The latest stop on our 2018 prospect tour is the University of Wisconsin, who have several players that the Buccaneers should look closely at in the upcoming draft.
The last time we saw the Wisconsin Badgers football team they were mocking the University of Miami turnover chain on the way to an impressive 34-24 Orange Bowl victory. The Badgers finished their season as the seventh ranked team in the nation and only lost one game all season, so naturally there are some high level prospects on the roster worth looking at for the Buccaneers. There are sixteen departing seniors for Wisconsin, so we’ll go over those first and then take a look at the underclassmen that have declared for the draft.
Linebacker: Garret Dooley
Safety: Joe Ferguson
Running back: Rachid Ibrahim
Wide receiver: Jazz Peavy
Safety: Natrell Jamerson
Wide receiver: George Rushing
Full back: Austin Ramesh
Cornerback: Derrick Tindal
Cornerback: Lubern Figaro
Linebacker: Leon Jacobs
Defensive end: Chikwe Obasih
Linebacker: Jack Cichy
Defensive end: Alec James
Tight end: Troy Fumagalli
Defensive end: Conor Sheehy
Senior to Watch: Defensive End, Alec James
The Buccaneers need pass rush more than anything this off-season, and Wisconsin senior Alec James could be a worthwhile project in the middle to late rounds. Standing at 6’4, 238 lbs, James looks the part of an NFL pass rusher, and transformed his body early in his collegiate career in order to be a more well-rounded defensive end. Instead of being a part-time pass rush specialist, James aspired to be an all-around player. To accomplish that goal he gained fifty pounds. James increased his sack counts in all three seasons of starting, going from one sack, to three-and-a-half sacks, and up to six-and-a-half in his final season. The combine will prove to be very valuable for James, who excelled as a track star in high school. James isn’t the singular answer for the Buccaneers’ pass rush woes, but he’s a project that could be a small piece of the puzzle this off-season.
Underclassman to Watch: Cornerback – Nick Nelson
The Wisconsin Badgers have just one underclassman entering the 2018 draft, and thankfully for the Buccaneers it’s at a position of dire need – cornerback. Brent Grimes is undecided on whether he’ll be back next year, leaving Vernon Hargreaves as the only legitimate starter on the roster. The Bucs will target cornerback with at least one pick in this upcoming draft, and Wisconsin’s Nick Nelson could be a suitable match.
Nick Nelson began his college football career at the University of Hawaii, but transferred to Wisconsin after two seasons. Though he didn’t record an interception in his one season with the Badgers, Nelson was a quality defender in man coverage and racked up twenty pass defenses in thirteen games played.
Standing at an even six foot tall and 200 lbs, Nelson has solid size for an NFL cornerback, and would be bigger than both Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves. One of Nelson’s most valuable traits is his ability to return punts, an area where the Buccaneers have struggled for nearly every season since 1976. In his collegiate career he returned 22 punts for 186 yards and a touchdown. In theory Nelson could plug two leaks for the Buccaneers, which is sure to get him on Jason Licht’s radar.
That’s our look at the noteworthy prospects from the Wisconsin Badgers, and be sure to check back tomorrow for a deep dive into the Michigan Wolverines who always seem to be ripe with draft prospects.