It’s old-school football, but it works for Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers’ 2023 NFL Draft prospects. Wisconsin is 65-23 under Chryst. They’ve won eight games or more in six of his seven seasons. In four of those years, they notched double-digit wins. Can Wisconsin’s 2023 NFL Draft prospects keep the trend going this coming year?
Wisconsin prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
The Big Ten West is still wide open, and Wisconsin has plenty of high-quality talent coming back in 2022. It’ll take leaps from some notable 2023 NFL Draft prospects, but Wisconsin might have what it takes to stay competitive on the college football stage.
Graham Mertz, QB
Several outlets ranked Graham Mertz as the best pocket-passing quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class. Yet, Mertz has completed just 60.8% of his attempts in a little over two full seasons with the Badgers, compiling 3,269 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
It’s safe to say Mertz’s tenure at Wisconsin hasn’t gone as planned. Nevertheless, the former high school star will get another chance to lead the team this fall. He has the arm talent to be a solid starter and a potential 2023 NFL Draft prospect. But right now, accuracy and decision-making remain major concerns.
Chez Mellusi, RB
Braelon Allen is a beast and rightfully already listed at the top of the 2024 running back board. But Wisconsin’s rushing attack isn’t just Allen. It’s a legitimate two-headed tandem, with Chez Mellusi as the perfect complement to Allen’s brawn.
Mellusi quietly had a very strong season behind Allen in 2021, putting up 173 carries for 815 yards and five touchdowns. Together, the two eclipsed 2,000 yards, and they could be in line for similar success in 2022. At 5’11”, 210 pounds, Mellusi has good size. But beyond that, he has solid vision, accelerates well through lanes, and constantly keeps his legs churning.
Dean Engram, WR
After showing glimpses of promise at cornerback as a sophomore, Dean Engram is switching to wide receiver ahead of his junior season to give Wisconsin a boost at the position.
At just 5’9″, 169 pounds, Engram will not be much of a size threat downfield. But after playing receiver in high school, he has the lateral quickness, burst, and ball skills to translate as a potentially dynamic threat in the short and intermediate ranges. The best way for wide receivers to help Mertz feel comfortable in Wisconsin’s offense is to create separation, and Engram should be able to do that.
Logan Brown, OT
A former five-star recruit, Logan Brown will almost assuredly play a significant role in the success or failure of Wisconsin’s offensive line in 2022. Brown was lauded for his rare talent coming out of high school. And now, standing at 6’6″, 310 pounds, he certainly looks the part.
He’s still relatively early in his starting career, so there may be growing pains along the way. But especially in Wisconsin’s run-heavy offense, Brown has the physical tools to stand out and ascend.
Tyler Beach, OL
Tyler Beach logged a lot of starting experience last season at left tackle and will likely be in the starting lineup for Wisconsin again in 2022. While there’s speculation that he may move inside, the 6’6″, 316-pound blocker can fulfill a multitude of roles with his length, awareness, and hand usage.
Beach isn’t the most prolific lateral athlete, and he tends to bend at the waist at times, which can be to his detriment. But with his experience and projected versatility, Beach may generate interest in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle.
Joe Tippmann, C
Wisconsin has a lot of talent on the offensive line, but the team’s best 2023 NFL Draft prospect on the blocking front might be center Joe Tippmann. Aptly named, Tippmann is frequently tipping over defenders on tape with his raw power and aggressive style.
For his 6’6″, 317-pound frame, Tippmann does a great job lowering his pads and surging forward on blocks. He’s athletic and urgent as an open-field blocker, and he’s highly proficient at kicking out and sealing away defenders. An assignment-sound player with great physical tools, Tippmann should keep ascending through the season.
Keeanu Benton, DT
The Badgers have one of the best nose tackle prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft in Keeanu Benton. He sports a long 6’4″, 316-pound frame and has impressive lateral athleticism and initial burst.
His pad level can be an issue at times, but Benton has the athleticism, power capacity, and violent disposition necessary to be disruptive on the interior. He often uses a very reliable arm-over move, but he also has enough strength and density to hold down the fulcrum on running downs.
Isaiah Mullens, DT
Benton is the most noteworthy prospect on Wisconsin’s interior defensive line, especially after the departure of Matt Henningsen. But another player worth monitoring is defensive lineman Isaiah Mullens.
Listed at 6’4″, 300 pounds, Mullens has good size and a hot motor on tape. With his low-cut frame, pad level can sometimes be an issue, and he doesn’t always show elite burst off the line. But after embarking on a career year in 2021 with 24 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks, Mullens could be in line for another leap alongside Benton.
Nick Herbig, EDGE
Nick Herbig will be one of the most fascinating studies in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s listed at only 6’2″, 227 pounds, but he often plays as an on-ball linebacker, rushing the edge and pressuring offensive tackles. And he’s very good at what he does.
Herbig plays extremely fast, with good burst and great build-up speed. He’s a high-motor rusher who can convert speed to power and win with swipes around the apex. And to top it off, he can also drop into coverage and play off-ball. Reminiscent of Zach Baun from a couple of cycles ago, Herbig is firmly on the 2023 NFL Draft radar.
C.J. Goetz, EDGE
Opposite Herbig, C.J. Goetz is another player to know. He hasn’t been a dominant producer since arriving at Wisconsin — he only logged two sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss in 2021 — but some reps have displayed upside from the Badgers edge rusher.
Once listed over 240 pounds, Goetz is down to 6’3″, 232 pounds ahead of the 2022 season. That’s a little light, but Goetz flashes the requisite burst and motor to be a quality college player as a stand-up edge rusher. How he projects to the NFL is less clear, but a breakout 2022 campaign could change that.
Jay Shaw, CB
After losing Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams to the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, the Wisconsin Badgers needed help at cornerback. This offseason, they went all-in on the transfer portal, acquiring a trio of cornerbacks from varying schools.
The most notable might be Jay Shaw, a 5’11”, 190-pound cover man from UCLA. In four years at UCLA, Shaw amassed five interceptions and 10 deflections, and he brings experience and awareness to the Wisconsin secondary. He might not have top-end speed or burst, but he can key in on routes and make plays.
Cedrick Dort Jr., CB
The second cornerback to arrive at Wisconsin from another Power Five team is Cedrick Dort Jr., previously of Kentucky. Dort flashed a few times with Kentucky but was never to generate much NFL Draft buzz. He’s working to change that in his final season with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Like Shaw, the 5’11”, 182-pound Dort shows good instincts and reaction quickness. But he also brings easy transition ability, and he should be able to hold his own in both man and zone alignments.
Justin Clark, CB
The third Wisconsin transfer addition at cornerback is Justin Clark. Clark is a sixth-year senior who spent his first five years with the Toledo Rockets in the MAC.
He was a starter for a large part of his career, but he missed most of 2019 with a shoulder injury and wasn’t always able to consistently stay on the field after that. The 2022 season could present a fresh start for Clark, with a coaching staff that knows how to maximize talent at cornerback.
John Torchio, S
Aside from having one of the coolest names in college football, John Torchio might be a safety prospect worth monitoring in the 2023 NFL Draft. Torchio got his first run at legitimate playing time on defense in 2021, and he made the most of it. As a junior, Torchio accumulated 35 tackles, three tackles for loss, a half-sack, and three interceptions.
At 6’1″, 210 pounds, he has the size to crash the box and halt runners in their tracks. But he’s also proven he can roam in coverage, read quarterbacks’ eyes, and swoop in front of ill-fated passes.
Andy Vujnovich, P
After gaining experience at punter in 2020, Andy Vujnovich emerged as one of the best punters in the Big Ten in 2021. Now, he returns as a potential 2023 NFL Draft prospect at the position.
Vujnovich has coveted size at 6’3″, 234 pounds, and he has more than enough leg to boom punts well past 50 yards. But even more impressive is Vujnovich’s ability to adjust his angles and trajectory to pin back opposing teams. Those three traits should grant Vujnovich an opportunity at the next level.