NFL Draft Watch Mayo Bowl

2021 NFL Draft Watch: Duke’s Mayo Bowl

As a part of Expand The Boxscore’s NFL Draft coverage, we will be highlighting the draft prospects from each school for every bowl game. The players featured below will also be included in our NFL Draft Guide, which is set to release shortly after the combine. In today’s column, we will be taking a look at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, featuring the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and Wisconsin Badgers.

Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin

Though they are far from a blue blood program, Wake Forest has sent some quality players to the NFL. Safety Jessie Bates was a second-round pick in 2018, made the NFL All-Rookie team that year, and is currently Pro Football Focus’s fourth highest-graded defender. Also, guard Joe Looney has put together a solid nine-year career after being a fourth-rounder in 2012, and the same goes for linebacker/special teams ace Kyle Wilber.

The Demon Deacons have a couple of players in this year’s class that could fall into either of the two categories above, but both of them will not be playing in the bowl game. Even though we will not be able to watch them tonight, both Sage Surratt and Carlos Basham are more than deserving of a mention in this column.

Surratt opted out at the beginning of the season, and he has a chance to be a top-100 pick in April. At 6’2″ and 215 pounds, he has great size for an NFL receiver and the strength to deal with contact on the line of scrimmage and hold onto the ball in contested catch situations. However, the wideout is not very sudden or quick at the top of his routes, which will make it difficult for him to create separation at the next level.

As for Basham, he managed to accumulate five sacks in six games this season but decided to sit out of the bowl game and prepare for the NFL Draft. The edge defender has plenty of initial pass-rush moves that he can win with and is quick to recognize blocking schemes, but he needs to develop a counter move as a rusher and be more violent with his hands at the point of attack against the run.

Basham will likely be a Day 2 guy, as a late second- or early third-round pick.

When people think of pro prospects from Wisconsin, linemen often come to mind. Between the Watt brothers, Travis Frederick, and Ryan Ramczyk, there have been quite a few All-Pro selections in the trenches coming out of Madison. This year’s class will be more of the same as the Badgers have a few more big guys up front that will be playing on Sundays.

The first of which is offensive tackle Cole Van Lanen, a potential Day 3 pick. Van Lanen is a typical Wisconsin lineman who fires off the ball, has good play strength and can generate movement against defensive linemen in the running game. However as a pass protector, his punch timing is often late and lands wide, which exposes his chest and could be very problematic at the next level.

Van Lanen did miss the final regular season game and is questionable for tonight’s contest.

On the other side of the trenches is defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk. As a stout run defender and unselfish player, he has a quick first step and gets his hands on offensive linemen to help free up linebackers to make the play.

On the other end of that, Loudermilk needs to work on shedding blocks to make plays of his own which, combined with injuries, is part of the reason why he has only had more than 15 total tackles in a season once in his career. He will likely be a priority free agent in April.

While tight ends are not technically linemen, they still battle in the trenches so it should come as no surprise that Wisconsin’s is a player to watch. Jake Ferguson is an early- to mid-Day 3 pick who has a wide catch radius and the elusiveness and power to tack on yards after the catch.

When blocking, he does tend to whiff at the point of contact and struggle to stay engaged when he does get his hands on the defender, which is somewhat unexpected coming from this program.

Linebacker has been another calling card for the Badgers and Jack Sanborn is the name to keep an eye on in this year’s class. With a high football IQ that allows him to be quick to key and diagnose running plays and be effective in zone coverage, Sanborn falls in the late third- to fourth-round category.

He does need to loosen up his hips to be more effective in covering tight ends man-to-man, but any NFL defensive coordinator will be happy to work with a smart backer. Sanborn may return to school next season as he is just a junior and has already expressed interest in playing with his younger brother Bryan who committed to Wisconsin recently.

Behind Sanborn on the Badger’s defense is safety Eric Burrell. With experience playing both strong and free safety, Burrell is a versatile and smart player, which a lot of defensive coordinators are looking for at that position. He is not a great athlete and in the NFL, physical limitations can often out-weigh intelligence. That is hurting his draft stock as he will likely be a priority free agent.

Finally, there is wide receiver Danny Davis III, a savvy route runner who has beautiful body control to make some impressive in-air adjustments. However, he lacks top-end speed, struggles to create separation against physical defenders, and has a rather long injury history. With that, Davis will likely be a fifth- or sixth-rounder in the NFL Draft.

Davis has only played in two games this year due to injuries and his status for the bowl game is unclear at this time.