He may be a homer pick, but TJ Edwards in green and gold would be a great fit for a young defense. Wisconsin fans feared he would enter the draft as a junior, but he returned not only for his senior year but stayed to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl even though it was not a sought after bowl game. Edwards has consistently performed at a high level all four of his years as a Badger with a solid improvement in numbers his senior year though the Badgers had a rough season.
In the offseason after his junior season, Edwards shed 15 pounds to become quicker and it showed over the course of his senior campaign. He was in the mid-80s in tackles in his three previous seasons and recorded 113 in his senior year. Though the accolades did not follow as he was an All-American and Butkus Award finalist in his junior season, Edwards’ senior year showed he belongs in the NFL. He is a hard hitter in the box and has the ability to stretch plays towards edge players and safeties coming downhill as he goes through blockers instead of taking paths around the oncoming block. He also shows big play ability as he forces offenses to account for him in the passing game. Edwards recorded three interceptions in his sophomore and senior seasons as well as four in his junior season with one returned for a touchdown. Pairing that along with 25 defended passes over his four years shows how effective he is as a pass defender in the middle. His awareness of receivers, technique dropping into coverage, and instincts for the ball all attribute to his great, and possibly elite, ability in zone coverage.
Edwards is not a natural linebacker. Like many players, he switched from quarterback to play a different position. With Zack Baun and Andrew Van Ginkel as other quarterbacks turned linebackers, Wisconsin has shown they are interested in the cerebral portion of the game in their linebackers but are willing to accept an adjustment from one side of the ball to another. This is seen in TJ Edwards’ reaction time on the field. In the run game, he can get caught up in blocks if he does not read a play immediately. He will attack the block with heavy hands, but the runner may be through the gap by the time he can shed it and get into position to make the play.
How he would fit with the Packers:
TJ Edwards would be a solid fit in the Packers defense. He is a sure tackler who could shore up the inside linebacker position. He is projected to go in the second to fourth round which is a prime spot for the Packers to pick him up as they have four picks in that span. Edwards could step in and be a contributor alongside Blake Martinez who provides a nice punch up the middle already. If the Packers were to get an impactful edge, Edwards would be an asset in the pass game in coverage as well as a surprise rush in certain situations. Stay tuned for his performance at the combine as it will help solidify his draft stock within that varying range.