NFL Nation: Bill Ferrario

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In most other NFL cities, a fifth-round receiver's first appearance in the locker room in front of the media would not cause much of a stir.

But Jared Abbrederis isn't in just any NFL city.

He's in his NFL city.

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
AP Photo/Mike RoemerFifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis is the first Badgers player player drafted by the Packers since 2001.
Having grown up 90 miles away in the small town of Wautoma and later starring at the University of Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers were, and now are, his NFL team.

So when Abbrederis -- the 176th overall pick in this year's draft and the first Wisconsin Badgers' player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario in 2001 -- spoke for the first time during last weekend's rookie orientation camp, it was no surprise that he drew the biggest crowd.

When told of the scene in the locker room, it was like a flashback for Ferrario to his rookie year. He recalled a moment from his first season, when there was another former Badgers player on the Packers’ roster -- undrafted rookie punter Kevin Stemke, who not only played at UW but grew up in Green Bay.

"What blew my mind and has probably never happened since or will probably ever happen again, on the first day the vets showed up for camp that Stemke had more reporters around him than Brett Favre had around him just because he was a hometown kid playing for the Packers," Ferrario said.

For a player who is no lock to make the roster -- the Packers have cut two fifth-round picks in the past seven years -- it might be easier for Abbrederis to try to break into the NFL with the anonymity that a fifth-round pick might enjoy in, say, Buffalo or Cincinnati. But Abbrederis does not see it that way.

"No, I'd rather have it this way," he said. "I can just feel the support from everybody in Wisconsin. I think you'd rather have support wherever you go, and so it's been awesome."

If there's a pressure that comes with that, Abbrederis is not showing it.

"It's not a distraction to me," Abbrederis said. "I'm more about doing my thing and not really worrying about what people think or anything like that so I don't think it really bothers me, but definitely I can feel the support."

Ferrario felt it, too, both the pressure and the support, and the former fourth-round pick was not even a Wisconsin native. He grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and the Packers were not his hometown team. Outside of hardcore Badgers fans, he was not a household name around the state of Wisconsin.

Even then, he knew he was part of a special connection.

"I think there's more pressure on a player being picked from Wisconsin," Ferrario said in a telephone interview. "Even just spending four or five years in Madison, you knew what football meant to people in Wisconsin and what you meant to them. It's special."

Packers general manager Ted Thompson knew full well what he was throwing Abbrederis into when he picked him. Thompson had a similar experience when he broke into the NFL as a player. The NFL draft had 17 rounds in 1975, but Thompson came in to the league as an undrafted free agent with one of his home state teams, the Houston Oilers. Thompson grew up in Atlanta, Texas, and stayed in state to play at SMU.

"I had a ball," said Thompson, who went on to play 10 years for the Oilers. "I've told the story: There were 17 rounds; I didn't get drafted. You just swing for the fence and do the best."

Ferrario agreed that once you step on the field, it does not matter whether you're from Wisconsin or Wyoming.

"I don't think there was any negative effect on the field," said Ferrario, who played two seasons for the Packers before stints with the Redskins and Panthers. "On the practice field or the game field, I don’t think there's any difference."
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A wrap-up of the Green Bay Packers' draft. Click here for a full list of Packers draftees.

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Jared Abbrederis is the first Wisconsin player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.
Best move: Even though much of the pre-draft focus was on improving the defense -- something general manager Ted Thompson did by taking Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round (No. 21 overall) -- he did not ignore the other side of the ball. He wisely added depth to the receiving core with the highly productive Davante Adams of Fresno State in the second round (No. 53) and later local product Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin in the fifth round (No. 176), and the small-school Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State in the seventh (No. 236). He then took a shot with developmental tight end Richard Rodgers of Cal in the third round (No. 98) and brought in competition for the starting center job with Corey Linsley of Ohio State in the fifth round (No. 161).

Riskiest move: Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Taking him in the third round (No. 85 overall) seemed too high. Even he didn't think he would be drafted on Day 2. "Khyri was an interesting one, kind of came up later in the process," said Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst. "But he had so much twitch, so much upside, it was something we couldn't pass on. The way he's able to run, a 4.9 guy for a 312-pound man, the kid can run. He's got a lot of upside. We felt fortunate to get him." You could also call Baylor cornerback Demetri Goodson a risk, although it's less of one in the sixth round (No. 197). Goodson will turn 25 years old next month and was out of football for five years. He played three seasons of basketball at Gonzaga before he transferred to Baylor in 2011 and played three years of football.

Most surprising move: For the first time in 10 drafts as the Packers general manager, Thompson did not make a single trade. He picked at his spot all nine times. By the time the draft reached the fifth round, it became clear this was going to be a different draft strategy for Thompson. He had never before made it that far into a draft without making a trade. Perhaps equally surprising was the fact that he picked a player from the University of Wisconsin -- and it wasn't linebacker Chris Borland, a player many thought might interest the Packers. Instead, he took Abbrederis, making him the first UW player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.

File it away: Next year, when Thompson tells you he doesn't draft for need, remember this: Among his first six picks were a safety (Clinton-Dix), a receiver (Adams), a tight end (Rodgers) and a center (Linsley). Not coincidentally, the Packers had an opening for a starting free safety, lost a receiver (James Jones) and a center (Evan Dietrich-Smith) in free agency, and have not re-signed last year’s starting tight end (Jermichael Finley).

Packers eyeing Wisconsin lineman

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
INDIANAPOLIS -- The University of Wisconsin has produced plenty of quality NFL offensive linemen recently -- from Travis Frederick to Peter Konz to Joe Thomas to Ricky Wagner to Kevin Zeitler.

None of them, however, has made the short trip north to play for the Green Bay Packers.

It has been more than 10 years since the Packers drafted a lineman from Wisconsin. In back-to-back years (2000 and 2001), they picked tackle Mark Tauscher (seventh round) and guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round). Tauscher went on to become a longtime starter, while Ferrario lasted only one season as a backup.

There’s another former Badgers lineman on the Packers’ radar this year. Ryan Groy said Thursday that he met with Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday at the NFL combine.

Groy played mostly guard for the Badgers, starting every game at left guard last season. But he also has experience at tackle (three starts in 2012) and center (one start in 2011).

With the Packers potentially in the market for a center depending on whether they re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, who will be a free agent next month, Groy might be someone the Packers would consider in the late rounds.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rated Groy as the 10th-best guard in the draft , although he’s not limiting himself to just that position.

“A lot of guys have asked me that, and what I’ve told them mostly is the inside three [positions],” Groy said on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “That’s where I feel most comfortable. I feel very comfortable at guard [and] center, and I told them if need be I can play tackle. I’m not afraid to go out there. I’m not afraid to play it.”

Groy’s lone start at center came against Illinois as a sophomore.

“Pete Konz went down against Minnesota, hurt his ankle, and then I played [center] at Illinois,” said Groy, who said he was measured at 6-foot-4 and 316 pounds at the combine. “Travis switched to center in the third quarter and I played left guard the last three games [of that season].”