With the Badgers’ triumphant football season over, a number of the stars of the team will be advancing to the professional level in the spring. SST gives an early evaluation of how high some will get drafted, what NFL teams may be targeting them, and more.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT
One of the best blindside protectors in this draft class, Ramczyk was an integral cog in the Badgers’ mauling machine of an offensive line. 2016 was his first year as a starter for the Badgers, redshirting in 2015 after transferring from UW-Stevens Point. At 6’6” and 313 pounds, Ramczyk has great size for a tackle without sacrificing quickness. Regarded as a better run blocker than a pass blocker, Ramczyk is nonetheless considered the second best tackle after Alabama’s Cam Robinson. However, his draft stock is among the most volatile of any prospect due to a Jan. 5 hip surgery, with mock drafts predicting Ramczyk to get selected anywhere from the top 10 to the mid-second round. The surgery will keep him out for four months, which will prevent him from working out for NFL teams at the combine. While some teams may drop Ramczyk on their boards as a result, he is regarded as an NFL-ready prospect and should land in the top 20 of the draft. There are a number of teams drafting in the 10-20 range that could use a tackle, such as the Bills, Colts, and Broncos.
TJ Watt, OLB
The younger brother of former Badgers 3-time Defensive Player of the Year DE J.J. Watt and Chargers FB Derek Watt, redshirt junior T.J. surprisingly declared for the draft despite having a year of eligibility remaining. Recruited as a tight end before converting to defense just as J.J. had done, T.J. racked up 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2016 as one of the most fearsome edge rushers in the Big Ten. Watt stands 6’5”, which makes him a threat to knock down passes at the NFL level, but at 243 pounds he needs to add muscle. With his current proportions and skill set, Watt would be too tall to play outside linebacker and too light to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but as a 3-4 outside linebacker he could wreak havoc. A pre-draft focus of Watt’s should be to add weight, as he could slip into the back end of the first round with a good performance in the strength drills at the combine. As of now, Watt, the 46th-overall prospect according to CBS Sports, is likely to get drafted on Day 2, with the Colts, Ravens, and Browns being good fits.
Vince Biegel, OLB
The heart and soul of the Badgers defense, team captain Biegel appears to be following the footsteps of Joe Schobert closely. Biegel entered the season as the top-rated returning outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus, but a mid-season surgery slowed his production. Nonetheless, Biegel finished the season with 44 tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble as he was named to the 2nd-team All-Big Ten. The 11th-rated outside linebacker in the draft, Biegel was a consistent producer in his three years as a starter for Wisconsin. Biegel is less of a pass-rushing threat and has less upside than his counterpart Watt, but is a safer selection and fits into more schemes. Biegel could play outside linebacker in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, a flexibility that makes it hard to gauge what teams could be interested in him this early in the draft process, but he will likely end up in the middle rounds of the draft.
Corey Clement, RB
Overshadowed by a running back-heavy draft class that could see multiple rushers selected in the top 10, Clement has the ability to entice NFL teams as a good value pick in the middle rounds of the draft. The New Jersey native comes next in a long line of Wisconsin running backs who have made an impact at the professional level. Clement quietly rushed for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016 after an injury-riddled junior season that disappointed many who had pegged him as a dark horse Heisman candidate. Named 1st-team All-Big Ten this past fall, Clement took a backseat to players like Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette. However, Clement is a powerful runner who can be a solid starter in the NFL. There is worry in scouting circles that there is no finesse to Clement’s game, and that he will never be more than a committee back. Expected to be picked in the 4th round, the Giants and the Lions could be in the market for Clement’s services.
Sojourn Shelton, CB
One of the leaders of the Badgers’ lockdown defense over the last two seasons, Shelton is hoping to carve out a spot on an NFL roster this summer. An experienced player, Shelton was named 2nd-Team All-Big Ten in 2016, and earned Honorable Mention in 2015 and 2013. A four-year starter for the Badgers, Shelton is a scrappy player who will likely shift to the nickel corner role in the NFL. However, scouts may worry about his slight 5’9”, 170 pound frame. When matched up with an NFL running back or tight end in the open field, Shelton will be out-weighed heavily. His 40 time is solid, and how well he runs the position drills at the combine will likely determine whether he gets drafted in the 5th round or falls out of the draft entirely.
Bart Houston, QB
Despite forming a sort of quarterback committee with redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook in 2016, Houston did enough to warrant attention from NFL teams during his time as the starter. Named after Packers legend Bart Starr, Houston filled in briefly for Joel Stave in 2015 and was expected to lead the Badgers in his senior season. However, he was inconsistent and unspectacular as the starter, and Hornibrook’s greater upside earned him playing time. Houston struggles with arm strength but makes intelligent throws. His 6’4” frame is a plus, but Houston is far from a mobile quarterback. If he works out well at the combine and at his pro day he may get drafted, but it will be a surprise if he makes a significant impact in the pros.
Statistics courtesy of espn.com, prospect ratings courtesy of CBS Sports.