Five players with Wisconsin ties are picked on the third day of the NFL draft

Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON – Daviyon Nixon proved in 2020 to be among the best defensive linemen in the country.

The work of Nixon, a graduate of Indian Trail High School in Kenosha, paid off Saturday on Day 3 of the NFL draft.

Nixon, who played one season at Iowa Western Community College and two seasons at Iowa, was taken by Carolina in the fifth round, the 158th overall pick.

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"It came as a total shock, honestly," Nixon told reporters Saturday. "I had no idea who was gonna pick me. But I'm really excited to be here.

"Personally, I feel like you guys are getting the best defensive tackle in the draft. A guy who's fought through a lot of trials and tribulations to get here."

Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon was a consensus All-American, a finalist for the Outland Trophy and the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season. He was selected by the Panthers.

The 6-foot-3, 306-pound Nixon was a consensus All-American, a finalist for the Outland Trophy and the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season.

He started all eight games and recorded 22 solo tackles and 45 solo tackles. That included 5½ sacks and 13½ tackles for loss.

His highlight-reel play was a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 41-21 victory at Penn State. Nixon led the Big Ten and ranked 13th in nation in tackles for loss and was fourth in the Big Ten in sacks. Nixon

Nixon was named first-team all-state as a senior at Indian Trails after recording six sacks, 45 tackles four forced fumbles, and seven pass break-ups in eight games.

He was diagnosed with a learning disability during his junior year, however, and started out at Iowa Western Community College in 2017 before transferring to Iowa. After redshirting in 2018, Nixon played in a total of 21 games for the Hawkeyes.

Nixon went two picks after the first University of Wisconsin player taken, defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk started 26 games and played in 40 at UW. He went to the Steelers.

Loudermilk, a native of Kansas who started 26 games and played in 40 at UW, was selected by Pittsburgh.  His best season at UW came in 2019. He started all 14 games and recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss, 24 total tackles and broke up five passes. 

Loudermilk sounded thrilled to be joining an organization that has won six Super Bowl titles.

"Being on the defensive side of the ball," he told reporters, "I know traditionally it is a great defense. I just can't wait to be a part of such a historically great defense and a historically great team."

That defense includes veteran tackle Cam Heyward and outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who was a teammate of Loudermilk for one season at UW.

"Cam Heyward is an incredible D-lineman," Loudermilk said. "He is definitely someone I a super excited to learn from."

Two more UW players were taken, back-to-back, in the sixth round. 

Cornerback Rachad Wildgoose, who played in only two games last season because of a right shoulder injury suffered at Northwestern, was selected by Buffalo with the 213rd pick.

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick loved the Wildgoose pick.

"He is very smooth, has very good speed," Riddick said during ESPN's draft coverage. "He has natural coverage skills down the field. ...

"There is a lot to like about this guy. He just does't have a lot of tape from this past year. This is a home-run type of pick in the sixth round."

Wisconsin offensive tackle Cole Van Lanen who grew up less than 10 miles from Green Bay, in Bay Port, was taken by the Packers at No. 214.

The Los Angeles Rams drafted Milwaukee's Chris Garrett in the seventh round, the No. 252 pick overall. Garrett played at Wisconsin Lutheran High School and was a Division II All-American defensive end at Concordia-St. Paul in 2019

Garrett recorded 14 sacks and 20½ tackles for loss that season. The Bears' 2020 season was canceled because of COVID-19 but Garrett left the program with an NCAA Division II record for forced fumbles (15) and was third in Division II history for sacks per game (1.30).

The free-agent blitz kicked off shortly after the final pick was announced and UW fullback Mason Stokke agreed to a free-agent deal with Carolina. He was joined by tailback Garrett Groshek (Las Vegas Raiders), safety Eric Burrell (New Orleans) and offensive lineman Jon Dietzen (Packers).