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Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt is headed to Pittsburgh after Green Bay passed on the home-state kid.

Fans in Wisconsin will be watching T.J. Watt’s career closely, two Badgers picked in first round and more

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 Friday, April 28, and this is what’s for breakfast.


Under the microscope

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a perfect fit for T.J. Watt, whom they selected with the 30th pick of the first round on Thursday night. They’ve been playing a 3-4 defense longer, and better, than almost anyone in the NFL. As an outside linebacker, Watt is going to slide in and be a fit from Day 1 for them.

But this pick doesn’t come without controversy in the state of Wisconsin. Not when the Green Bay Packers had pick No. 29 and decided to trade out of the first round, passing on Watt, an impact edge rusher, which is considered to be a definite need for them.

This isn’t to say that general manager Ted Thompson made a mistake or that he’ll live to regret passing on the third and final Watt brother who played at Wisconsin, but the two now are linked along with the players the Packers take with picks they got in return. Whether that’s fair or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s going to happen with fans already calling for Thompson’s head in the wake of moving back — something he’s not unfamiliar with considering the passionate fan base he serves.

But as it was in 1992, when former general manager Ron Wolf took Florida State cornerback Terrell Buckley at No. 5 instead of Wisconsin All-American Troy Vincent, Thompson attached himself to Watt by not picking him. Maybe it will turn out like Buckley and Vincent, where the former didn’t last more than four years in Green Bay and the latter was a 4-time Pro Bowl selection. Or it could go as it did four years ago, when the Packers traded back with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball still on the board. Denver selected Ball; Green Bay ended up taking Eddie Lacy, and while he’s now in Seattle, he was clearly the better choice over Ball.

We won’t know how things will play out for several years even after we see who Green Bay takes with the two picks they got in return for moving down. But fans, especially in Wisconsin, don’t have short memories. And if Watt turns into anything close to the player that his brother three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is, the Packers will have made a huge mistake. And you can be sure they’ll hear about it from a legion of Badgers fans who are struggling to stomach and accept that T.J. won’t be harassing opposing quarterbacks at Lambeau Field.

Whew!

For a while there, it didn’t look like Wisconsin would have a single player taken in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night. When the Denver Broncos passed on tackle Ryan Ramczyk at No. 20 in favor of Utah’s Garett Bolles, it sent him on a slide. The thought was T.J. Watt would go in the mid-20s and potentially no later than No. 29 when the Green Bay Packers were set to pick. When that didn’t happen, it didn’t look great for either player. But in a matter of minutes, Wisconsin went from zero picks to two in the first round, with Watt going to the Steelers at No. 30 and Ramcyzk finding a home with the New Orleans Saints at No. 32.

It was the first time since 2011 that Wisconsin had two players taken in the first round. That year, the Houston Texans selected defensive end J.J. Watt at No. 11, and tackle Gabe Carimi fell to the Chicago Bears at No. 29.

The Badgers have had eight first-round picks in the last 10 years.

Those aren’t exactly NFL factory numbers, but it’s pretty darn impressive. Even more impressive is that all eight played their high school football in Wisconsin. For a state that gets very little credit for its production of high-level talent, that’s not too bad.

Where things stand: Tight ends

Wisconsin finished spring practice last week, so we’re taking a look back at what we saw over the 15 practices at tight end.

What happened: The tight ends might have had the best spring out of any position group on the team. Senior Troy Fumagalli made spectacular catches, sophomore Kyle Penniston flashed big-play potential, junior Zander Neuville showed he can be more than just a blocker, and redshirt freshman Luke Benzschawel proved he could be a factor in the years to come.

Biggest takeaway: Troy Fumagalli could be in for a special year

Fumagalli bookended his junior campaign of 2016 with his best performances, tearing up a very good LSU defense in the season opener and being nearly unstoppable in the Cotton Bowl against Western Michigan. But it appears he’s just getting started. The former walk-on was good for a spectacular catch nearly every practice and is clearly at the height of his powers heading into his final season. Rated by CBSSports.com as the top senior tight end in the country, Fumagalli looked every bit of it during the spring.

Biggest question: Just how deep is Wisconsin at tight end?

Few coaches use tight ends more than coach Paul Chryst, and he’s got a bevy of options this year. While Fumagalli is locked in at No. 1, Penniston could see his role increase, as will Neuville, a converted defensive lineman who Fumagalli said might be the best athlete among the group. If Benzschawel’s development continues at its current pace, Chryst could throw a mind-boggling number of formations at opponents in the fall.

Top prospect narrows his list

One of Wisconsin’s top targets in the class of 2018 has narrowed his list of schools, and the Badgers made the cut. Tavion Thomas, a 3-star running back, tweeted his top 10 on Thursday.

Looking at the list of schools, it seems unlikely Wisconsin will be able to land the Dunbar (Dayton, Ohio) High School product. The 247Sports.com Crystal Ball predictions currently are at 100 percent for Ohio State. We certainly wouldn’t count the Badgers out they were Thomas’ first Power Five offer but it’ll be an uphill battle to land the nation’s No. 17 running back.

Catching up

  • Five things to know about tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who was taken by the New Orleans Saints with 32nd pick of the first round of the NFL draft.
  • Five things to know about outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the first-round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30.
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