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Linebacker T.J. Watt has the biggest upside of any of the draft-eligible Badgers

Who might have the best career among Wisconsin’s NFL draft hopefuls, planting the seeds and more

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Today is Wednesday, Feb. 8, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.


Next step

There’s still plenty of time until the NFL draft at the end of April, but it appears four Wisconsin players likely will get taken at some point in the seven-round event. Depending on where you look, tackle Ryan Ramczyk, linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, and running back Corey Clement are all expected to go in some order. But which will have the best NFL career? Here’s our take.

(*rankings are from Bleacher Report’s NFL scout Matt Miller)

1) T.J. Watt (No. 48 overall, No. 8 Edge Rusher)

Ramczyk is the most NFL-ready prospect, but Watt has the highest upside. An outside linebacker for just two seasons after moving over from tight end, Watt showed the same passion for the game that NFL teams have seen from his brother, J.J., and plays with a ridiculously high motor. But he’s also one heck of an athlete. And while he certainly has room to grow as a guy dropping into coverage, Watt has a variety of pass rushing moves that should benefit him greatly early and long term in the NFL.

2) Ryan Ramczyk (No. 14 overall, No. 1 tackle)

The former Division 3 product stormed onto the college season this year by starting all 14 games at left tackle, earning All-Big Ten honors and plenty of All-American recognition. A likely first-round pick, expect Ramczyk’s career to be somewhere between what former Wisconsin star and 10-time Pro Bowl pick Joe Thomas has done with Cleveland and the much shorter career of another former Badgers left tackle Gabe Carimi a first-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2011 that played just four years in the league. In other words, a good player that should be a starter early on but not someone that earns league-wide recognition on a yearly basis.

3) Vince Biegel (No. 90 overall, No. 8 linebacker)

His draft position will largely be determined in the next two months based on his workouts, but wherever he lands, hopefully with a 3-4 defense, Biegel can have loads of success rushing the passer. He’s not as complete of player as former teammate Joe Schobert, who went in the fourth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he’s a better pass rusher at this point. He’s another Wisconsin guy that won’t get credit for the type of athlete he is.

4) Corey Clement (No. 191 overall, No. 17 running back)

Someone is going to get a guy that is a solid runner between the tackles and one that could excel catching the ball out of the backfield. Some have questioned his vision, but it’s his durability that will likely determine whether he has an extended career in the NFL.

5) Dare Ogunbowale (No. 310, No. 33 running back)

We’re throwing Ogunbowale in the mix simply because of what former Wisconsin running back James White did in the Super Bowl on Sunday. No one is saying Ogunbowale can be the next White, but his skills as a receiver would be fantastic for a team willing to give him a chance. He’s also an extremely trustworthy in pass protection.

Selection Saturday

On Saturday, for the first time ever, the NCAA tournament selection committee will reveal the top 16 seeds at this point in the season. The goal, seemingly, is to generate interest in college basketball earlier than March Madness. But what about the guys playing the games? Do they care? Well, it depends who you ask, even within a single team.

Asked Tuesday whether he was interested in seeing where the Badgers were, senior Zak Showalter was clear.

“No,” Showalter said. “It really doesn’t affect anything we’re doing right now. We can control what position we end up getting (next month), but right now it’s not important.”

But his opinion was not universal among his teammates, including sophomore Ethan Happ.

“I’m interested, to be honest,” Happ said after practice. “Obviously, it doesn’t mean that much for our team since it’s so early. But it’s the same thing with rankings. They don’t mean a whole lot other than it can help you in the NCAA Tournament. So I’m interested to see where the committee has us.”

Most experts have Wisconsin anywhere from a No. 3 seed to a No. 6 seed, with the majority putting the Badgers at No. 4.

Way-too-early Top 25s

As Wisconsin proved this past season, where you start the year matters little when it comes to the national polls. But that doesn’t mean starting inside the AP Top 25 is a bad thing. And based on many of the way-too-early Top 25s released in the wake of National Signing Day last week, the Badgers will be seeing their names when the preseason polls come out in August.

Here’s a wrap-up of where the different outlets see Wisconsin.

Land of 10: No. 15
Bleacher Report: No. 15
ESPN: No. 12
Sporting News: No. 13

The rankings seem about right for a team looking to replace its three best players and numerous impact veterans. Still, if Wisconsin’s offensive line continues its upward trajectory, and the Badgers find some answers at safety and outside linebacker, the chance to push for an even loftier standing is possible.

Catching up

  • Super Bowl hero James White may join several New England Patriots in not going to the White House in celebration of their title.
  • Speaking of White, he told the Dan Patrick Show that he misplaced the football from his Super Bowl-winning touchdown.
  • Over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jeff Potrykus goes in-depth with freshman guard Brevin Pritzl and his difficult road back from two foot surgeries.
  • Wisconsin’s goalies are seeing their numbers improve as they trade starts, per Todd Milewski of Madison.com.
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