After protecting the blindside for Russell Wilson in 2011, Wagner was forced to block for less athletic (and talented) passers in 2012. The Badgers continue to lose high quality offensive linemen to the NFL, but they repeatedly reload with equal production every year. Until this season.
The West Allis, Wis. native joined his homestate program as a walk-on, losing out on some potential scholarship offers due to an eight-game suspension his senior year of high school for a rules violation. Wagner was also a highly sought-after high school basketball player, earning multiple offers from lower-level Division 1 schools -– but the 80 pounds he gained in his first year or so after getting to campus cemented his status as an offensive lineman. He played 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2009, and then got his chance to start 10 games when teammate Josh Oglesby went down with an injury the following year. Wagner garnered honorable mention All-Big Ten honors for the second straight year in 2011 as a first-year starter at left tackle. As a senior, Wagner continued that production until a right knee injury cut into his consecutive starts streak. He only missed one game due to the injury, so Wagner held down the left side in the other 13 contests.
Not surprising that his strength is in the run game. Gets off the snap well and uses his girth and strong hands to move defensive ends off the ball and hold the line against bigger tackles. Quick enough feet to reach-block or carry a man down the line on zone runs. Flashes quickness off the snap as a pass protector and gives good effort, hustles to push his man (or oncoming blitzers) around the pocket and works to sustain throughout the play to prevent secondary rushes. Doesn’t give up much ground on bull rushes due to his strong upper body and thick lower half.
Relies on hustle and strength rather than great recovery speed in pass protection. Has to flip his hips to pick up outside blitzers and is beaten on inside lane too easily by quicker ends. Plays a bit high and narrow at times, though he will widen when setting the anchor. Leans into his man or bends at the waist when engaged at times, can be ripped off by stronger defenders on occasion. Too slow twitch in his movements, very methodical blocker and lacks reaction quickness.
With the Badgers producing first-round offensive linemen in each of the last two drafts, it is doubtful Wagner will continue that streak. He has been a consistent figure on the left side of Wisconsin's offensive line the last two seasons, but expect Wagner to find his home on the right side in the NFL with an outside shot at playing left tackle in a pinch.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.