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NFL draft: Ex-Badger Chris Orr using smarts to make up for where tape lacks
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NFL draft: Ex-Badger Chris Orr using smarts to make up for where tape lacks

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Orr predraft photo

Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Chris Orr (54) makes the tackle on Northwestern Wildcats running back Drake Anderson (6) during a September game at Camp Randall Stadium. Orr's best chances to be drafted by an NFL team come in the later rounds. 

Chris Orr has heard enough stories to understand things aren’t always what they appear in NFL draft season.

The former University of Wisconsin linebacker has had virtual interviews with dozens of pro teams in the past month, and they’ve all ended with positive feedback about Orr’s chances in the league.

Chris Orr mug


But Orr — who’s projected as a late-round pick in the NFL draft, which starts April 23 — knows the signs of a team truly interested.

“It’s kind of crazy. They never really give you a solid answer as in, ‘We think we can get you this round,’ but some people let you know, ‘Man, you’re one of our top guys, in that top percentile of the guys we’re looking at,’” Orr said. “You can also tell by how often you’re talking to them or how often they’re talking to your agent, and just the flow of the conversation. Some people are showing you more stuff, some are showing you less.”

That isn’t always the case though, Orr says, as he’s heard numerous tales of players being drafted by teams they’d barely heard from during the predraft process.

Orr will have to wait to see if a team decides to pull the trigger and select him after a five-year stint at UW. He played in 50 career games despite a torn ACL ending his 2016 season after one snap, and developed into an All-Big Ten inside linebacker as a senior.

Part of Orr’s ascent last season was his role in the Badgers’ pass rush. After posting 2½ sacks in his first four seasons on the roster, Orr tallied 11½ in 2019, pairing with outside linebacker Zack Baun (12½) to become the first UW teammates to record 10 or more sacks apiece in the same season since 1996.

NFL teams have told Orr they like his pass-rushing chops, and having that on his resume adds to the versatility he brings to a roster.

“They talk about it a lot, especially in third-down situations, some people have their different packages or schemes where they get their best pass-rushers out there, and they talk about me being in that group. Especially from the interior,” Orr said. “That’s definitely a part of my game that I want to keep sharpening and using my entire career.”

Those skills have also proven to be a double-edged sword for Orr. Because he was so effective getting to the passer — and how Orr was used in coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defensive schemes at UW — Orr doesn’t have as much game film showing his skills coverage large areas of the field.

He says he’s trying to show teams that he can fulfill those roles through his understanding of the game.

“I’m a football geek. I love to break down other peoples’ film and I sometimes put on random football games and try to figure out what kind of defense they’re in … based on what everybody’s doing,” Orr said. “I just let them know I’m comfortable in pretty much any and everything. I know football inside and out, so I know the different coverages that they’re talking about.

“The majority of football is knowing what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.”

Orr was able to answer questions about his speed and athleticism at UW’s pro day, one of the few major-school pro days that was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down a majority of them.

After graduating from UW with a master’s degree in December, Orr returned to his hometown of DeSoto, Texas, and he’s been training in nearby Midlothian. He says he’s hunkered down, save for on-field workouts, and using an at-home weight set to get workouts in.

Although his draft process is unique to most due to the circumstances, Orr is still getting guidance from family members like his brothers, Zach and Terrance, and his father, Terry. Zach, who went undrafted but became an All-Pro linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens before ending his career early due to injury, has reminded Orr to present confidence when interviewing with teams.

“They want to see how confident you are, see what you know about football,” Orr said. “Also to keep that level head. Don’t get too excited about that one team that’s talking to you, just stay level-headed and be ready for that weekend.”

It’s unlikely Orr, or any of the rookies drafted or signed after the draft, will report to team facilities for orientation and rookie mini-camps as they normally would.

Still, Orr says he isn’t concerned about the pandemic canceling his rookie year.

“At least what I’m hearing, it’ll be similar to the lockout years,” Orr said. “They went straight from OTAs and rookie mini-camp right into camp. Some of that might get canceled. I’m not too worried about us not having a season. I’m sure it’ll get done at some point.”

Here's how NFL draft analysts see Badgers' prospects

Colten Bartholomew can be reached on Twitter @CBartWSJ.


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