fast (4.50 40-yard dash), and incredibly versatile.
During his time as a Badger, Abbrederis also saw consistent time on a variety of special teams. This also works in his favor as teams consider him because he can do more than just play receiver.
Like Borland, Abbrederis has had his fair share of injuries during his time at Wisconsin with his most notable health issue being concussions. This has caused him to slightly drop on team’s draft boards as they fear one hit could sideline him for an entire year due to his previous concussions problems.
This year’s wide receiver class is one of the more talented groups in recent years, which directly impacts Abbrederis’ draft stock. However, after the top WRs like Sammy Watkins of Clemson, Mike Evans of Texas A&M, and Odell Beckham of LSU are gone by the first round, there are not many more all-around talented wideouts than Abbrederis.
Draft Prediction: Third Round
Other Wisconsin draftees predictions:
S Dezmen Southward: Fourth Round
RB James White: Fifth Round
TE Jacob Pedersen: Fifth Round
OL Ryan Groy: Sixth Round
The 2014 NFL draft begins on May 8th at 7 p.m. (CST) and there should be at least six Wisconsin Badgers hearing their name called in New York City.
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