There are currently 33 former Wisconsin Badger Football players on NFL preseason rosters.
Some, like J.J Watt, Joe Thomas, and Russell Wilson, have absolutely nothing to worry about. Barring an apocalypse, they will all be on their respective team’s 53-man rosters and are shoe-ins to start.
However, many former Badgers are competing in tightly contested training camp battles, either to make the final roster or earn a starting job.
DE J.J Watt, Houston Texans — Watt has a one billion times better chance of winning NFL MVP than losing his starting job.
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks — Well, Tanner McEvoy did join the team, so maybe Russ isn’t such a lock.
LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns — Thomas has started all 144 of his NFL appearances, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in all nine of his seasons.
LB DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions — After missing all of last season with a hip injury, Levy is ready to resume his role as Detroit’s star linebacker.
RB Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers — Melvin Gordon had a disappointing 2015 season, but offensive line struggles played a large role in that. This year, Gordon has looked better in preseason and should have a solid rebound season.
C Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys — Frederick recently was given a 6-year, $56.4 million dollar contract by the Cowboys, making him the highest paid center in the league. It’s well deserved too, as Frederick has been phenomenal in both pass protection and run blocking, anchoring one of the league’s top offensive lines.
RT Rick Wagner, Baltimore Ravens — Wagner has been solid as the starting right tackle for the Ravens. However, he has been dealing with some foot issues. So while he may start the season with the first-team, injuries could play a factor.
P Brad Nortman, Jacksonville Jaguars — After a successful four-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, Nortman signed a four-year, $8.8 million dollar contract with the Jaguars. Parents, teach your kids how to punt.
LB Jonathon Casillas, New York Giants — Casillas has looked very good in training camp and his preseason games. He will be a 3-down linebacker for the Giants.
RT Rob Havenstein, Los Angeles Rams — Havenstein was graded as the top rookie tackle by Pro Football Focus in 2015-16, and will now try to build upon that to become the next great Wisconsin Badger offensive linemen in the NFL.
DL Nick Hayden, Cleveland Browns — After starting for the Dallas Cowboys for three years, Hayden will now start for the Browns. However, this will be the first time in his 7-year NFL career that he will play in a 3-4 system, so it remains to be seen how he will transition.
RG Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals — Zeitler has quickly climbed the ladder to become one of the best guards in the NFL. While he isn’t a household name on par with Thomas or Fredrick yet, his pedigree is growing rapidly.
TE Lance Kendricks, Los Angeles Rams — With former Rams starting tight-end Jared Cook gone, it is Kendricks time to shine. He accumulated 243 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, and now his targets will certainly increase.
RB James White, New England Patriots — With Dion Lewis out another 8-10 weeks, “Sweet Feet” will be New England’s primary pass-catching running back. He needs to seize the opportunity if he wants to beat Lewis out long-term. Fortunately, he has already made some nice plays in preseason, and seems to be capable of improving upon his 40 catches for 410 yards and 4 touchdowns from last year.
OT Kraig Urbik, Miami Dolphins — Urbik is there to provide depth for the Dolphin’s offensive line. He doesn’t have a chance to start barring an injury, but will certainly make the 53-man roster.
S Chris Maragos, Philadelphia Eagles — Maragos is the poster child for how players with less talent can stick around in the NFL. He makes rosters year after year because he is a true special teams ace. He is great on kickoff and punt coverage, and has blocked a few kicks. Eagles Head Coach Doug Pedersen confirmed to the Morning Call’s Nick Fierro that Maragos will be among the “core of the special team’s group.”
LB Joe Schobert, Cleveland Browns — The fourth round pick is still being considered an edge rusher by the Browns, despite many scouts and analysts saying that he is more suited to play inside linebacker. Regardless, “Joe the Show” will see limited time on defense this year, but will play a role on special teams.
QB Scott Tolzien, Indianapolis Colts — After going 13-18 for 107 yards and a touchdown, it is safe to say that Tolzien will edge out former Miami Hurricane Stephen Morris for the back-up quarterback job.
FB Derek Watt, San Diego Chargers — The Chargers drafted Watt in the sixth round to pave the way for former teammate Melvin Gordon’s rebound year. Watt will make the roster, and nobody will be happier about it than Gordon.
NG Beau Allen, Philadelphia Eagles — Allen will begin his third season as the backup nose guard for the Eagles. His roster spot his secure, but his playing time will continue to be moderate.
Fighting For Roster Spot
WR Jared Abbrederis, Green Bay Packers — Abbrederis has done well in limited game opportunities, but that’s not nearly as important as earning the trust of Aaron Rodgers… Which through his steady hands and great route running, he has. So even if one of his primary competitor’s, Jeff Janis, wasn’t sidelined for 4-6 weeks, his shot to make the roster would be good.
TE Garrett Graham, Denver Broncos — Despite recording 100 catches for 1,059 yards and 10 touchdowns in his 5-year career, Graham is surprisingly not a lock to make the Bronco’s roster. He will probably make the roster as the third or fourth tight-end, but crazier things have happened.
OG/C Ryan Groy, Buffalo Bills — After getting cut by the Bears, Groy now has a very good chance to make the roster in Buffalo. He played poorly in his preseason start, but has benefitted from the Bill’s lack of offensive line depth.
Rex- Ryan Groy leading candidate to be backup swing guard/center. #Bills
— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrownBills) August 22, 2016
WR Tanner McEvoy, Seattle Seahawks — McEvoy’s potential as a jump ball wide receiver has always been evident, and in his first preseason game for the Seahawks, he showed it. He caught three passes for 77 yards, including the game-winning Hail Mary. McEvoy has got some rave reviews from the coaches, including former Badger Darren Bevell, and has a real chance to make the roster. If not, he will surely be kept on the practice squad.
WR Alex Erickson, Cincinnati Bengals — After somehow going undrafted, Erickson has been the breakout star and new fan favorite for the Bengals this preseason. He had an amazing punt return (although the tackling was Nebraska level) in his debut, which was just one of his two touchdowns.
In his next game, he had a 30-yard punt return that would have been a touchdown if not for a heroic tackle by the punter. He now has a good chance to make the team as the punt returner, as the final receiver spot is likely between him and veteran returner Brandon Tate.
QB Joel Stave, Minnesota Vikings — Sunshine actually has a legitimate shot to win a roster spot and maybe even the back-up quarterback position for the Vikings. No, really. If the Vikings decide to keep three quarterbacks, Stave will likely be one of them. He’ll have a lot of reps to prove himself with both Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill hurt. Imagine this scenario: Joel Stave comes to Lambeau Field in Week 16, takes over at quarterback after a Bridgewater injury, and leads the Vikings to a win. I think the state of Wisconsin would spontaneously combust.
S Marcus Cromartie, San Fransisco 49ers — SB Nation blog Niner’s Nation gave Cromartie “around a 25% chance” to make the roster in May after spending last year as a cornerback on the practice squad. But Cromartie has been working hard to improve upon those odds, playing well on special teams and in coverage. He is now a coin flip to make the team.
S Dez Southward, Indianapolis Colts — Is it more absurd that the Falcons took Southward in the third round or that they tried to make him a cornerback? Either way, he is back at safety where he belongs. He has the athletic ability to be a solid backup and special teamer. He has started to prove that to the Colts in preseason, and has a chance to at least earn a spot on their practice squad.
S Michael Caputo, Los Angeles Rams — The heart and soul of the Badger’s formidable defense, a 3-season starter at safety was undrafted, picked up by the Saints, and then waived shortly after. On August 18th, he was given a chance by the Rams. While time and the fact that he one of the last players on the 90-man roster don’t bode well for his chances, he has the ability to be the next Chris Maragos. Whether it be this year or next, he’ll eventually make a roster and excel in that special teams role.
CB Darius Hillary, Cincinnati Bengals — After four steady, reliable years as a starter for the Badgers, Hillary was another NFL draft snub. Unfortunately, unlike McEvoy and Erickson, he hasn’t done much this preseason to prove scouts wrong. He has a slim shot to make the roster, and needs to come up big to have a chance.
TE Austin Traylor, Dallas Cowboys — There hasn’t been much news on Traylor from Cowboy’s training camp, except that he hasn’t been blocking as well as expected, and has a very slim shot to make the roster.
LT Tyler Marz, Tennessee Titans — Unfortunately, Marz does not have a very good chance to make the team. He is getting limited reps in preseason games, and even if the Titans had an injury epidemic, they would probably choose to bring in replacements from outside.
DE Matt Shaughnessy, New Orleans Saints — The veteran was just added to be a camp body, and barring a miracle, will not make the team.