The 2014 NFL Draft is just over a month away, which means it's time to take a look at the former Badger football players who are hoping to hear their names called sometime between May 8 and 10.
There is more depth to this year's crop of former Badgers, but they are lacking a sure-fire first round pick. That is a little unusual for the Badgers as of late, since at least one former Badger has been taken in the first round in each of the last three years.
They even had two in the 2011 NFL Draft, when the Houston Texans took J.J. Watt at No. 11 and the Chicago Bears took Gabe Carimi at No. 29. It looked like Wisconsin's streak would come to an end last year, but the Dallas Cowboys selected Travis Fredrick at No. 31.
But if anyone is going to keep Wisconsin's first-round streak alive, it will probably be Chris Borland.
Borland came to the Badgers in 2009 as a two-star athlete from Kettering, Ohio, and saw playing time at linebacker virtually from the get-go. He played in all 13 of Wisconsin's games as a true freshman and started six of them after then-redshirt freshman Mike Taylor tore his right ACL and missed the rest of the season. Borland finished the year as the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year after he racked up 10.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.
His career hit a snag early on in 2010 when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just two games into his sophomore year. But Borland bounced back and started in 38 of Wisconsin's 41 games during his final three years on campus. He finished his career as a First-team All-American after his senior season and was voted a First-team All-Big Ten after each of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons.
Borland's final stat line looks like this: 420 total tackles, 50 TFLs, 17 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, and 18 passes defensed. He finished his career ranked sixth all-time at Wisconsin in total tackles, and set the Big Ten record for forced fumbles in a career.
Weight: 248 pounds
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 27 (3rd among ILBs)
Arm Length: 29.25 inches
Hands: 9.875 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.83 seconds (6th among ILBs)
Vertical Jump: 31 inches (8th among ILBs)
Borland proved to be an instinctive playmaker during his five years on campus for the Badgers. He seems to have a sense of where a play is going as it is still developing, which helped him rack up tackles for loss and other impact stats. Some of his best plays don't show up on a normal stat sheet, but you can see the talent when he is playing: Borland reads where holes are going to open for ball carriers and hits the hole hard.
He's also very athletic and it shows up on the field- he's a good leaper, especially for a player listed at 248 pounds. Off the field Borland gets great marks for his leadership skills at Wisconsin, and is an intelligent football player. No team will have to ask him if he loves football. Has experience playing as a 4-3 OLB, a 4-3 ILB, and a 3-4 ILB, but projects on the inside at the NFL with pass-rushing ability.
From a physical standpoint height could be an issue. His arms are also shorter than scouts normally like to see- it could become an issue if NFL blockers get their hands on him first. Borland is athletic but pass coverage against NFL tight ends could be a problem too- that's where the height differential could hurt him. Borland has also run into trouble when he's too aggressive: it can leave him out of position on a tackle he'd normally make. Doesn't have top-end speed.
Three Potential Landing Spots
Denver, Miami, Green Bay
John's final take:
Borland is going to get knocked for his measurables, but tape doesn't lie. A player's lack of height can become an issue at times, but I don't think it's as big of a factor as some people make it out to be. Some guys can just play the game- and Borland is one of them. He was a highly effective college player and will put in the work to put himself in a position to be successful at the next level. In the end I don't see him keeping Wisconsin's first-round pick streak alive, but there is always a chance that some team will fall in love with him and reach for him at the back end of the first round.
Green Bay hasn't drafted a lot of Badgers over the years, but if Borland is sitting there in the third round they could take him with one of their two third-round picks. The problem is that I don't think Borland will last that long.
Second Round to the Denver Broncos, No. 63 overall.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.