We are finally heading into the span of bowl games that features ranked teams with the top prospects that will make up the first few rounds of the draft. As he has throughout the bowl season, Joe Malfa has a list of the top names to watch in each of the biggest games.
Matchup: Wisconsin vs. Miami
Time: 8:00 p.m.
1) C Michael Deiter
Key stat: Played every position on the line at Wisconsin
Throughout all of these bowl preview articles, I have mentioned here and there that I have gotten to watch some players first hand because of my work with the Maryland football team. I have not mentioned exactly what I do. I work on the film crew and operate the all-22 sideline camera for every game. There was one exception this year in which I operated the end zone camera, and that came on the road against Wisconsin. I was thankful for the switch because filming the tight end zone shot gave me a great look at Deiter and the next player on this list, and I came away very impressed. Based on the way the draft board seems like it is going to break, Deiter could make it to the back half of the second round. He is going to be an immediate, impactful starter on an NFL offensive line. He should be a center in the NFL, but he can play all five positions on the line. Center is his best spot followed by guard. I don’t think tackle is in the cards for him at the next level.
2) G Beau Benzschawel
Key stat: 2nd team All-Big Ten
Wisconsin has produced a lot of running back talent in recent years, all of whom have had great statistical careers in a Badger uniform. The talent on the offensive line is responsible for a lot of that success. Every year, Wisconsin seems to develop pro-ready offensive linemen, and Benzschawel is no exception. I was impressed by his play at right guard this season and he could start immediately in the NFL. He will probably hear his name called in the third round.
3) TE Troy Fumagalli
2017 stats: 43 catches, 516 yards, 4 TDs
Career stats: 132 catches, 1,596 yards, 7 TDs
Two of the top four tight ends in this year’s draft class played in the Big Ten and I had the chance to watch them both — Fumagalli and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki. I was impressed with both, but I view Fumagalli as the better prospect. His 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame makes him a dangerous red zone threat. He has good athleticism for a man that size, strong hands, runs good routes and excels as a blocker. He is missing his left index finger due to a birth defect which could be scrutinized throughout the draft process, but it has not hindered him at all to this point of his career. Why would it hurt him all of a sudden at the next level? He will be just fine, and he will be a nice offensive weapon. He should come off the board in the second round.
4) MLB T.J. Edwards
2017 stats: 13 games 75 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 INTs, 7 passes defended
Edwards has been overshadowed by T.J. Watt and Jack Cichy throughout his career in Madison, but with Watt in the NFL and a knee injury ending Cichy’s season at the half way point, it was Edwards’s turn to be “the guy.” He delivered. At 6-foot-1, 240-pounds, he is in that Darron Lee mold of undersized linebackers that are very quick to the ball. Edwards has done a good job in coverage, though there is room for improvement. I saw him make a nice play on a pick-six when Maryland visited Madison in October. His strength lies in his ability to shoot the gaps and stop runs at the line or in the backfield. The NFL Draft Advisory Board gave him a “return to school” grade, but I believe he will come out and be a third round pick capable of starting from day one.
More names to watch:
- OLB/MLB Jack Cichy (4th-5th round)
- DL Billy Hirschfield (4th-5th round)
- DL Olive Sagapolu (5th-6th round)
- DL Connor Sheehy (6th-7th round)
1) DL R.J. McIntosh
2017 stats: 12 games, 49 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
McIntosh has yet to declare, but the belief around the program is that he will. He is coming off two very good seasons in which he had a knack for blowing up plays in the backfield. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle has the get-off and hands to be a consistent starter in the NFL. He will come off the board somewhere in the 4th or 5th round.
2) DL Kendrick Norton
2017 stats: 10 games, 23 tackles, 2.0 sacks
Norton and McIntosh were a scary tandem in the middle of that Miami defensive front this season. Norton is a bit thicker than McIntosh at 6-foot-3, 315-pounds, and he has a very similar skill set — quick get off, good hands, the strength to power through guards and centers. He is pro-ready and, like McIntosh, could become a consistent starter for the price of a day two pick.
3) K Michael Badgley
2017 stats: 16/20 overall, 14/14 from inside of 40 yards, 2/6 beyond 40 yards, 42/43 PATs
Career stats: 76/94 overall, 51/60 from inside of 40 yards, 35/44 beyond 40 yards, 169/176 PATs, career long of 57
A kicker? A kicker! We have seen teams go the rookie kicker route more often as of late. For some it has paid off, for others it has not (I’m looking at you, Tampa Bay). Badgley could warrant a 6th or 7th round pick. He has been one of the best kickers in the nation over the last three years and he has a big leg.
More Names to watch:
- OT K.C. McDermott (6th-7th round)
- EDGE Chad Thomas (3rd-4th Round)
Photo Credit: stateoftheu.com