With the NFL Combine looming, the six Badgers players that received invites all have something to prove. The NFL’s annual testing of draft prospects will commence on March 3 and conclude March 6, but in that short span, everything can change for any one of the 300-plus players invited. Here’s what the Wisconsin players need to do at the Combine in order to elevate their draft stock:
Vince Biegel, OLB (Current Projection: Middle Rounds)
It is well-known that Biegel is a tough, smart player who will probably excel in team interviews. With a relentless motor, Biegel is the kind of prospect who gets glossed over in a Combine setting where pure athleticism stands out over the ability to go 60 minutes in a game setting. At 242 pounds, Biegel is undersized for an 3-4 outside linebacker, so the weigh-in will be important. In a similar vein, strength has been a worry for scouts, making the bench press and rip and swim moves drills priorities for Biegel. Fighting through blocks is a perceived weakness of Biegel’s, and those drills will be able to give scouts an accurate view of whether or not he will be able to get by offensive tackles at the next level. The medical test will also be critical, as Biegel played all of 2016 with a broken foot. He played through it with the exception of two games, but if it appears worrisome to team doctors, it could sink his draft stock. However, if Biegel weighs in at around 245-250 pounds, displays NFL-level strength during drills, and his ankle checks out, his name could be called in the 2nd-round on draft day.
Corey Clement, RB (Current Projection: Middle Rounds)
Clement has had an up-and-down career at Wisconsin, and his draft stock reflects that uncertainty at the moment. Once expected to be the next in a great line of Wisconsin running backs and a Heisman candidate, Clement fell short of those astronomical expectations while still putting together strong stat lines. A tremendous athlete, Clement has all the tools to be a #1 back in the NFL. The reason for his draft stock not matching up with his raw ability is character concerns, making the team interviews the most important part of Clement’s combine. With Clement’s desire to succeed and leadership ability called into question already, he will need to prove to teams that he has the mental wherewithal to be an impact player in the NFL. Additionally, his performance in drills will likely be looked at more for his response to a high-pressure situation rather than for his actual athletic ability. Undoubtedly, NFL scouts will press hard in questioning Clement, and how he responds will determine whether he is drafted in the 2nd round or the 7th.
Dare Ogunbowale, RB (Current Projection: Late Rounds)
Clement’s complementary back, the team captain is bringing a very different skill set to the NFL. 20 pounds lighter than the starter, Ogunbowale played a 3rd-down role primarily but did have a few big games on the ground during his tenure at Wisconsin. With his character viewed as one of his biggest strengths, Ogunbowale needs to prove to scouts that he can be a valuable back at the next level. Since it is unlikely he will ever be a home-run hitter or even a #1 back, Ogunbowale should focus on the pass-catching drills at the Combine. Despite being effective in Wisconsin’s otherwise-limited aerial attack, scouts worry that Ogunbowale doesn’t have the catching ability to succeed as a 3rd-down back in the NFL. With some missed opportunities on low throws in 2016, Ogunbowale needs to show that his catch radius is ready for the increased demands of the NFL. While a strong performance in the area won’t bring a huge leap in draft stock, a poor showing could lead to him falling out of the draft entirely.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT (Current Projection: 1st Round)
The top prospect coming out of Wisconsin in this draft class, Ramczyk will not participate in drills at the combine or at his pro day due to an offseason hip surgery. A prototypical blindside protector and transfer from UW-Stevens Point, Ramczyk has just one year of experience playing Division I football. While he did start every game for the Badgers in 2016 and earned an All-Big Ten selection, the limited tape of him against big-time competition could cause teams to shy away from him, especially if they can’t watch him participate in drills before the draft. The medical tests will be the most important area of the Combine for Ramczyk, though he has little control over how he fares in that area. If everything checks out with his hip and his ability to play Week One seems in reach, Ramczyk’s first-round status will be all but assured.
Sojourn Shelton, CB (Current Projection: Late Rounds)
With a 50-50 shot of getting drafted, Shelton won’t exactly be the center of attention at the Combine. A four-year starter for the Badgers, Shelton was the picture of consistency in coverage. However, his 5’9”, 168-pound frame scares off a lot of NFL teams, especially with big corners like Richard Sherman in demand, and could limit his value as a special teams player. Shelton will likely do well in team interviews, and durability hasn’t been a concern for him throughout his career. Hopefully he will put on some weight prior to the Combine and can perform adequately in the bench press, as proving he will be strong enough to take down wide receivers in the open field is the key to elevating his draft stock.
T.J. Watt, OLB (Current Projection: Early Rounds)
The younger brother of former Badger superstar Texans DE J.J. Watt, T.J. will look to follow in his brother’s footsteps by turning in a brilliant Combine performance. With only one year of experience after being mired on the bench as a tight end in 2014 and suffering a serious knee injury in 2015, teams will be weighing Watt’s Combine performance more heavily as a result of having less game tape than other prospects. While his 6’5” height is ideal for a rush end, 243 pounds isn’t going to cut it as a down-lineman in a 4-3 scheme. Putting on weight would be a point in his favor, but his performance in the pass rusher’s drills as well as the 3-cone and shuttle run would help his case. His explosiveness and ability to get reach sharp angles when rushing the passer are the main knocks on the junior, and a strong showing in those drills would help assuage the worries of scouts. If he does well, Watt could hear his name called on Day One.