I like Nzegwu's upside as a 3-4 OLB, I just hope he isn't pidgeon-holed into a 4-3 DE role because it doesn't maximize his skill set.

Louis Nzegwu, DE, Wisconsin: Nzegwu is very athletic and I think he has all the makings of a quality OLB in a 3-4 defense. He is much more effective in every facet of the game when standing up versus playing with his hand in the dirt like a 4-3 DE. He gets off the ball faster, makes more plays versus the run and applies more pressure to the QB standing up. I hope he gets drafted to play 3-4 OLB, because so many players get drafted to play a position they aren’t a good fit for (like Justin Houston or Jason Babin being drafted to play LB when they are clearly 4-3 DE’s) and they end up being unsuccessful until the scheme changes or until they go to a team that employs them correctly. Anyways, Nzegwu has upside because he has good size, long arms, impressive change of direction speed, good agility and pretty good edge speed to rush the passer. He shows a good swim move to keep blockers from engaging him along with a very impressive shoulder dip to get the edge as a pass rusher. He has impressive hip flexibility and also has a very good motor, as he regularly chases plays down from the backside and gives consistent pursuit from the backside. He is a very reliable tackler and may be one of the best returning tacklers that Wisconsin has on the roster. However, he needs to get stronger at the POA because at times he can be washed out of plays, and needs to get up to 255 or 260 to hold up at the linebacker position he projects to in the NFL. He has the frame for it, but he looks pretty skinny at only about 240 or so right now. He also needs to improve his hand usage so he can shed blocks more effectively, because while he flashes a swim move to keep blockers off of him, he doesn’t do a good job of violently using his hands to disengage once blocked, though to his credit he fights off the block eventually because of his motor. He has upside, and his work ethic and motor make me think he will be a quality player in the NFL, but he has things to work on. I am excited to see how he does without Watt, but with more experience. I like him as a prospect.

 

Fenelus has upside and is one of the best senior cornerbacks in the country. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Antonio Fenelus, CB, Wisconsin: Fenelus has definite upside, that is for sure. He doesn’t have ideal size or speed, but he has solid height and pretty good speed. I am very impressed with his footwork, which seemed to improve as the season progressed. He never wastes steps in transitions even when he gets turned around, and he recovers very quickly when he guesses wrong on a route or isn’t expecting the receiver to break. He did not look like he even knew what a click and close was at the beginning of the year, instead he seemed to try to stop in one step and then lunge back towards the receiver who caught a pass in front of him, but he seemed to be much better about clicking and closing later in the year. I will obviously evaluate this further during his senior year. He also has very fluid hips, a huge plus for a corner. This helps him turn and run with receivers effortlessly, which helps him in both man and zone coverage. He is good in both man and zone coverage, and seems to have good ball skills as he quickly locates the ball in the air and makes a play on it when he can. I don’t think he’s an elite athlete when it comes to straight line speed (probably a 4.5 guy) or leaping ability, but he is a good, fundamentally sound corner who is also a very good tackler for a cornerback. However, I think he might be a bit of a guesser at corner, which is something I’m not wild about. He seems to learn from his mistakes (ie getting burned when he bites on the hitch part of a hitch and go) but he doesn’t seem to be reading and reacting well at times. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but something seems a bit off in that part of his game. Overall I am high on Fenelus as a cornerback prospect, and I’d project him in the 2nd or 3rd round of the Draft today. I am excited to see how he progresses as a senior because he seemed to improve significantly over the course of the year as a junior, which is something NFL Draft talent evaluators love to see.

Aaron Henry, FS, Wisconsin: I think Henry is a pretty good free safety, but I am not convinced he is anything special. He has solid height, pretty good speed, solid burst, pretty good ball skills, he is a solid tackler (inconsistent, but solid overall I would say) and he takes alright angles. He just isn’t special in any one way in my opinion. He doesn’t have elite speed or burst to close, and that limits his potential as a center fielder, and he is just as likely to whiff on a tackle in the open field as he is to wrap them up or lay a nice hit it seems. It’s confusing, and it’s hard to pinpoint just how good (or bad) of a tackler he is. He seems comfortable in zone coverage, but he doesn’t have the speed or quickness to be effective in man coverage in my opinion (at least, not very effective). So he has upside, but unless I see more athleticism and better tackling out of him as a senior I’m not sure he will be anything more than a mid-round pick next year.

 

Smith will be moving into the starting role this year, and while he has playing experience as a nickel back his play as a starter could determine whether Wisconsin's secondary is a relative strength or weakness.

Devin Smith, CB, Wisconsin: Smith has good size and speed, nothing elite but it’s good. He seems to have solid footwork though he didn’t get a ton of playing time in the games that I saw, so it was a bit hard to evaluate. He played a lot of nickel last year, so I would imagine he will step up into the starting role opposite Antonio Fenelus now that Niles Brinkley has graduated. That should offer a lot more looks at him over the course of the year. Right now I would project him as a late round pick because I don’t think he has great hips or footwork, but he does have pretty good ball skills and he is a good tackler, and willingly supports the run. I’m not sure how much upside he has yet, but he is worth watching next year to see how he adjusts to a significant increase in playing time.

David Gilbert, DE, Wisconsin: Gilbert has upside because of his combination of size and speed, but right now that is all he is: potential. He is strong for his size (about 6’3”, 240 pounds) and has good edge speed, but he doesn’t get off the snap consistently well (I wonder if he might be like Fenelus and get a better jump on the snap when he is standing up, though there isn’t a lot of film of him to study that, but it may well be the case) with his hand in the dirt and that limits his potential as an edge rusher obviously. He doesn’t shed blocks well and despite his relative strength for his size he doesn’t get off blocks well and is not a good run defender as he struggles to hold the POS and he doesn’t compensate for it with quickness to avoid blocks like Nzegwu does. Obviously Gilbert is only a junior this year, and he should get a lot of playing time opposite Nzegwu if he locks down the starting job, so it will be interesting to see how much PT he gets and what he manages to do with it. For his sake I hope he has gotten stronger and improved his hand usage, because the DE spot opposite Nzegwu could make or break Wisconsin’s pass rush this year.

Patrick Butrym, DT, Wisconsin: Butrym didn’t really stick out to me in a positive way. He didn’t look great versus the run, but didn’t get pushed off the ball, he was often in a stalemate which speaks to his strength and leverage. However, he rarely gets off the blocks (whether one on one or if he is doubled) to make a play on the ball carrier versus the run. He applied a bit of pressure in the games I saw, but the pressure he applied was a result of effort, not of quality technique and hand usage in my opinion. And when he got to the QB he tried to arm tackle instead of wrapping him up (he couldn’t get close enough to him to wrap up) and three times he let a QB he had his hands on get away, which is not any stat a defensive lineman wants to accumulate. As of right now I think he is a 6th or 7th rounder if not a UDFA, but he still has another year to prove his worth. It will be interesting to see how he does with another year of experience under his belt, but I’m not expecting him to be anything special.

Hopefully you enjoyed the read on all of these Wisconsin prospects! I’m still working my way through film, so keep checking in for team reports or individual pre-season scouting reports until football gets here! Thanks for reading!

–Tom