Now that the 2015 NFL Draft is over and Northwestern had two former players drafted and five picked up as undrafted free agents, it's time to look forward to the 2016 NFL Draft. At this point, several Wildcats could possibly be taken next year.
Dan Vitale, Superback, Senior:
Probably Northwestern's best 2016 NFL prospect, Vitale has manned the superback position well over the past three years. He's an adept blocker and good receiver who can line up in the backfield, in the slot, or on the line. Vitale is technically listed as a fullback by both Walter Football and NFL Draft Scout, and could project as one in the pros. However, at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he's big enough to be a solid H-back/tight end and he runs his forty in the 4.6's. Vitale's versatility will be key, and if he tests well he could wind up in the middle rounds.
Nick VanHoose, Cornerback, RS Senior:
VanHoose is ranked as the 21st best corner in the 2016 draft by CBS Sports. Although not an elite athlete nor really fast, VanHoose has provided solid coverage as Northwestern's top corner over the past two seasons and was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. A lot of teams try to address the secondary through the draft -- 47 defensive backs were drafted this year, more than any other position -- so VanHoose could be drafted if he builds upon his 2014 success and tests well.
Christian Jones, Wide Receiver, RS Senior:
Jones has gone through a lot of injury problems, causing him to miss last year and this spring and summer. He will hopefully be back for the start of the season, but he will likely be far from 100 percent. Still, Jones was a big part of the offense during the 2013 season and, if healthy, is the best wide receiver on this roster by a relatively wide margin. He caught 55 passes for nearly 700 yards in his last full season, and if he can return to relative health, he should stand out once again. If everything goes as well as possible, Jones should put up very solid numbers this year and perhaps prove he deserves a shot in the pros.
Dean Lowry, Defensive End, Senior:
Perhaps the best player on Northwestern's roster, Lowry earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention status and is ranked as the 31st best defensive end prospect in the 2016 Draft. At 265 pounds, Lowry will likely either need to put on some weight to become a run stopper at the next level or drop one or two tenths of a second off of his forty time, which currently stands at 4.87.
Of course, there are also some players to consider that could potentially come out early if they have impressive seasons -- Matt Harris and Anthony Walker are two that come to mind -- but for now, we'll assume there'll be no early entries.