The Wisconsin Badgers had just three players selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but all three were major contributors and will be tough to replace when the team hits the field this fall.
Wisconsin saw two players selected in the first round — outside linebacker T.J. Watt and left tackle Ryan Ramczyk — and later had linebacker Vince Biegel drafted by his home-state Green Bay Packers in the fourth round.
Here's how the Badgers can fill their spots in the depth chart:
OLB: T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel
Drafted: Watt (Round 1, No. 30 by Pittsburgh); Biegel (Round 4, No. 104 by Green Bay)
Watt and Biegel formed a fearsome pairing at outside linebacker for Wisconsin last year, combining for 15.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss last season. The Badgers, though, have some experienced players returning.
Who steps up?
- Garrett Dooley, SR
- Leon Jacobs, SR
- Andrew Van Ginkel, JR
- Zach Baun, SO
Wisconsin has a couple players who have seen the field — Dooley and Jacobs. Dooley started in place of an injured Biegel at times last year and made a noticeable impact. He totaled 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss.
Jacobs has plenty of experience too, but he's had an odd Wisconsin career. He was an outside linebacker in 2013, moved to the inside in 2014, started, lost his starting job after an injury, switched to fullback last year and now returns to outside linebacker.
Other contributors include former FCS South Dakota State and junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel, who has impressed in camp, and sophomore Zach Baun, who saw playing time last fall, including a six-tackle game against Ohio State.
The Badgers also have seen good things out of Alabama freshman transfer Christian Bell and redshirt freshman Keldric Preston.
Tackle Ryan Ramczyk
Drafted: Round 1, No. 32 by New Orleans
Wisconsin only got one year of starting service out of Ryan Ramczyk after he transferred from UW-Stevens Point and before he headed off to the NFL as a first-round draft pick. Now they need a new starting left tackle.
Who Steps Up?
- Michael Dieter, JR
- David Edwards, SO
- Patrick Kasl, FR
Several players have been in the discussion surrounding the left tackle spot, but Michael Dieter — who has started at center and guard for Wisconsin — looks like he'll be slotted into the spot this fall.
David Edwards, a converted tight end, was once thought to have a lead on the role, but he could be used at right tackle. Patrick Kasl is young, but has the raw tools to be productive in the position.
MORE BADGERS: Doughty Ranks Wisconsin 13th Heading Into 2017
Other Key Players to Replace:
RB: Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale
The Badgers saw their top two running backs signed in undrafted free agency (Clement — Eagles; Ogunbowale — Texans). In their stead, the Badgers will move forward with sophomore Bradrick Shaw, junior Pittsburgh transfer Chris James, and junior Taiwan Deal.
CB: Sojourn Shelton
Shelton was also signed in undrafted free agency (Arizona Cardinals) after four strong years at Wisconsin. The Badgers have replaced him with junior Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson, who has impressed the coaching staff in his time at Wisconsin. He'll pair with returning starter Derrick Tindal.
LB: Jack Cichy
Cichy isn't in the NFL, but he did tear his ACL in practice recently. It's a huge loss for the Badgers, as Cichy is one of the biggest playmakers on the team. The inside linebacker spot is a position of strength, however, and Wisconsin still has a trio of very talented inside backers in T.J. Edwards, Chris Orr and Ryan Connelly, as well as depth behind.
S: Leo Musso
The unassuming team MVP from last year, Musso was an impact player from his safety position. Wisconsin has moved corner Natrell Jamerson to safety, and he will look to pair with D'Cota Dixon in the defensive backfield.
WR: Robert Wheelwright
Another senior who has a shot in undrafted free agency (N.Y. Giants), Wheelwright 's No. 1 receiver spot will be taken by Jazz Peavy, with sophomores Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor likely to contribute. Don't count out senior George Rushing or redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor, either.