Friday, April 22, 2011
NFL Draft: Scouting the Badgers
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our newest contributor to the RFH, Scott Simon. His accomplishments are too many to list in this space, but let's just say he co-hosts a sick podcast and is a Wisconsin grad (class of '06) that is about to give us an in-depth look at some of the best Draft prospects in the country. Also a fellow Steelers fan, you can look forward to hearing more from him in the coming weeks. Enjoy.
JJ Watt (6’6” 290lbs) – Defensive end
Watt has just about everything you look for in a prospect. He has great size, a tremendous passion and work ethic, prolific numbers at a high level of competition, shows versatility, is a great leader and is coachable. A former tight end at Central Michigan University, Watt transferred to Wisconsin and while forced to sit out a year he delivered pizza for Pizza Hut to make ends meet while not on scholarship at UW. His 36.5 tackles for loss in the past two seasons is the highest total among this year’s draft candidates. Watt is probably best suited for the defensive position that is toughest to teach (because few college teams play it): the 5 technique as a 3-4 end. I could go on and on about his character. In fact, I think I will. Watt created a motto and subsequently a charity called “Dream Big Work Hard” which provides funding for Children’s Hospitals. He won the Lott IMPACT trophy which is given to a defensive player each season that displays a high level of “integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community, and tenacity.” A second team AP All America, Watt was voted a team captain as a junior and forgave his senior season of eligibility to enter the draft.
If there is a knock on Watt is may be his top-end speed. He did spend some time at tackle at UW but was ultimately deemed too valuable a commodity to get lost in the trenches. Coaches determined UW was best suited let Watt do his thing at end and worry about the tackle position with another player or two. UW was 21-5 in JJ’s two seasons on campus and there is no reason to believe this former tight end will not improve under NFL tutelage. A super safe pick with zero character risk.
Draft range: mid first round.
NFL Doppelganger: Jared Allen
Gabe Carimi (6’8” 315lbs) – Tackle
I put on a few pounds during my four years in college. Gabe Carimi put on nearly one hundred. The heir to Joe Thomas, this Wisconsin native came to Madison a 6’5” 220lb tweener who waffled playing defensive end or tight end before settling in on the left edge of the offensive line. After a red-shirt season in which Thomas, then a senior, took home the Outland Trophy for the nation’s best interior lineman, Carimi started at left tackle for four seasons and inevitably snagged the Outland Trophy in his senior campaign. I watched both play and admit that Thomas is the better player, but Carimi moves extremely well and has more than enough strength and power to play at the highest level. Consistency has been labeled be an issue for “The Jewish Hammer” but that could be just kvetching from draftniks. Because Wisconsin ran the ball so effectively toward his side many think right tackle will be his position de guerre, but I disagree. This kid handled Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and I think he’ll be a fine left tackle in this league for years to come. Carimi, an AP first team All America is a top-notch blend of smarts, instincts, speed, strength and nastiness. Another safe pick without character risk.
Draft range: mid-to-late first round
NFL Doppelganger: Max Starks
Lance Kendricks (6’4” 240lbs) – Tight End
Kendricks came to UW with much fan fare. A highly touted WR from Milwaukee, Kendricks morphed himself into a well-rounded and very productive tight end for the Badgers. His best performance was against Miami (FL) in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl as a junior (7 catches, 128 yards). An AP second team All America, Kendricks steadily improved as a blocker in each of his five seasons on campus and has been labeled “dumb strong” by teammates for his unparalleled work in the weight room. Personally, and with all due respect to his 43 catches and 663 receiving yards, I thought Kendricks should have had a better season. The Badgers and their juggernaut of a running game seldom threw the ball in the second half of the season, but Kendricks wasn’t the unstoppable force I was expecting after his Champs Bowl performance the year before. Coming to Madison many hoped he’d be the next Lee Evans, or Travis Beckum- it never happened.
Furthermore, his listless personality is confounding. He’s a quiet, lead by example type which, in a league where pass-catchers are generally look-at-me divas, is probably a good thing. He might blossom as a well-rounded second TE in the NFL but he is by no means a game changer.
Draft range: second or third round
NFL Doppelganger: Zach Miller
John Moffitt (6’5” 323lbs) – Guard
Moffitt, a first team AP All America, and Carimi formed the best left side in college football last season. Moffitt, an admitted class clown, was the heart and soul of the UW offensive line. Put simple, whenever UW needed a big play they generally ran behind John Moffitt. Named UW’s co-offensive player of the week twice in 2010 (what school other than Wisconsin names left guards offensive player of the week?), the Connecticut product has experience playing center and over 40 starts under his belt. Moffitt is above average in just about every category and has been trained by the great OL coach Bob Bostad. Former UW guards Dan Buenning (Bucs), Kraig Urbik (Bills), and Andy Kemp (Vikings) have all had at least a cup of tea on NFL rosters and there is no reason to believe Moffitt won’t have a long, prosperous career on the interior of the offensive line.
Draft range: third round
NFL Doppelganger: Dan Connelly
John Clay (6’3” 233) – Running Back
Coming out of high school John Clay was Wisconsin’s version of Jim Brown. He was a nimble yet bruising tailback with adequate speed and exciting burst. For three seasons the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year played up to the lofty goals set by everyone but the young man himself. Clay is not without risk, however. Ankle and foot injuries, weight issues, intelligence, and commitment are very real concerns. Clay decided to forego his senior season as he’d be 24 by the time the 2012 Draft commenced. One-third of the three-headed monster backfield at UW, his stock had little place to go but down had he stayed in Madison. Some team in the fifth or sixth round will take a chance on this rare breed of big back. He claims he’s at his lightest playing weight since entering college nearly five years ago and his injuries are a thing of the past. I wouldn’t be stunned if someone reaches for him in fourth round, but if I haven’t made this clear by now I’ll just come out and say it- I have my doubts.
Draft range: fifth or sixth round.
NFL Doppelganger: Brandon Jacobs
Scott Tolzien (6’3” 205lbs)
Tolzien went from zero to hero in an instant in Madison. His first pass of his junior season went for a 79 yard touchdown and the Rolling Meadows (Ill) native didn’t look back. The lightly recruited signal caller’s best traits are his sublime accuracy, smarts, and a calm, collected demeanor. He throws a nice out as well. Tolzien lacks ideal size, shows fair maneuverability and poor arm strength. No one will question these facts which is the reason he’s likely to go undrafted. A team captain, MVP, and second team All Big Ten selection by the coaches, it’s not implausible for Tolzien to sustain a career as a “Sorgi” which is to say a clipboard and jockstrap carrying back up.
Draft range: seventh round to undrafted
NFL Doppelganger: Chad Pennington
Bill Nagy (6’3” 318lbs)
Nagy is an interesting prospect. He couldn’t maintain a regular starting role on the UW O-line, yet in 2010 still earned 3rd team all Big Ten. He saw time at center, guard, tight end and fullback in his senior campaign as the staff plugged him in when injuries arose or when they went to their jumbo packages. Nagy likely won’t be drafted next week, but he’s an interesting free agent candidate that many teams will have their eye on.