NFL Scouting Combine: Day 5 observations

Indianapolis – Sunday was the fifth and final day of media availability at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The linebackers and defensive line took part in the on-field testing while the defensive backs met with the media and took part in the bench press.

Here are three takeaways from Day 5 of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

Linebackers workout

Sunday was the chance for the linebackers to work out on the field at Lucas oil Stadium. Of the three Wisconsin linebackers invited to the combine, two of them took part in Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley. Jack Cichy did not participate as he continues rehab from surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee in August.

Jacobs continued to test well, as expected. His first 40-yard dash time was 4.48 seconds, officially. His second attempt was slightly slower than that at 4.55 seconds. Jacobs mentioned to me on Saturday afternoon that he expected to run a 4.5.

Dooley didn’t run as fast as Jacobs did, nor was he expected to. His first attempt at the 40-yard dash was 4.92 seconds. He was able to improve on his second attempt clocking in at 4.81 seconds.

The show was stolen by UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin for the second consecutive day. On Saturday, he bench pressed 225lbs 20 times despite only having one hand and having to use a prosthetic device in order to grasp the bar with his left arm. On Sunday, Griffin ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker in the past 15 years at the combine. He clocked a 4.38 in his first attempt, the third-fastest time of anyone at the combine so far, this year.

Defensive backs speak

The defensive backs were the final position group of the media to speak at the combine. This is an area where the Packers could potentially be interested. The top player in the group is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, although it is more likely he is drafted far before the Packers are slated to select at No. 14 overall.

A couple of prospects that could make sense for Green Bay are Florida State safety Derwin James and Iowa corner Josh Jackson.

James is a physical safety that could play both in the box and on the back end of the defense. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is a defensive back that is more versatile in the sense that he can play either safety position or corner.

James also said that he has met formally with the Packers already.

Jackson was one of the best corners in the Big Ten at Iowa. Fans might remember him having three interceptions against Ohio State and following it up with two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Wisconsin the very next week at Camp Randall.

Lastly, Denzel Ward is regarded as the other top defensive back in the draft. The Ohio State product is a sure-fire first round pick that will be able to come in and make an impact from day one.

Any of them would make sense at No. 14 overall for the Packers.

More Badgers

While Saturday had a trio of Wisconsin linebackers speak to the media – Jacobs, Cichy, and Dooley – Sunday featured a pair of defensive backs from the Badgers.

First, Natrell Jamerson met with the media. Jamerson began his career at Wisconsin as a wide receiver before moving to corner and ultimately safety in his final year. He is at the combine as just that, but does believe that he could play anywhere in the defensive backfield in the NFL.

Jamerson tested on the bench press after meeting with the media where he posted 25 reps of 225lbs. He out-performed four of the five other Badgers there, trailing only Jacobs by a single rep. Jamerson tied with Arizona’s Dane Cruickshank to lead the defensive backs.

Later in the afternoon corner Nick Nelson met with the media and said that he expects to run his 40-yard dash faster than Jamerson, and hopes to be sub-4.4. Nelson was not quite as impressive as Jamerson in the bench press as he finished with 17 reps, tying him for 12th among defensive backs.

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 3 observations

Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis continued on Friday with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, and specialists meeting with the media.

Here are three takeaways from the day:

Help in the wide receiver room

Friday is when all of the wide receivers met with the media. This class doesn’t have a sure-fire top receiver in it. Calvin Ridley, who played college at the University of Alabama, is expected to be the first receiver taken off of the board. With that being said, it would come as a surprise to no one if he stuck around until the middle of the first round.

The other receivers in this class that could find themselves in Green Bay include James Washington of Oklahoma State, Equanimeous St. Brown from Notre Dame, Christian Kirk from Texas A&M, or Maryland’s D.J. Moore.

Those four all said that they have met with the Green Bay Packers – either formally or informally – while in Indianapolis.

Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs also said that he met with the Packers informally with no plans for a formal visit as of Friday afternoon.

It’s common for teams to take meetings with as many prospects as possible at the combine, but this position is certainly worth watching with the looming contract situations of current wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

If one, or both, of Cobb and Nelson are gone next fall when the Packers hit the field, drafting one of these four receivers certainly could help to lessen the impact.

Wisconsin on the scene

After the first day of player availability, no players from the University of Wisconsin had spoken yet. That changed on Friday when tight end Troy Fumagalli met with the media.

Expectedly, the first few questions that Fumagalli fielded from members of the media were about the fact that he only has four fingers on his left hand. This was something that happened when Fumagalli was exposed to national media during his time at Wisconsin, but did not come up on a day-to-day basis.

“Woodshop class, I guess that was my best one,” Fumagalli joked when asked what his best fake story about losing his finger was. “No, I’m pretty serious about it. I just tell people how it happened at birth. At serious events like this I don’t mess around with that stuff.

“I know it’s part of the process. [Teams] invest a lot of money in people and they need to know everything so that doesn’t bother me,” he said when asked if the questions about his missing finger annoyed him.

Fumagalli also said that he did meet with the Packers while at the combine already.

“I love the Packers. I love what they do with the offense and things like that. Yeah, I’d love to stay at home in Wisconsin.”

Saquon Barkley impresses

The Packers won’t be drafting Saquon Barkley in the draft this year. That needs to be said before the rest of this is written.

Barkley, however, has been one of the stars of the combine to this point.

In the bench press on Thursday, Barkley benched 225lbs 29 times, tied for most among the running backs with Nick Chubb from Georgia. For a point of reference, Barkley beat all but five offensive linemen at the combine.

On Friday, Barkley took part in on-field drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. He tested extremely well in both the 40-yard dash and vertical leap. The Penn State product had the second fastest time in the 40-yard dash at 4.41, two hundredths of a second slower than Nyheim Hines from NC State.

Barkley was the leader at the running back positon in the vertical jump with 41 inches.

Whether or not these things will translate on to the field in the NFL remains to be seen, but his athleticism is certainly undeniable.

Badgers snap losing skid against Illinois

The Wisconsin Badgers entered Illinois with a five-game losing streak and losers of its last seven road games. They ended both of those streaks with a 78-69 win on Thursday night over the Illini. Not only did the win end those streaks, it simultaneously extended Wisconsin’s winning streak over Illinois on the hardwood to 13 games. The last Illinois win over Wisconsin came on January 2, 2011.

Ethan Happ was dominant when his team needed him to be. He finished with 27 points, six rebounds, and eight assists in the win. Brevin Pritzl snapped out of his funk, after finishing a combined 0-for-10 from behind the 3-point line in the previous two losses. He was 3-for-3 shooting from behind the arc and had 15 points off the bench for Wisconsin.

Trent Frazier was outstanding in the loss for Illinois. He finished with a career-high 32 points to lead the way for the Illini.

Wisconsin’s win puts them at 10th place in the Big Ten heading into the weekend. The teams that finish in the top 10 receive a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament that starts later this month. The Badgers have not played in the first round of the conference tournament since 2000.

The Badger return to the hardwood on Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center against No. 20 Michigan. Tip-off is at noon.

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.

Wisconsin adds tight end to 2019 class

The Wisconsin Badgers added commitment No. 8 to their 2019 class on Monday morning. Tight end Hayden Rucci made his pledge to the Badgers on Twitter before the sun was up.

The Lititz, Pa. native is currently the No. 11 tight end in the country and the No. 3 player in the state of Pennsylvania. He’s the No. 337 ranked recruit in the country according to 247 Sports.

Rucci’s commitment brings Wisconsin to eight recruits currently pledged to the Badgers in the 2019 class. He also becomes the fourth four-star recruit to commit to Wisconsin, joining offensive tackles Logan Brown and Joe Tippmann and quarterback Graham Mertz. The other four players currently committed to Wisconsin in the class of 2019 are rated as three-star recruits by 247 sports.

Wisconsin signed 19 players in the December early signing period for the 2018 class, with linebacker Jack Sanborn being the only four-star recruit. National signing day for 2018 is Wednesday, February 7. As of this writing Wisconsin does not have any more commitments expected to sign a National Letter of Intent.

Wisconsin falls to Maryland 68-63

Just when things looked like they may start to get better for Wisconsin, they got worse. The Badgers tied the game at 60 on an Aleem Ford 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining, but were then outscored 8-3 over the rest of regulation.

Wisconsin (10-15, 3-9) had an opportunity to tie the game on its last possession, but guard Brad Davison made an ill-advised drive to the rim as opposed to attempting a 3-pointer to try and tie the game. On the possession prior, Davison hit a 3-pointer that brought Wisconsin within one-point at 64-63. Maryland’s Anthony Cowan knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to 66-63 before Wisconsin’s last chance.

After Davison’s inexplicable final possession, Cowan knocked down another pair of free throws to ice the game and give him a game-high 23 points on the afternoon.

Four of the five starters for Wisconsin reached double-figures in scoring, with Khalil Iverson, who scored eight points, being the exception. The Badgers did not get a single point off the bench in the loss. Forward Ethan Happ was the leading scorer for Wisconsin. He had 18 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in the loss.

Wisconsin has now dropped five games in a row, dating back to January 19. They’re 1-10 away from the Kohl Center this season. They have two road games remaining on the schedule, including their next game at Illinois on Thursday night.

Wisconsin loses to Michigan State 76-61

Michigan State defeated Wisconsin 76-61 in East Lansing, Mich., Friday night. This marks the fifth loss in the last six games for the Badgers.

Wisconsin has been unable to generate any momentum away from the Kohl Center this season, as they’re now 1-9 in road and neutral site contests.

Forward Ethan Happ was the leading scorer for Wisconsin, he had 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists on the night. He was one of only two Badgers to reach double-figures in scoring. Brevin Pritzl was the other, he had 13 points.

Michigan State was led by sophomore Miles Bridges with 24 points. Four of Michigan State’s five starters reached double-figures in scoring, which helped erase the fact that the Spartans only had four bench points on the evening.

Despite only scoring four points off the bench, Michigan State won that statistical battle. The Badgers finished with only three points scored by Alex Illikainen for the reserve unit.

The loss drops Wisconsin to 10-12 on the season and 3-6 inside of Big Ten play. The Badgers return to action Monday night at the Kohl Center against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers took the previous meeting this year 63-59 in Lincoln. Wisconsin has played much better at home, with a record of 9-3 at the Kohl Center.

Badgers fall to Iowa 85-67

The Wisconsin Badgers fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes 85-67 on Tuesday night in Iowa City. The Badgers started out slowly, similar to their loss against Purdue the week prior.

Iowa led 9-0 nearly four minutes into the game. When they lost to Purdue last week they trailed 12-0 to start the game.

Wisconsin was able to fight back and cut Iowa’s lead to four points with just over two minutes left in the first half, but then Iowa finished the half on a 6-1 run to go into the locker room with a 37-28 lead.

In the second half it was more of the same, the Hawkeyes opened up a lead as large as 22 points down the stretch. Iowa got a strong effort from freshman Luka Garza, he had 17 points and 16 rebounds in the win for Iowa. Tyler Cook also had 17 points for Iowa as five Hawkeyes reached double-figures in total.

Forward Ethan Happ had the best day for Wisconsin, he finished the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Wisconsin had three players score in double-figures, as Khalil Iverson had 17 points and Charles Thomas scored 10 points in 17 minutes off of the bench.

The Badgers return to action on Friday night in East Lansing, Mi., where they’ll take on the No. 6 Michigan State Spartans. Tip-off is at 7pm.

Last shots: Wisconsin 75, Illinois 50

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers snapped their losing streak at three games on Friday night with a 75-50 victory over Illinois at the Kohl Center.

Thirteen last shots for Khalil Iverson’s 13 points against the Fighting Illini on Friday night.

1. The game started off extremely sloppy for everyone involved. The first possession for each team resulted in a turnover, the first made field goal of the game wasn’t until Illinois’ Leron Black knocked down a jumper at the 17:27 mark. The first half also saw multiple needs to adjust the clock and even an incidental buzzer causing a pause in play.

2. After the slow, sloppy start, the Badgers were able to put their foot on the gas pedal offensively mostly thanks to guard Brevin Pritzl. He finished the game with 16 points in 37 minutes on the court. Pritzl scored 13 of his points in the first half. He was in a great rhythm early on, knocking down both 3-pointers he attempted in the first half. He finished the first half 5-of-8 shooting while playing all 20 minutes.

3. In the second half Pritzl wasn’t in the same rhythm. He was just 1-of-7 from the floor, with the lone make a banked in 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock with 14:14 left in regulation to put Wisconsin up 56-38. That was their largest lead of the night at that point.

4. Despite Pritzl and forward Ethan Happ both scoring 16 points, neither one actually led Wisconsin in the scoring column. Guard Brad Davison had a relatively quiet 18 points on the night. The quietness of his scoring can be attributed to the fact that he finished the night with only six field goal attempts. He did the majority of his scoring from the free throw line, where he knocked down all 10 of his attempts.

5. The 18 points for Davison was a Big Ten season-high. He’s the Big Ten freshman leader in scoring currently, averaging 12.1 points per game. Davison also became the first player for Wisconsin to be perfect from the free throw line with at least 10 attempts since Nigel Hayes did so in 2016, per UW.

6. Speaking of Happ, he finished the night with his eighth double-double of the season. He had 10 rebounds and five assists in addition to his 16 points. This is the fifth double-double in the last seven games for Happ.

7. Happ once again did a terrific job passing out of double-team situations, as he has all season long. That’s one of the more dangerous parts of his game offensively, especially considering his outside game isn’t operational at a very high level at the moment.

8. The fourth and final player to reach double-figures in scoring was forward Khalil Iverson. He finished the night with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Iverson has been inconsistent on that end of the floor throughout the season. He’s had nights where the Badgers have relied on his scoring to get by and he’s had nights where he hasn’t attempted a single shot. Wisconsin doesn’t know what they’re going to get out of him on a regular basis offensively.

9. Iverson is a solid defender and definitely more consistent on that end of the floor. He’s only had five games this season where he has failed to record either a block of a steal. The Badgers are 2-3 in those games, including losses by 25 and 28 points to Ohio State and Purdue, respectively. The two victories came against South Carolina State and UW-Milwaukee with the third loss being against Baylor. Iverson matched a career high with three blocks against Illinois. He also had a pair of steals.

10. While Iverson blocked three shots, he was outshined in that area by freshman forward Nate Reuvers who finished with five blocks on the night. Reuvers leads Wisconsin with 21 blocks on the season despite sitting out the first five games of the season due to an uncertainty over redshirting.

11. As a team Wisconsin tallied 10 blocks. That mark is their highest in a single game since they denied the Indiana Hoosiers 10 times on March 16, 2013.

12. The Badgers have now knocked off Illinois in 12 straight matchups. The last win for Illinois over Wisconsin came on January 2, 2011 when the then 23rd ranked Fighting Illini defeated the Badgers 69-61 at Assembly Hall.

13. Wisconsin will be back in action Tuesday night on the road against Iowa. Tip-off is set for 6PM CST.

Badgers fall to Purdue 78-50

The Wisconsin Badgers suffered their worst defeat of the 2017-18 season on Tuesday night 78-50 at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue (18-2, 7-0 Big Ten) started out the game strong, scoring the first 12 points of the evening by connecting on 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions. The Badgers ultimately trailed 18-2 before they made their first field goal of the game, an Ethan Happ layup with 12:27 remaining in the first half.

Happ was the only Badger to reach double-figures in scoring. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Freshman Nate Reuvers was the second-highest scorer, he finished with eight points.

Purdue’s lead grew to as large as 21 points after guard Carsen Edwards made a layup with 3:50 left in the half. Edwards was the leading scorer for the Boilermakers with 21 points. Purdue had four players score double-figures including Vincent Edwards with 20 points.

Turnovers plagued Wisconsin (9-10, 2-4) on Tuesday night. They finished the first half with 15, which tied a season-high, and had 20 in total for the game.

The 28-point loss by Wisconsin was the largest margin of defeat for the Badgers since March 6, 2011 when they fell to Ohio State 93-65.

The Badgers will return to action on Friday night against the University of Illinois at the Kohl Center. Tip off is at 8PM.