Tracking Wisconsin Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft
Per usual, Wisconsin will be contributing highly-rated offensive line prospects to this year's draft, and NFL clubs must be noticing a trend. It seems like every year the Badgers have at least two solid offensive line prospects eligible for the draft, most of whom have panned out well at the next level.
Although there may not be a Joe Thomas-caliber player in this year's draft, at least two Badgers should be drafted within the first two rounds.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin fans, there are plenty of talented Badgers in this year's draft, especially on the offensive line. While this may leave next year's season in doubt, at least Badger fans will have something to watch for the next three days.
The first Badger projected to be taken is guard Kevin Zeitler, and he should be taken towards the back end of the first round. After Zeitler, center Peter Konz will likely be drafted sometime in the second round, and Nick Toon and Russell Wilson should follow, with Toon going in the fourth or fifth round.
Towards the end of the draft, Badgers like Aaron Henry and Bradie Ewing should be selected in the seventh round.
What all this means is simple: There will be plenty of intrigue for Wisconsin fans throughout the entire draft, and that's always a good thing.
I'll be constantly updating this slideshow to keep you informed on where your favorite Badgers are drafted, in case you miss part of this event. Trust me, the pleasure is all mine.
Kevin Zeitler, OG, Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, No. 27 Overall
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After spending the last few years running over the competition in college football, it is no surprise that we see yet another Wisconsin O-lineman given high grades in the scouting process.
Coming from a Badgers program with a strong reputation for churning out quality offensive linemen, Kevin Zeitler is very technically sound. He is at his best on the second level when taking on linebackers.
The downside to Zeitler's game is that he can sometimes lose body control and whiff on blocks. He is at his best when his assignment is in close proximity so he does not have to rely on his iffy body control to get his hands on the defender.
Here is and excerpt from NFL.com's scouting report on Zeitler:
Zeitler has been a regular starter when healthy over the past three years on extremely productive offensive lines at Wisconsin...Zeitler is well coached and technical in his pass set. He has second- or third-round value due because of his experience playing on a productive line and being polished enough to play early.
Zeitler has a somewhat lower ceiling in terms of upside and will probably not dominate in the NFL, but he is well coached and should be able to play right away. He could provide excellent value to any team looking for an immediate starter at the guard position.
The Bengals bolster their interior offensive line, and ultimately their run game, with the selection of Kevin Zeitler at no. 27. Like DeCastro to Pittsburgh, Zeitler will be punishing defensive linemen in the AFC North for years to come.
Peter Konz, C, Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, 2nd Round (No. 55 Overall)
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Wisconsin has a strong history of producing quality NFL offensive linemen, and this year looks to be no exception. Former Badger Peter Konz has the ability to step right into a starting job in the NFL.
The 6'5" 314-pound center is built well and should have no trouble taking his game to the next level against bigger and stronger NFL defensive linemen. While not the strongest himself, Konz is a very good technician and has very good feet for a big man.
From CBS Sports' Dane Brugler:
Possesses a solidly-built frame with a filled-out body and solid muscle definition. Naturally wide base off the snap. Does a nice job sinking his hips and playing with consistent pad level, sitting in his stance with steady balance. Shoots his hands into defenders with very good placement, flashing strong hands to sustain blocks for an extended period of time.
Even though Konz has good flexibility, defenders will be able to out-leverage him at the point given his size. He can get stunned by quick bull rushes at the point and has a difficult time resetting his feet afterwards. While he is an effective short-area mover he looks limited and rigid when moving in space or downfield.
Look for Konz to step into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. He could easily have instant impact as a rookie, a la Maurkice Pouncey with the Steelers a few years ago.
Not more than a few weeks ago it looked like Konz could be a late round pick. Some questions about his longterm health status likely dropped him into Atlanta's lap at pick 55. Tactically very sound, Konz should step into the Falcons' starting lineup as a rookie.
Russell Wilson, QB, Drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, 3rd Round (No. 75 Overall)
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Russell Wilson is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft at the quarterback position. Wilson is an interesting case as he spent four years at North Carolina State and then decided to transfer to Wisconsin after he finished his degree.
In both places, Wilson was an excellent quarterback and used his mobility to his advantage. He's a mobile quarterback and despite his shorter stature, is one of the top passers in the draft this year.
Height: 5'10-7/8” Weight: 204 pounds
Arm Length: 31” Hand Measurement: 10-1/4”
40 yard dash: 4.55 sec. 20 yard split: 2.66 sec. 10 yard split: 1.59 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.09 sec. 3-cone Drill: 6.97 sec.
Russell Wilson Highlight Video
Vertical Jump: 34.0" Broad Jump: 9'10"
He's a "plus" athlete who plays fast in tight quarters and is a strong kid who accelerates well once he gains a step and can certainly create with his legs once he gets into the open field. He isn't an elite athlete running the football, but certainly offers enough short area quickness, power and speed to hurt NFL defenses once he gets into the open field…
A shorter quarterback prospect with decent bulk on his frame… He lacks an elite arm, but spins a clean football, snaps his wrist to generate torque and can get the football down the field. However, his footwork in the pocket is a major work in progress. He doesn't keep a real natural base, fails to consistently stay balanced and routinely bounces up and down in order to see over the line of scrimmage.
Wilson is a good fit for multiple schemes in the game today, but would be best fit for an air it out, New Orleans-style scheme where he can move around and create windows to throw through. He will likely be a career backup and looks like a mid-to-late round pick.
With MSU's Kirk Cousins still on the board, the Seahawks instead opted for another Big 10 QB, who while exciting to watch, does present questions on how his game will translate to the pros.That being said, Pete Carroll knows QBs and is a man who knows what he wants. Time will tell whether Wilson will be a third-round steal or a peaked-as-a-super-senior bust.
Nick Toon, WR, Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, 4th Round (No. 122 Overall)
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Nick Toon had big shoes to fill in college at Wisconsin—namely those of his father, Al Toon—who had a productive career as a Badger. The younger Toon did well to replace his father in many areas of the record books.
Toon was impressive finding the end zone in 2011—scoring 10 times—and displays great speed and route-running ability. Toon was at his Badger best in the Rose Bowl, catching nine balls for 104 yards and a touchdown against Oregon, helping his exposure greatly.
Nagging injury concerns and two separate foot surgeries have kept Toon from being a more well thought-of prospect.
The scouting report provided by Chad Reuter of CBS Sports mentions Toon's strengths as:
Strong runner with the ball in his hands, secures the ball quickly and shakes or spins off arm tackles and maintains balance to keep moving forward. Uses stiff-arm to hold off smaller defensive backs. Thrown bubble screens to use his strength on the edge.
Drops too many 50-50 balls, however, often in third down or other crucial situations. Fails to extend upwards for the ball in sideline battles, instead waiting for it to arrive and allowing defender into the play.
The need for depth at wide receiver is as prevalent in the NFL as it has ever been, and that could really help Toon find playing time early on. If he is willing to play special teams, and is able to develop a rapport on offense in training camp, he may see some rookie-season action.
With Meachem gone, the Saints need a guy who can find the end-zone like Nick Toon. Colston and Darren Sproles are favorite targets of Brees, who'll appreciate another deep threat in Toon.
Bradie Ewing, FB, Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, 5th Round (No. 157 Overall)
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Bradie Ewing is one of top fullbacks in this year's weak fullback draft class. At Wisconsin, he was the lead blocker for Montee Ball, who was the NCAA's leading rusher with 1,923 rushing yards
While Ewing was not active in the running game individually (he carried the ball zero times), he was active in the passing game compiling 20 receptions for 246 yards. He also was very productive on special teams as he was named Special Teams Player of the Year.
Ewing is quick off the snap and is a powerful, hit the hole kind of blocker. He is, however, more of a blocker who engages a linebacker/lineman and neutralizes them rather than runs over them. Ewing is an old school, block-first type of player who is NFL-ready due to playing in professional blocking schemes at Wisconsin. He is also a reliable target in the passing game.
Ewing needs to add more bulk to his frame to be more successful at the next level. At the combine, his bench press total was the lowest of any running back prospects who participated. His total was even lower than Oregon's LaMichael James. If he's going to be a power fullback in the NFL, he must add more strength.
NFL.com writes that Ewing is not going to make any electric plays with the ball at the next level. Compared to fullbacks who have been successful of late in the NFL, such as Vonta Leach of the Ravens, he has the ability to block with the same tenacity. A decent athlete but very stiff and straight-line as a runner.
ESPN.com has Ewing ranked as the third-best fullback in this year's draft behind Rhett Wilson and Emil Igwenagu.
Ewing will make a strong impact on special teams and can be a starter in the Falcons' backfield by year two.