The 2014 NFL Draft is just under 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.
Chris Borland's draft preview is in the books, so it's time to move on to another intriguing former Wisconsin player: wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. The Badgers have had just two wide receivers drafted since 2007, and Abbrederis could be in a position to out-produce both of them. Paul Hubbard was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft, and Nick Toon was taken in the fourth round in 2012- Toon's NFL career is still playing out, but the two have combined to play in just nine games.
Nothing ever comes easy in the NFL, but in the right situation Abbrederis has a chance to thrive at the next level.
Originally from Wautoma, Wis., Abbrederis walked on with the Badgers and redshirted during the 2009 season, where he practiced as the scout team's spread quarterback. Abbrederis won some serious playing time during the 2010 season, where he played in 13 games and started twice. He was a full-time contributor after that point- Abbrederis started in 37 of Wisconsin's next 41 games.
Abbrederis earned a scholarship in January of 2012 and won the Bulsworth Trophy in 2013, which is awarded to the nation's top player who started their career as a walk-on. Abbrederis was also named a consensus All-Big Ten player after the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Final stat line: 202 receptions, 3,140 yards, 23 touchdowns, 15.5 yards per reception.
Weight: 195 pounds
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 4 (Last among WRs)
Arm Length: 31.37 inches
Hands: 9.62 inches
40-Yard Dash: 4.50 seconds 21st among WRs)
Vertical Jump: 30.5 inches (38th among WRs)
Abbrederis is at his best when he uses his head and body to fake out defenders and create space for quarterbacks to throw him the ball. He also has good hands, he learned how to block downfield, and is an excellent route runner. Abbrederis also has a good sense for where he is on the field- whether he's running a route, taking a hand-off or returning kicks and punts. His return skills have been glossed over largely because the Badgers didn't want to risk getting him hurt with extra snaps- he hasn't returned a kickoff since 2011, and returned just 28 punts between his final two seasons for the Badgers. Off the field he is mature and knows the game- he benefitted from playing quarterback in high school and for a year for the Badgers' scout team.
Not unlike Borland, Abbrederis' weaknesses start when you look at the combine stats. Normally a "poor" performance in a drill or two at the combine gets overblown, but doing just four reps on the bench press at the combine shows that Abbrederis probably needs to put on some extra muscle before he goes up against NFL defensive backs every day. And while Abbrederis played in almost every game he could for the Badgers he does have a bit of an injury history. Adding some weight might keep him healthier, but he needs to be careful that he doesn't loose the speed he already has.
Three Potential Landing Spots
The NFL has gotten so pass-heavy that almost any team could use a cheap talent at wide receiver, but the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers all could use more talent at wide receiver among other teams.
John's final take:
Abbrederis' stock could have been a little higher, but he's entering the NFL as part of a very deep wide receiver class. He doesn't have great measurables and his size could be an issue, but he was a productive college player whose game seems like it will translate to the next level. HE probably won't end up as a team's No. 1 receiver, but as a second or third option I think the team that drafts him will be happy with the return they get on their investment- especially if they get him involved on special teams.
San Francisco has four picks combined between rounds three and four, so it wouldn't surprise me to see them use one of their third round picks to flesh out their receiving corps.
Third Round to the San Francisco 49ers, No. 100 overall.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.