Wisconsin Badgers' highest NFL draft picks since 1970

Written by:
February 24, 2022
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Wisconsin Badgers' highest NFL draft picks since 1970

While most colleges and universities field a football team as part of its general athletics program, there are some for which football is more than merely a sport—it’s akin almost to a religion. Devotion to the team and its colors is as important to that school’s culture as a religious icon is to a believer. These programs actively scout and recruit notable high school players, and are in turn rigorously applied to by matriculating seniors eager to make a name for themselves at the collegiate level.

Among the most notable college football empires are Notre Dame, the universities of Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State—the list goes on and on.

But for every touchstone football school, there is an outlier that has produced some of the most successful and cherished players in the game. Think Jackson State, which gave us “Sweetness” himself, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Or Mississippi Valley State, which yielded 3-time Super Bowl champion and #1 Player in NFL History, as voted by the NFL Network, ‘49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice.

Each year, the college draft serves as a source of renewal to professional football and a testament to the quality of college programs nationwide. With the 2022 NFL draft set to take place April 28-30 in Las Vegas, Stacker compiled a list of the highest NFL draft picks from the Wisconsin Badgers using data from Pro Football Reference. Ties were broken by the most recent year drafted.

#20. Gabe Carimi (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #29 overall in 2011
- Drafted by: Chicago Bears
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#19. Michael Bennett (RB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #27 overall in 2001
- Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings
- Years as a starter in NFL: 3 (1 Pro Bowls)

#18. Kevin Zeitler (G)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #27 overall in 2012
- Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals
- Years as a starter in NFL: 10 (0 Pro Bowls)

#17. Aaron Gibson (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #27 overall in 1999
- Drafted by: Detroit Lions
- Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#16. Jamar Fletcher (DB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #26 overall in 2001
- Drafted by: Miami Dolphins
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#15. Ray Snell (G)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #22 overall in 1980
- Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 3 (0 Pro Bowls)

#14. Chris McIntosh (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #22 overall in 2000
- Drafted by: Seattle Seahawks
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#13. Darryl Sims (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #20 overall in 1985
- Drafted by: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#12. Erasmus James (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #18 overall in 2005
- Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#11. Melvin Gordon (RB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #15 overall in 2015
- Drafted by: San Diego Chargers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (2 Pro Bowls)

#10. Lee Evans (WR)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #13 overall in 2004
- Drafted by: Buffalo Bills
- Years as a starter in NFL: 7 (0 Pro Bowls)

#9. Wendell Bryant (DT)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #12 overall in 2002
- Drafted by: Arizona Cardinals
- Years as a starter in NFL: 0

#8. Richard Johnson (DB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #11 overall in 1985
- Drafted by: Houston Texans
- Years as a starter in NFL: 2 (0 Pro Bowls)

#7. Ron Dayne (RB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #11 overall in 2000
- Drafted by: NY Giants
- Years as a starter in NFL: 1 (0 Pro Bowls)

#6. J.J. Watt (DE)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #11 overall in 2011
- Drafted by: Houston Texans
- Years as a starter in NFL: 9 (5 Pro Bowls)

#5. Al Toon (WR)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #10 overall in 1985
- Drafted by: NY Jets
- Years as a starter in NFL: 8 (3 Pro Bowls)

#4. Dennis Lick (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #8 overall in 1976
- Drafted by: Chicago Bears
- Years as a starter in NFL: 4 (0 Pro Bowls)

#3. Troy Vincent (DB)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #7 overall in 1992
- Drafted by: Miami Dolphins
- Years as a starter in NFL: 13 (5 Pro Bowls)

#2. Paul Gruber (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #4 overall in 1988
- Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Years as a starter in NFL: 12 (0 Pro Bowls)

#1. Joe Thomas (T)
- Draft pick: Round 1, #3 overall in 2007
- Drafted by: Cleveland Browns
- Years as a starter in NFL: 10 (10 Pro Bowls)

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