NFL draft analyst Matt Miller of Bleacher Report predicted that five Wisconsin Football players will be drafted this spring in his seven-round mock draft.
With both the college and pro football seasons now concluded, it is officially draft season, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller certainly knows his stuff on that topic. If his recent seven-round NFL Mock Draft is any indication, several Badgers should be hearing their names called this spring.
OT David Edwards: Round 2 (No. 64 overall) to New England
Edwards seems like a lock to go at some point in the second round, and he couldn’t ask for a much better organization with whom to start his career with than the Super Bowl champs. The Patriots may be in need of another tackle, as it seems likely that starter Trent Brown could sign elsewhere as a free agent, and Edwards would get to compete for a title immediately protecting the ageless wonder that is Tom Brady. In addition, there aren’t many offensive line coaches in the league who have had more success developing guys than New England’s Dante Scarnecchia.
Should Edwards be lucky enough to go the Patriots in this spot, don’t be shocked if he starts immediately and doesn’t relinquish that role for a decade or so.
LB T.J. Edwards: Round 3 (No. 83) to Pittsburgh
The Steelers have had a major need at linebacker to fill in their 3-4 defense ever since Ryan Shazier’s career-threatening spinal injury back in 2017. They could elect to fill that need in free agency, but T.J. Edwards would be a cheaper option who I firmly believe could come in and start from day one in the middle of head coach Mike Tomlin’s defense.
Of all of these mock selections, this is the one I most hope comes to pass. Watching Edwards once again knock heads alongside former Badger T.J. Watt on the Pittsburgh defense for the next few years would be a joy to watch.
OG Michael Deiter: Round 4 (No. 96) to Arizona
Arizona quarterback Josh Rosen took a major beating throughout his rookie season behind an awful offensive line. While the Cardinals may very well decide to move on from Rosen and draft Kyler Murray No. 1 overall given new head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s past comments on the Heisman Trophy winner, whichever young signal caller winds up under center for them in 2019 must receive better protection than Rosen got this past season.
Enter Michael Deiter, a plug and play piece that could step in and provide an immediate upgrade for the Cardinals on their line. A four-year starter for Wisconsin, Deiter was rock-solid for the Badgers throughout his college career, especially as a run-blocker. As with Rosen, Arizona running back David Johnson struggled mightily behind that shaky line last season, so the addition of Deiter would be a step in the right direction in getting Johnson back to his Pro Bowl ways.
In addition, Deiter has also always possessed impressive mobility as a blocker in space, a trait that would lend itself well in the protection of a mobile quarterback like Murray should Arizona pull the trigger on the Oklahoma star.
OG Beau Benzschawel: Round 4 (No. 116) to Baltimore
As with his teammates drafted ahead of him in Miller’s mock, Beau Benzschawel could be an instant starter for most teams in the league. This is certainly the case with the Ravens, a squad that will continue to heavily emphasize the run with Lamar Jackson taking over for Joe Flacco under center this upcoming season. As with Deiter, few linemen in this draft class have a better record as a run-blocker that Benzschawel, having been a key component in the success of Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin.
In addition, Baltimore has a glaring need at guard. Alex Lewis and James Hurst split time at left guard last season, but there is certainly room for an upgrade there, and Benzschawel would provide that. On the right, Marshal Yanda was a Pro Bowler this past season, but he is also 34 years old. You would imagine that he hangs up the cleats soon, and Benzschawel could be the heir apparent to him.
LB Ryan Connelly: Round 6 to Houston
I have full confidence in Ryan Connelly’s ability to develop into an NFL starter over time. Originally a walk-on, Connelly worked his tail off to not only earn a scholarship but to also develop into one of the Big Ten’s top linebackers. He may be a late pick or even go undrafted, but I’m just not betting against this kid to carve out a career in the league.
Bernardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham likely have the starting inside linebacker gigs locked down for the Texans in 2019 and they have is depth behind them, but Connelly is still worth taking a flier on in the later rounds. Houston could groom him into a future starter while getting an impact special teams player in the short term.