A big time for the TDT Media group with Senior Bowl practices set to kick off here in a matter of days from Mobile, Alabama, where we'll have a live contingent there all week. One player who's set for this year's marque pre-draft All-Star showcase is Wisconsin center Tanor Bortolini, who we're set to interview as well. With that in mind, I'd figure I'd do some due diligence on the Redshirt Junior, who's also a lifelong Wisconsin native.
So, what else is there to know about Bortolini? Well, he turned down scholarships from multiple Ivy League Schools (Dartmouth and Columbia) and The U to stay home and play for the Badgers. After not getting much work in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, his feet got wet the year after, then became a permanent fixture up front for Wisconsin the last two years. Having experience at every offensive line spot but left tackle, Bortolini brings excellent versatility to the table, but his best spot is probably center, where he played all of 2023, earning the highest PFF grade out of any of his teammates. In addition, he was named to Third-Team All-Big Ten for his efforts last year and is yet another Badgers' big fella ready to make the jump to pro. Heading into a monster week in Mobile, what's the rap on the man with the mullet?
Name: Tanor Bortolini
Jersey: No. 19
Position: Interior Offensive Line
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 310 lbs
Games Watched: vs. Ohio State and Illinois (2022), vs. Iowa and Illinois (2023)
Pass Blocking (10/15)
While Bortolini's technical ability as a pass blocker is solid, he lacks ideal play strength and leverage. Straight bullrushes and push-pulls gave him a decent amount of trouble, and he naturally wasn't generating much power at the point of attack, especially at guard.
Where Bortolini excels as pass protector is in his awareness and vision in the trenches. You saw more than enough plays where he made some nice secondary wipeout blocks, sniffed out extra pressure and stunts, etc. Additionally, I only had Bortolini down for one penalty, a hold to stop a stunt that would've been a big sack anyway. I'd feel better about his NFL prospects as a pass rusher if the play strength was better, and in fairness that's fixable, but there's not a ton he's going to be able to do to add natural leverage.
But on a final note, we got to see Bortolini go up against Illinois IDL Johnny Newton in pass pro, a mid-first-round graded talent, and the No. 9 player on the TDT big board at the time of writing, and I thought he held up as well as he could've. At the very least, that's a good barometer of what he may look like against NFL talent in his age/experience bracket.
Run Blocking (12.5/15)
This might not be a shocker to hear, but Wisconsin LOVES to pound the rock, as they have dating back to when they had Melvin Gordon and James White. Early and often, Bortolini was put to the test as a run blocker, and I thought he more than held his own, even with some of his natural limitations. We touch on this more in a few minutes, but he can pull as a guard or center and does a good job of sealing things up and opening holes inside the numbers. The two big things I'd like to see him improve is playing with a more consistent mean streak, because when it's active, it's noticeable. Elsewhere, sustaining blocks better at the second level would be ideal. I Didn't see many second-level blocking reps, but that was a recurring issue in the events he had to block for longer than a moment or two (so, not the final clip here).
While I thought Bortolini displayed some better anchor work in the middle of the line in 2023, there were still times when he struggled in this area. The lower body strength is good, but the overall balance could be inconsistent, rendering that first part irrelevant. There were a few reps against Ohio State in 2022, where he was getting forklifted.
You notice it immediately, but Bortolini's footwork was consistently excellent throughout each of these games. His quick and active feet immensely when it came to redirecting himself and helping out on-chip blocks, moving laterally to stop stunts, etc. Could clean some stuff up as it relates to second-level footwork, but Bortolini is entering the league in a great spot in this area.
More on the same lines as footwork, Bortolini is in a good spot as he becomes a pro, except for a couple of areas. Firstly, his pad level can be a tad high at times, but that was the least pressing issue presented here. Secondly, his balance was a bit uneven at times, which got him into trouble more so in pass pro than as a run blocker.
Given the fact Wisconsin isn't shy about running the ball, Bortolini was often tasked to pull in the run game, and that's ultimately a good in-game test of how athletic he can be. I wouldn't call him an elite athlete, but above average? Absolutely. His lateral agility will 100 percent stick at the next level at the very least. Also, he was a track and field athlete in high school, so, do with that what you will.
While Bortolini has experience at all three positions on the interior and at right tackle, we only saw him at right guard and center, and he certainly looked better at the latter in both the running game and in pass pro. Still, that experience at the two guard spots is big, and he could conceivably kick to either side in the NFL if he had to, but if not, it's never bad to have a guy with that kind of versatility up front.
This is the area where people will knock Bortolini the most. According to Steve Letizia from OnTapSportsNet, his arms are "reportedly under 32 inches", which would be historically low among offensive linemen if accurate. Granted, some interior guys with historically low arm size or wingspan have gone on to be good; Creed Humphrey for the Chiefs, Tyler Linderbaum with the Ravens, and former Badger teammate/current Jet Joe Tippmann, most notably, but I digress. While Bortolini makes do with what he has, I imagine this will ultimately make him a pure center in teams' eyes. The lack of consistent play strength ultimately limits how he uses his length to his advantage.
The biggest issue as far as Bortonili's ability to control defenders would just be consistency, even without the high-end play strength that teams would probably want. Especially in the two games at center, he showed he's perfectly capable of making sustained blocks in pass protection (he did so a ton in the Iowa game you see below), but there were some key times where it didn't show up. Take this safety against Iowa down below, for example. Lost leverage to his left and just isn't able to recover. But I think the fact he can find ways to win with technique and fundamentals is a good place to start, it just can't be the only thing moving forward.
Although there are some legitimate concerns with Bortolini, he still has enough positive traits to feel good about his draft stock moving forward. I think if he can show off some good play strength and that his arm length isn't a hindrance in this specific environment at the Senior Bowl, he could boost himself up into being a top 100 guy (not even factoring in the name or hair, which matters a great deal in my book). We saw the Senior Bowl do wonders for a guy like Marte Mapu a year ago, and countless other guys in years past, so why would Bortolini be any different?
As far as fits go, I think a team with the luxury of further time to develop Bortolini for an extra year or two, who isn't in the market for a center now but will be down the road, would be ideal. Think of the Eagles drafting Cam Jurgens a couple of years ago, for example. Probably going to get a better idea of who fits that bill once the main wave of free agency comes and goes, but Bortolini is someone I'm keeping tabs on this Senior Bowl week.
Rookie Projections: Developmental/Depth IOL Option
Third-Year Projection: Starting Caliber Center
Final Grade: 76/100 (4th Round Talent)
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