This is the second article in a 12-part series that will examine which colleges have been the best at producing Detroit Lions in the 21st century. Today will be a look at Lions players from the University of Wisconsin.
Jared Abbrederis had a very good career at Wisconsin, where he played for four seasons, never missing a game. After catching 20 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns in his freshman season, he would break out and average 61 receptions for 950 yards and seven touchdowns per season over his final three years. He was also a solid punt returner for the Badgers, averaging 10.7 yards per return in his career with one punt returned for a touchdown.
Abbrederis was not known as being a physically dominant receiver, but he excelled because of his work ethic and determination in college. Abbrederis devoted himself to football and became a great route runner with really good hands.
Abbrederis was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft. He would miss all of his first NFL season after tearing his ACL. In 2015, he played in nine games and recorded nine receptions for 111 yards. In the 2015 postseason, he would record another six catches for 69 yards. In 2016, Abbrederis would appear in just five games making only one reception before being knocked out for the season with a thigh contusion. The Packers would then release Abbrederis after agreeing to an injury settlement.
On January 9, the Detroit Lions signed Jared Abbrederis. He has yet to set foot on the football field for the Detroit Lions, but reports of him from OTAs have looked good so far. At this point, Abbrederis is competing with rookie receiver Kenny Golladay for the third wide receiver spot on the Lions. Here is a breakdown on Abbrederis from our writer Ash Thompson.
Like Jared Abbrederis, Rick Wagner has yet to play a snap for the Detroit Lions. However, there is a lot more reason for Lions fans to be excited about Wagner than there is for Abbrederis. Let’s look at Wagner’s career.
At Wisconsin, Rick Wagner played both left and right tackle. Although he didn’t start any games as a freshman, he appeared 12 out of 13 games. As a sophomore, he started 10 games at right tackle and was named as a census honorable mention for the all big ten team. The next year, Wagner would start all 14 games at left tackle and was again named as an honorable mention to the all big ten team. As a senior, Wagner started another 13 games.
Rick Wagner was a fifth round pick for the Ravens in the 2013 NFL draft. After starting two NFL games as a rookie, Wagner would go on to start 45 of 48 possible games at right tackle over the next three seasons. Rick Wagner was tremendous in 2014 and 2016, with a slightly down season in 2015. He was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the top right tackle in the entire NFL in 2014 and 2016.
In free agency this offseason, Rick Wagner signed a five-year $47,500,000 deal with the Detroit Lions. He will start at right tackle this season, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances.
DeAndre Levy is the opposite of the other two players on this list: Abbrederis and Wagner have yet to play a down for the Lions. Levy’s career as a Lion is already over.
DeAndre Levy also played four seasons at Wisconsin, playing in 50 games. After playing very sparingly in his freshman year, Levy would break out a bit as a sophomore, recording 50 tackles and six sacks with one interception. Levy would go on to make 70 tackles and another three sacks as a freshman and would finish his career with a 73 tackle, five sack, one interception senior season.
Levy was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft. Levy started 10 games as a rookie, and 11 in his second year. Levy flashed lots of potential throughout his first four seasons, but never really put it all together. After the 2012 season, Detroit had two linebackers hitting free agency, Levy and Justin Durrant. There was lots of debate over who the Lions should re-sign between the two of them, and Detroit chose Levy.
Levy immediately proved Detroit right for picking him, as he had an incredible 2013 season, recording 85 tackles, 15 passes defended and six interceptions. The next season, Levy would take over the middle linebacker position after Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL. Levy would also excel in this role, becoming the leader of the Lions’ defense and racking up 121 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five passes defended and an interception.
Over the next two seasons, Levy would be plagued by injury. Through both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he would appear in just six games and made only 16 tackles. The Lions released Levy earlier this offseason after he was disappointing in the few games he appeared in in 2016.
Although the ending to DeAndre Levy’s career left a bad taste in many Lions fans’ mouths, he was still a great player for the Lions. He wasn’t great for his first four seasons, but he did make big plays here and there, showing lots of potential. In his fifth and sixth years (in 2013 and 2014) he was arguably the best linebacker in the NFL. He will be on the 2010s all Detroit Lions team.
Two of the players on this list have been top caliber NFL players in the past. Levy is retired, but Wagner has potential to continue to play at a very high level. Although he has not played a down for the Lions yet, he has had a very good professional career up to this point and it is relatively safe to expect that to continue in Detroit. Abbrederis is an interesting prospect who hasn’t done a lot in the NFL yet but will have an opportunity to really prove himself this season. Wisconsin has been very good at producing Detroit Lions within the last decade.