Wisconsin sends six to NFL Combine

The invitations to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. have been officially sent out and six players from Wisconsin will be in attendance.

Linebackers Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley, and defensive backs Natrell Jamerson and Nick Nelson will represent one of the best defenses in the country from the 2017 season. Tight end Troy Fumagalli is the only offensive player from Wisconsin that will be in attendance.

Linebacker Jack Cichy, who missed the entire 2017 season after tearing his ACL in preseason camp, was the sixth invitee from Wisconsin.

Jacobs, Dooley, Jamerson, and Nelson were key cogs in a defensive unit that was second in the FBS in total yards per game allowed (262.1 ypg) and third in points per game (13.9 ppg). Alabama was the country’s leader in both categories.

Fumagalli was the team’s leading receiver with 46 catches on the season for 547 yards and four touchdowns. He began his career at Wisconsin as a walk-on and finished with 135 catches for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns in his career.

In the first seven-round mock draft from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, four of the six Badgers were selected, with Nelson being the highest selection in the third-round to the Minnesota Vikings. Fumagalli, Cichy, and Dooley were the other Badgers taken in that mock draft, with Jamerson and Jacobs going undrafted.

A full list of the invitees to the 2018 NFL Combine can be found here.

Grading the Badgers: Linebackers

During the 2017 season Wisconsin’s defense allowed only 92.6 yards per game. A big reason for that was the play of the linebackers.

The position group received contributions from numerous players this season. T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly, Garret Dooley, and Leon Jacobs were the leaders while Chris Orr and Andrew Van Ginkel all contributed when their numbers were called. Edwards, Dooley, Connelly, and Jacobs all received some type of All-Big Ten recognition, with Edwards being recognized as an All-American as well.

Connelly was the team leader in tackles with 80 in total, as well as 3.0 sacks. Edwards was behind him with 75 stops, 2.0 sacks, and also was tied for the team lead with four interceptions, including one of them returned for a touchdown. He added in seven passes defended as well.

Jacobs, Dooley, and Van Ginkel were behind those two in terms of tackles, but were able to find the quarterback more often. The trio combined for 15 sacks on the season, including a team high 6.0 from Dooley. Orr also was able to find the quarterback for sacks on three occasions, despite missing four games on the season.

All of the honors that this group received were well deserved. The 92.6 yards rushing per game allowed was the lowest among FBS schools in the country. Wisconsin allowed 3.0 yards per carry as well, which ranked tied for sixth.

Linebackers are often thought of as the leaders of the defense, and it’s hard to argue that with this group. The Badgers got fantastic play from this group all year, no matter which players were in.

The game against Ohio State is obviously the black eye on this group, as it was the entire defense. Even in that game, the linebackers made their fair share of plays, including Van Ginkel’s interception of J.T. Barrett returned for a touchdown. Van Ginkel also forced and recovered a fumble deep inside Ohio State territory that the Badgers turned into a field goal.

GRADE: A – This group was the biggest reason as to why Wisconsin had the best statistical defense in the country. Allowing under 100 yards per game rushing is something that doesn’t happen by accident. Edwards was more than deserving of his All-American honors and will likely be selected in next spring’s NFL Draft if he decides to forego his eligibility.

Wisconsin’s linebackers were arguably the best position group on the team in 2017, and are more than deserving of their ‘A’ grade.