The University of Wisconsin football program has a track record of producing consistent NFL players.
UW might not have the volume of players drafted as some of college football’s blue-blood programs, but a Badger has been selected in the NFL draft each of the past 40 seasons. UW has produced 31 first-round picks, and could have a few more this April depending on how things shake out.
The current crop of Badgers ready to go pro has the chance to add to the program’s legacy of producing top offensive line, running back and linebacker talent.
There are still a handful of Badgers considering their NFL option, but here’s a look at how NFL draft evaluators see UW’s declared prospects early in the draft process, including a composite range of where they’ll be selected.
— Colten Bartholomew
JONATHAN TAYLOR, RB
No running back in college football history had the production Taylor had in his three years with the Badgers. His 6,174 career rushing yards are the most in Football Bowl Subdivision history in three seasons, and he accounted for 55 career touchdowns.
Taylor’s best skills, per Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network, are his patience and vision as a runner. It’s difficult to teach running backs to press the line of scrimmage and then explode through a hole once it’s created, but Taylor has been doing that since he was a freshman for the Badgers. Crabbs also noted Taylor’s balance and ability to continue moving forward through contact as strengths.
According to Matt Miller, Bleacher Report’s NFL draft analyst, the biggest concerns attached to Taylor are durability and fumbling. Taylor never missed a game through three seasons at UW, but 926 career carries to go with 42 catches amount to a lot of wear-and-tear on a body. He had 18 fumbles in his UW career, but had a career-low six this season.
There’s been some debate online regarding his speed compared to other draft-eligible backs, but a good 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine and/or UW’s Pro Day could eliminate that.
ESPN: No. 3 running back, No. 29 overall
The Draft Network: No. 2 running back, No. 24 overall
CBS: No. 2 running back, overall rank 23
Bleacher Report: No. 3 RB, No. 26 overall (best vision)
Pick range: Late first round to late second
TYLER BIADASZ, C
Biadasz may have taken a risk last year when he decided to return for his redshirt junior season — many draft evaluators thought he could’ve been a second- or third-round pick if he declared for the 2019 draft. That risk paid off, as Biadasz stayed healthy, became a consensus All-American, and UW’s first Rimington Award winner as the nation’s best center.
He put together a strong season individually while also making all the line calls for UW’s pro-style offense, a skill that directly applies to what NFL centers are asked to do. ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper wrote last month that Biadasz’s quickness and ability to pull set him apart, and that he improved each season he was at UW.
Criticisms of Biadasz’s game are few, but one consistent critique is that he doesn’t have ideal arm length. However, playing on the interior line makes that less important.
ESPN: No. 1 center, No. 51 overall
The Draft Network: No. 2 interior offensive lineman, No. 25 overall
CBS: No. 2 center, No. 25 overall
Bleacher Report: No. 1 interior offensive lineman, No. 1 center, No. 41 overall
Pick range: Mid-first to mid-second
ZACK BAUN, OLB
No UW player’s draft stock rose more this season than Baun’s, as his second season as a starter was outstanding. Baun earned All-American honors after tallying 76 total tackles, 19½ for loss, and 12½ sacks.
Speaking on The Ryen Russillo Podcast last month, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said Baun is, “one of the more versatile, instinctive, consistent defensive players in the country,” and that it “wouldn’t shock” him if Baun were to become a first-round pick. The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak wrote that Baun’s strengths include a quick first step, snap anticipation, rush moves and high motor.
Baun needs those attributes to compensate for his lack of size — at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Baun will need to add weight to his frame without losing his speed in the NFL. Solak wrote that Baun needs to improve his bend around the edge to be an effective NFL rusher.
ESPN: No. 3 outside linebacker, No. 36 overall
The Draft Network: No. 12 edge player, No. 79 overall
CBS: No. 2 linebacker, No. 50 overall
Bleacher Report: No. 7 edge player, No. 37 overall
Pick range: Late first to early third
QUINTEZ CEPHUS, WR
Cephus declaring for the draft was somewhat of a surprise, but he had a strong season as UW’s No. 1 receiver. His 59 catches for 901 yards and seven touchdowns were all team-highs. Cephus is part of a loaded class at wide receiver, one that could produce as many as seven first-round picks.
Writing early in the season, Crabbs noted Cephus’ ability to adjust to balls in the air and shield defenders while making a catch. Cephus also ran a wide range of routes from the outside and in the slot — versatility that will help him at the next level.
Cephus won’t post the 40-yard dash time as some of his counterparts, so he’ll hope his tape does more for his stock than his testing.
The Draft Network: No. 24 wide receiver, No. 171 overall
Bleacher Report: N/A
Pick range: Fourth-seventh rounds; Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had Cephus drafted late in the third round in his latest mock draft
CHRIS ORR, ILB
In his first full season as a starter, Orr showed what he could do as a pass rusher and as a leader for UW. He had 78 total tackles and 11½ sacks to go with five pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
In a midseason evaluation, Crabb wrote that Orr has a knack for delivering explosive hits and his dense frame helps get ball-carriers to the ground. He also has shown a high motor and pursues well to the ball.
However, Orr had trouble in times covering larger zone areas and is undersized for an NFL inside linebacker. Orr will play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 18 at the Rose Bowl, which will give him time around NFL coaches and scouts.
The Draft Network: N/A
Bleacher Report: N/A
Pick range: Seventh-undrafted
DAVID MOORMAN & JASON ERDMANN, OLs
Both Moorman and Erdmann showed versatility throughout their UW careers, playing multiple positions. Moorman (above) played all across the line and even tight end, while Erdmann filled both guard roles and was the backup center.
Not much analysis has been published on either player — both figure to get their chances as undrafted free agents.
The Draft Network: N/A
Bleacher Report: N/A
Pick range: Undrafted
Video: Ultimate Jonathan Taylor Highlights
Video: Ultimate Quintez Cephus Highlights
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