NFL draft: Projecting Wisconsin state prospects

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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This Dec. 30, 2015 photo shows Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy (48) being congratulated by Southern California players after Wisconsin's 23-21 victory at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

The following is a list of college players who are from Wisconsin and have a chance to be drafted next week or sign as free agents.  Numbers in parentheses are, in order, 40-yard dash time, vertical leap and reps on the bench. Draft prediction is broken down into first day (first round), second day (second and third), third day (fourth through seventh) and free agent.

» Jack Cichy, ILB, Wisconsin, 6-2, 238, Somerset (Didn’t run 40 at combine or pro day, 33 ½, 18). Hasn’t played a game since October of 2016 because of a torn left pectoral (Oct. 2016) and a torn right ACL (Aug. 2017). Could have returned to UW but chose to cast his lot in NFL. He’s expected to be ready for training camp, but teams are lining up to look him over. Among the teams he worked out for were the Lions, Saints, Falcons, Cowboys, Bengals and Eagles. Walked on at UW in 2013 and in ’15 had a breakout end of the season, winning defensive MVP in the Holiday Bowl after registering sacks on three consecutive plays. Lack of experience and inability to put on weight might hurt him. Projection: Second or third day.

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» Colin Downing, P, Iowa State, 6-foot, 190, Whitefish Bay. Was Cyclones’ punter all four seasons. Averaged 40.7 yards on 227 punts, landing 74 inside the 20. Did not have any punts blocked and never allowed a punt to be returned for a touchdown. Projection: Free agent.

» Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa, 6-1, 210, Madison (Memorial) (4.46, 42 ½, 14). Had a breakout year with 66 catches for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns and then won offensive MVP of the East-West Shrine game. Snubbed by the combine, he proceeded to blow up at his pro day and spent two weeks visiting teams. Was supposed to visit Packers but couldn’t fit them into his schedule. Started for three seasons. Needs to show he can get open against big, physical NFL corners. Ran track in high school and college. Projection: Second or third day.

» Arthur Hart, P, Charlotte, 6-2, 216, Cedarburg. Was born with substantial hearing loss. Transferred from Cedarburg to Wisconsin School for the Deaf to Model Secondary School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington, D.C., after deciding to pursue football. Averaged 43.1 yards per punt as a senior. Set Conference USA record with 22 punts of 50 or more yards in ’17. Projection: Free agent.

» Alec James, OLB, Wisconsin, 6-3, 260, Brookfield (East) (4.87, 32 ½, 26). Started 23 of 27 games last two years for Badgers. Left school with 100 tackles (15 for loss), 11 sacks, seven pass break-ups. Played OLB in UW’s 3-4, but didn’t produce a lot of sacks and will have to show he can get around the corner. Could wind up playing in a 4-3. Projection: Third day or free agent.

» Sam Mentkowski, WR, UW-Oshkosh, 6-1, 195, Whitnall (4.41, 35 ½, 3). Agent had to pull strings to get him into Badgers' pro day. Made the best of it, blazing by everyone in the 40. Would have had third-fastest 40, seventh-fastest three-cone (6.76) and tied for the 11th best vertical at the combine. His three on the bench says a lot about what his challenge will be to make it in the NFL. Led Division III in receiving yards last season (1,477), scored 13 touchdowns and averaged 22.0 yards per catch. Oshkosh made it to the semifinals of the Division III tournament. “I’ve been overlooked my whole life,” Mentkowski said. “I think I’ve been proving people wrong. This is just another situation where I’m looked down upon. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder.” Projection: Free agent.

» Jacob Ohnesorge, C, South Dakota State, 6-3, 295, Waunakee (5.19, 32, 28). Won back-to-back state titles at Waunakee. Came in with TE Dallas Goedert and after both redshirted, they played 53 consecutive games together. Very strong. Scouts had him work center and guard drills at pro day. Has been training in New Jersey with former New York Giants guard and Wisconsin native Rich Seubert. May be able to long snap at next level. “I wasn’t highly recruited, I had a good college career. I don’t care where I’m drafted or if I’m a free agent, I really want to prove I can play at the next level. I’m definitely a self-starter,” Ohnesorge said. Projection: Third day or free agent.

» Austin Ramesh, FB, Wisconsin, 6-1, 251, Land O’ Lakes (4.78, 32, 24). Played in 40 games and started 18. Carried 34 times for 147 yards and five touchdowns. Follows in footsteps of other hard-nosed UW fullbacks such as Derek Watt, Bradie Ewing, Matt Bernstein and Cecil Martin. Not a threat in the pass game but good in short yardage. Worked out for Lions and visited Packers and Raiders. Projection: Third day or free agent.

» Conor Sheehy, DL, Wisconsin, 6-3½, 295, Milwaukee (Marquette) (5.26, 32, 21). Started 33 games for Badgers and finished with 95 tackles (13 ½ for loss). Played multiple positions in UW’s 3-4 and may have to put on weight to play over the nose in the NFL. Projection: Third day or free agent.

» Nate Tanguay, DT, North Dakota State, 6-4, 291, Mukwonago. Played defense in college but is being viewed as an offensive lineman by some teams. Played in 55 games with 132 tackles, 18 for loss and seven sacks. Tore his ACL and meniscus in 2016 and said he wasn’t the same until about December of ’17. Had an interception in NDSU’s FCS title win. Projection: Free agent.

» Jester Weah, Pittsburgh, WR, 6-2, 211 Madison (Memorial) (4.43, 38, 15). Badgers passed on him so he went to play for Paul Chryst at Pitt. Didn’t start playing football until sophomore year in high school and it took him time to find his groove. After no catches his first two seasons, he broke out for 36 receptions for 870 yards (24.2 average) and 10 touchdowns as a junior. Followed it up with 41-698-4 as a senior. Physical player with size, speed and big hands. Will have to continue improving route running. Projection: Third day.

» Shane Wimann, TE, Northern Illinois, 6-3, 251, Wisconsin Dells (4.95 40-yard dash, 30½ vertical jump, 19 reps on the bench). Was two-time South Central conference basketball player of the year at Dells. First-team MAC selection in ‘17. Seven TDs broke NIU record for a tight end in a single season. Caught 65 passes for 635 yards and 17 TDs overall. Doesn’t have big hands (9 1/8 inches) or long arms (31 inches), but his bench was solid. Projects as an H-back type. Projection: Third day or free agent.

» Jake Wirsching, LS, Bemidji State, 6-3, 245, Waterford (5.2 in 40-yard dash) Played defensive end for the Beavers and totaled 43 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks, but will be looked at as a long-snapper in the NFL.  Brother Nick snapped for UW – Oshkosh. Projection: Free agent.

» Others: Gaelin Elmore, DE, East Carolina, 6-6, 275, Somerset; Alec Kocour, S, Illinois State, 6-0, 200, Waukesha; John Hale, TE, South Dakota, 6-4, 235, Antigo; Joe Ferguson, S, Wisconsin, 6-1, 195, Madison (Memorial);  Jackson Abresch, S, Northern Illinois, 6-1, 205, Hartland (Arrowhead); Tony Gumina, TE, UW-Whitewater, 6-3, 250, Sussex (Hamilton); Nick Jacobsen, DT, UW-River Falls, 6-4, 295, Prescott. Projection: Possible free agents.

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