Kenzel Doe - Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft Aftermath: Wisconsin Football Doesn't Rebuild, It Reloads

Powerhouse programs don’t spend time rebuilding, they simply reload.

Wisconsin football has become a powerhouse in college football. No, they haven’t gotten over the hump to a national championship game — yet. But they are as consistent and talented as any team across the country.

This consistency, built by current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, was established in the 1990s and remains strong to this day. In fact, it seems to be getting stronger. Every year, Wisconsin brings in players that fit its system to eventually replace the handful of great Badgers that will be headed to the NFL via the draft. Even after losing all of these quality players to the NFL draft year-in and year-out, the Badgers still keep making bowl games. They’re currently riding an impressive 12-year bowl streak, which includes three straight trips to the Rose Bowl (2011-13).

In 2013, Wisconsin boasted 31 former players in the NFL. Three former Badgers were named to the Pro Bowl and eight made an appearance in the playoffs; including Super Bowl winning quarterback Russell Wilson.

Joe Thomas – Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Number Of Badgers Drafted Each Of The Last 10 Years:

2004: (3), 2005: (7), 2006: (5), 2007: (1), 2008: (4), 2009: (4), 2010: (2), 2011: (5), 2012: (6), 2013: (3), 2014: (5)

Now that is a lot of NFL talent leaving Wisconsin every year. But instead of rebuilding, the Badgers just reload with a new crop of talent.

In 2007 when Wisconsin only had one player drafted, it happened to be seven-time Pro Bowl (future Hall of Fame Inductee — yeah I said it) LT Joe Thomas. It should also be mentioned that since 2004 the Badgers have also had 15 undrafted alumni play in the NFL, as well.

Impressive Stat: 60 Wisconsin alumni have played in the NFL from the last ten graduating classes alone. Wow. But at Wisconsin when talent leaves, talent continually arrives.

To put the Badgers’ consistency into perspective, look at the Texas Longhorns. They’re an “elite” college football program but had zero players selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. I do not see an embarrassment such as this happening to the Badgers for quite some time. Wisconsin, and it’s philosophy, is far too consistent.

Speaking of embarrassments, remember Michigan’s rebuilding period after it’s coaching change in 2008? In consecutive years, they put up records of 3-9 and 5-7; missing bowl games in both seasons. “Elite,” huh? Did Wisconsin falter after changing coaches? Did Wisconsin have to rebuild? Did Wisconsin miss bowl games? No it did not.

In the 2014 season, the Badgers will once again be depending on a new batch of players to step up so they can avoid the aforementioned embarrassments of two of college football’s “elite” programs.

Who Wisconsin Lost This Year to the 2014 NFL Draft:*

The Badgers lost ILB Chris Borland to the 49ers, WR Jared Abbrederis to the Packers (high-five!), RB James White to the Patriots, S Dezmen Southward and DT Beau Allen to the Eagles.

This bevy of talent will certainly be missed in Madison. But the loss of these players won’t be met with sadness. Instead, it opens the door for the next set of Wisconsin players to lead the Badgers to success and, ultimately, themselves to the NFL.

*It should be noted that Wisconsin also had a handful of other former players sign contracts with NFL squads as free agents at the conclusion of the 2014 draft as well.

Kenzel Doe – Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Who Wisconsin Will Reload With In The 2014 Season:

There are a lot of players who may step up for the Badgers in 2014 and beyond. It’s imperative that Wisconsin seamlessly transitions to it’s next group of stars.

The list of these potential stars includes three wide receivers: senior Kenzel Doe, sophomore Rob Wheelwright and junior Jordan Fredrick. It also includes a few linebackers: senior (and potential captain) Marcus Trotter, sophomore Leon Jacobs and sophomore Vince Biegel. Sophomore safety Nate Hammond is another player who may step up for the Badgers in 2014. My dark horse for biggest offensive player to step up is senior tight end Sam Arneson — he may end up being one of Wisconsin’s most targeted pass catchers in 2014. Not to be forgotten is one of the nation’s top running back duos in (legitimate Heisman candidate) junior Melvin Gordon III and sophomore Corey Clement. Those two will be referred to as the best running back duo by the time next year’s bowl season arrives. I assure you that Clement’s name will be known nationally in the very near future.

Who Wisconsin Will Reload With Down The Road:

This glimpse of the future is undoubtedly premature but why the hell shouldn’t we look into the future? It’s quite bright for Wisconsin football fans; at least history suggests that to be the case.

These are five freshmen that will help carry on Wisconsin’s strong success after the 2014 season: safety Keelon Brookins, (future starting) quarterback D.J. Gillins, defensive end Alec James, tight end T.J. Watt (yes J.J’s other younger brother) and offensive tackle Jaden Gault. All of these players are exciting and a definite sign of great things to come in Madison once this next season concludes.

Of course we at Badger of Honor wanted to look even further into the future. So we took a look at five players committed to Wisconsin who still have a whole year of high school remaining. These commits prove that there is no shortage of talent heading toward the Badgers’ roster in the coming years.

Who Wisconsin Will Reload With Even Further Down The Road:

Wisconsin’s 2015 top recruits are highly-touted dual-threat quarterback Austin Kafentzis from Utah, speedy wide receiver Andrew James from Florida, one of the nation’s top tight ends (with offers from Florida State and Oklahoma) Kyle Penniston from California, solid offensive linemen David Moorman from Michigan and a beast of an offensive linemen Jon Dietzen, the top player in the state of Wisconsin for the 2015 class who boasts offers from Miami (FL), Michigan State and Nebraska. Exciting, huh? The Badgers are aggressively and effectively recruiting all corners of the country under second-year coach Gary Andersen.

As you can see… the Badgers will continue to do what they’ve done for decades now. They will keep recruiting quality players, put together successful seasons and send many players to the NFL every year. If that last sentence doesn’t scream college football powerhouse then nothing does. This trend will continue because Wisconsin doesn’t rebuild, as previously noted — they reload.

There have been 282 Badgers drafted into the NFL since 1936; when the draft first came about. Expect that number to steadily rise as the foreseeable future unfolds — but don’t expect their success on the field to dip any time soon. Wisconsin will be one of the favorites to win the B1G West Division every year as far into the future as I, or probably anyone, could imagine.

On Wisconsin.

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