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Scouts believe tight end Troy Fumagalli has a future in the NFL.

Current Badgers with best shot at NFL career, Ethan Happ among best in nation and more

Zach Heilprin

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Thursday, Feb. 9, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.


Who’s next?

A number of former Wisconsin players will hear their names called during the NFL draft in April, with tackle Ryan Ramczyk likely to be the first off the board. Linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, along with running back Corey Clement, will follow in some order. They’re following in the footsteps of guys like Joe Schobert, Derek Watt and others that were drafted in 2016. But who will follow them?

Here’s a look at some current Badgers most likely to play at the next level, with rankings from CBSSports.com.

Troy Fumagalli (senior, No. 1 TE in 2018)

Fumagalli is coming off a performance in the Cotton Bowl that grabbed the attention of scouts and earned him offensive Most Valuable Player honors. A big body, Fumagalli has become a solid blocker in addition to his skills as a receiver. The Illinois native has a huge catch radius and some of the best hands of anyone that’s played at Wisconsin. He’s got a good chance of adding to the Badgers’ NFL tight end legacy, joining the likes of Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Travis Beckum and Lance Kendricks.

Michael Deiter (junior, No. 1 center in 2019)

Deiter will enter his junior season having started 27 straight games, easily maneuvering between center and guard during that time. A versatile blocker who can get out in open space easily, Deiter went under the radar in the Big Ten in 2016 thanks to an abundance of talented interior players in the conference. But the Ohio native has NFL written all over him. It’s possible he could follow the path of another Wisconsin center, Travis Frederick, who bypassed his senior season, became a first-round pick and is now a three-time All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jack Cichy (senior, No. 5 ILB in 2018)

Assuming Cichy recovers from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his junior season midway through the year and returns to the All-Big Ten level he was playing at before the injury, he has a good chance to be a player in the NFL. With an uncommon nose for the football and an intensity that rivals anyone that’s played defense at Wisconsin, Cichy is a true playmaker and athletic enough to carry that over to the highest level.

T.J. Edwards (junior, No. 2 ILB in 2019)

Edwards led Wisconsin in tackles for a second straight year while showing a knack for the big play, including a stellar interception in the Cotton Bowl to set up a late score by the Badgers. With ideal size, the former high school quarterback always seems to find his way to the football and likely will also find his way onto an NFL roster when his career in Madison is done.

Jazz Peavy (senior, No. 35 WR in 2018)

Wisconsin wide receivers are often overlooked, and it appears that may end up being the case with Peavy. But scouts should take note of the jump he made in 2016. He led the Badgers with 635 yards receiving and five touchdowns, while also averaging 15.1 yards per carry on a variety of jet sweeps. Peavy has got the same loose hips that made former Badgers star Jared Abbrederis so difficult to defend as a route runner and should move up draft boards with a big senior season.

The rest:

Beau Benzschawel No. 2 OG (2019)
Derrick Tindal No. 23 CB (2018)
D’Cota Dixon No. 8 SS (2018)
Ryan Connelly No. 11 ILB (2019)
Chris Orr No. 21 ILB (2019)
Chikwe Obasih No. 7 DE (2018)
Olive Sagapolu No. 11 DT (2019)
Austin Ramesh No. 9 FB (2018)
Alec Ingold No. 5 FB (2019)
Rafael Gaglianone No. 13 K (2018)

Wooden watch

Wisconsin started the year with three players on the John Wooden Award watch list, but with a month left in the regular season, it’s Ethan Happ or nothing for the Badgers.

On Wednesday, officials announced that Happ was one of 20 players named to the Late Season Top-20 list for the award, which goes to the best player in the country. He joins two other Big Ten players Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and Maryland’s Melo Trimble on the list.

That Happ is on the short list for the award isn’t a surprise, but it’s still amazing what he’s able to do despite not having a jump shot, not living above the rim or being an imposing physical presence down low. But does he have a chance to win the award? Maybe.

If Wisconsin continues to win they are 20-3 and alone in first place in the Big Ten and Happ maintains his status as the only major-conference player to lead his team in the five major stat categories, then he has a right to be in the conversation. That’s especially true when you look at his contribution compared to that of former Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky. The center was the consensus National Player of the Year two years ago, and right now Happ’s player efficiency rating, a metric used to judge a players all-around game, is higher than Kaminsky’s was.

No time to celebrate

The Wisconsin hockey team has overachieved by everyone’s expectations, including its coach’s. But as the Badgers prepare to take on No. 10 Penn State this weekend, their thoughts aren’t on what they’ve accomplished in the first 24 games of the year, but what is still out there.

Wisconsin is in a first-place tie in the Big Ten with Minnesota and in position to challenge for a conference title and a berth into the NCAA Tournament. No one saw that coming in the first year of the Tony Granato era after the team won 12 games combined the last two years. But, for whatever reason, be it coaching, player development or just more talent, Wisconsin is on its way to returning to prominence in college hockey quicker than expected. And that’s good for the program, fans and Wisconsin’s bottom line.

Catching up

  • From Jeff Potrykus at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Badgers senior Vitto Brown left to ask ‘why’ during shooting slump.
  • The Wisconsin athletic board approved a $132.4 million budget for the 2017-18 season. Madison.com gives a breakdown of where the money will be spent.
  • SI.com released its latest three-round NFL mock draft, and three former Wisconsin players made the cut.