Not Drafting In-State Talent has Haunted Green Bay

In the history of the NFL draft, which began in 1937, a total of 298 players from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been drafted into the NFL, averaging out to 3.5 players drafted per year. While there have been seasons that have included zero Badgers drafted (1938, 1967, 1978), there are also seasons where it seems like Bucky is brought up every other pick (1985 saw 11 Badgers selected).

For the Green Bay Packers, they have infrequently pulled from the in-state talent pool, only selecting 40 Badgers since 1937. While 40 may seem like a lot before the rounds of the draft were drastically shortened, there was upwards of 30 rounds every draft, so they have plenty of chances to keep Bucky in the state.

There has not been a Badgers selected by Green Bay since the 2017 draft, where linebacker Vince Biegel was taken with the 108th overall selection, which was the first overall selection in the fourth. While never amounting to be anything after dealing with knee injuries throughout camp, this was the last drafted Badger by this team, leaving a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of the Cheesehead front office.

Most notably, this team brought in Mark Tauscher in the 2000 draft in the 7th round, 224th overall. The offensive lineman, who now commentates Wisconsin football games and does sports radio coverage in the state, was one of the biggest late-round success stories for Green Bay in their history, which is saying a lot.

Fans always like to clamor for teams to draft in-state prospects because it is that feel-good move that teams can make to keep their fans entertained and see how a hometown guy pans out on the big stage. But taking the guy who is already familiar with our cheese selection and how warm 40 degrees actually it is not always a good fit for the team.

The likes of Jared Abbrederis (WR, 2014), Bill Ferrario (G, 2001) and Gary Ellerson (RB, 1985), just to name a few, never truly panned out for the team and became late-round draft selections that were just that: lottery tickets.

While selecting in-state players has not always worked out, there have been some in-state players that were passed on by this team that would have become instant starters and difference makers that this team desperately needed. Most recently in the minds of Packers fans is passing on linebacker T.J. Watt in the 2017 draft, who Green Bay could have gotten but decided to trade back with the Cleveland Browns and select Kevin King to begin the second round.

Injuries have slowed any impact that King has had on this team so far, but he is in a good grouping of young corners and has the tools and skillset to make a difference in 2019, which is shaping up to be an important year for his longevity on this roster.

Meanwhile, all that Watt has done is rack up a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018 for the Pittsburgh Steelers as their starting right outside linebacker for Mike Tomlin, providing much more of an impact to his team than King has so far.

While it is totally possible that King could become the better player when both players playing careers are over, he is going to have to put up big-time numbers soon to even sniff at the impact that Watt has had so far.

Another player that the team may have missed on was Ryan Ramczyk, who was drafted two spots after Watt and one spot before King in 2017. Now the New Orleans Saints stalwart right tackle, Ramczyk is an anchor on their offensive line for years to come, showcasing the durability of Badger offensive linemen and why they are known as “Offensive Linemen University.”

While it is tough to manage the intricacies of what the fans want versus what is best for the team, the Packers have had their fair share of misses when it comes to dealing with Wisconsin Badger draft picks. Whether having selected players who did not turn out or passing on players that have gone on to have big-time impacts elsewhere, Brian Gutekunst should put more of a focus on their Division I football team when it comes time for prospect scouting yet again.


Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23