In a recent radio interview with Chris Gordy of Sports 1280 WODT New Orleans, we got to talking about the success of Wisconsin offensive linemen in the NFL. The Badger family includes the New Orleans Saints’ own Ryan Ramczyk, the Cowboys’ Travis Frederick, and 10x Pro Bowler and former Brown Joe Thomas. Ramczyk was given some indirect credit for his excellence with a tweet by Andy Benoit highlighting the NFL players that match up with the league’s Right Tackles. During our conversation, it came up that someone should take a look at the last ten years or so of the NFL Draft and how Wisconsin offensive linemen have faired. Since the Saints took advantage of the pedigree in 2017 and could again in 2019 with Badgers linemen David Edwards, Michael Dieter, and Beau Benzschawel all entering the draft, I thought I’d go for it. I dug into the offensive linemen drafted since 2006 and looked at some of the schools that have since been considered for the Offensive Line University title. You can hear the full interview on the Chris Gordy show HERE.
I started with a 2016 article from CBS Sports that made an argument for the Michigan Wolverines as the correct OLU even though their players achieved less accolades and recognitions despite playing more starts than the other four universities polled; Wisconsin, LSU, Miami, and Boston College. On the other hand, Wisconsin achieved the most accolades including draft picks, first-round picks, and Pro Bowl appearances despite having the least about of player starts. This signifies that Wisconsin’s success has been more recent and concentrated by player. I went ahead and added in the seasons beyond 2015, when the CBS study stopped. So the following information ranges from the 2006 season to the 2018 season. I also took the liberty of adding Notre Dame, who has also seen tons of success in the league recently with Zack Martin, Quenton Nelson, and Mike McGlinchey.
Since 2016, the Wisconsin Badgers along with Michigan and Miami have added another draft pick while LSU adds two in Pocic and Clapp. In the entirety of the length of the study, Notre Dame had 12 draft picks total taken. Wisconsin comes in second with 11 total. Both Notre Dame and Wisconsin had four of their draft picks each go in the first round. Miami comes close with 10 linemen taking in the NFL draft, but only saw one single pick take place in the first round. So from that alone, the title looks pretty split between the Fighting Irish and the Badgers. However, when you dig a little deeper and look at accolades, a leader becomes clear.
Total Draft Picks
Notre Dame: 12
Boston College: 8
First-Round Draft Picks
Notre Dame: 4
Boston College: 2
This is where the divide begins to develop. Wisconsin gains a remarkable advantage in this race thanks to 11-year Browns LT Joe Thomas. Thomas made the Pro Bowl all but his final season in 2017. Those 10 Pro Bowls was enough to beat out Notre Dame’s nine on his own. Enter Cowboys Center Travis Frederick who adds his own four Pro Bowls in his five-year career so far. However, both Wisconsin and Notre Dame look to add to this race with each team having two players that look like perennial Pro Bowlers. Travis Frederick and Ryan Ramczyk for Wisconsin and Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame.
Pro Bowl Appearances
Notre Dame: 6
Boston College: 5
For this, I pooled my own research and looked at the alma maters of 1st and 2nd-Team AP All-Pros only. No Football Writers, no PFF, just AP and took in both teams. This is another where Wisconsin really separates itself from the pack, again thanks in large part to Joe Thomas and Travis Frederick, but this time with an extra tick mark from Ryan Ramczyk who, despite being snubbed of the Pro Bowl in 2018-19, but made AP 2nd-Team All-Pro.
AP 1st- and 2nd-Team All-Pro Selections
Notre Dame: 6
Boston College: 2
Just taking a look at this year’s draft class, Wisconsin looks to add three more draft picks from their offensive line in the aforementioned David Edwards, Michael Dieter, and Beau Benzschawel. All of the incoming 2019 Badgers are expected to be selected in this year’s draft. Notre Dame, the current leader in offensive line draft picks during the time of this study, and fellow historical stalwart Michigan will only enter prospect each in Alex Bars and Juwann Bushell-Beaty respectively. Both are expected to go undrafted by some experts. Miami enters the same level of prospect with Tackle Tyree St. Louis and LSU enters no offensive linemen this year.
While Wisconsin will have the highest number of O-linemen entering this year’s draft, they are mostly expected to be draft rounds two and below. Meanwhile, Boston College will be entering only one O-line prospect in Christ Lindstrom who very well could be drafted in the first round.
2019 O-Line Draft Prospects
Boston College: 1
Notre Dame: 1
For the Saints, who are always looking to add offensive linemen in the draft, their most draft position since 2006 with 15 selections. It would make sense for them to look further into what Wisconsin has to offer with this run of excellent players coming from their program. It also makes sense as they have had the pleasure of seeing their team benefit from one of those alumni already with Ramczyk. While Ram did not make the Pro Bowl last year, his AP 2nd-Team All-Pro nod bodes well for the future of what has already been a stellar young career in New Orleans. Could the Saints add another Badger to work alongside him in the coming years? The evidence says they should at least consider it.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC