GREEN BAY—Considering the fact he began his college career as a walk-on, it would have been natural for Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to begin his NFL career as an undrafted rookie.
But Abbrederis became too good for that.
It only adds to the story of how far Abbrederis has come now that the Wautoma, Wis., native has been drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the 176th overall pick, a compensatory selection at the end of the fifth round.
“It’s crazy right now,” Abbrederis said moments after the Packers drafted him on Saturday. “There’s a lot going through my head. Being a walk-on at Wisconsin, and being able to have my dream to play in the NFL and on the Packers, my team, that’s the team I rooted for. I’m just excited to be a part of the organization.”
The Packers are excited to have another productive receiver joining the roster, along with second-round pick Davante Adams from Fresno State, who was drafted on Friday night. Abbrederis caught 202 passes for 3,140 yards and 23 TDs in his Badger career, ranking first in school history in receptions and second in the other two categories.
Abbrederis said it was in his sophomore year, when he earned his scholarship and played with quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Nick Toon, both future NFL draft picks, that he realized he might have a chance in the pros.
He cemented that in his own and most scouts’ minds when he dominated Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby last season, catching 10 passes for 207 yards and a TD. Roby was drafted in the first round on Thursday night by the AFC champion Broncos with the 31st overall pick.
“That was definitely a big game for me, confidence-wise,” Abbrederis said. “That gave me the confidence I can play at this level. I have to go out and prove it, but I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Joining a receiving corps that features Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and now Adams leaves Abbrederis with his work cut out for him, but that’s nothing new for the former prep quarterback.
“It speaks to his mindset when he entered college. He walked on,” Packers wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “We want all our guys to have that same mindset and that competitive spirit, where you want to prove it over and over again. You love those qualities about him.”
Bennett also spoke highly of Abbrederis’ route-running and his football smarts, two things that stood out on film, particularly in the big game against Roby.
“I love Jared’s versatility,” Bennett said. “He can play inside and outside. He can also jump in and do returns. He’ll have a great opportunity to come in and earn it. He’s coming from a great program right down the road, so we’re excited about that.”
Abbrederis is the first former Badger to be drafted by the Packers since offensive lineman Bill Ferrario back in the fourth round in 2001. He surprised some by running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine, but was downgraded for only bench-pressing four reps at 225 pounds. He said he’ll spend time in the weight room, the film room, wherever the Packers want him to be.
In typical Wisconsinite fashion, Abbrederis was watching the draft at the family cabin, knowing he has only a few more days to relax before his NFL adventure – and the work – truly begins.
“I’m ready to get back at it,” he said. “Obviously you have to work for everything that’s in front of you, but I’m excited for the opportunity.
“They have a lot of great wide receivers there now, and I’m excited to be part of that group. They do a really good job building up wide receivers.”
Complete coverage: Meet the Draft Class