The NFL Draft is two weeks away. For several former Northwestern Wildcats, that means a lifelong dream is two weeks away from being fulfilled. With draft day nearing, here's a stock update on Northwestern's top prospects:
A former superback at Northwestern, Vitale will be transitioning to fullback at the next level, and teams love his receiving skills and his intangibles. Ever since he wowed scouts and media alike at the NFL Combine in February, Vitale's stock has held steady. He's a late-round pick — a fifth-rounder if a team feels the need to reach, a seventh-rounder if he falls — and part of his stock will be based on how much teams covet the fullback position. Vitale and Glenn Gronkowski, the younger brother of Patriots superstar Rob, are widely considered the top two fullbacks in the draft class.
Lowry's biggest asset is his versatility. NFL teams think he could potentially play in any spot across a 4-3 defensive line, and he would also fit well as a 3-4 defensive end. As a 4-3 end, his strength would be clogging up the run game.
Lowry met with a lot of teams at the East-West Shrine Game and the Combine, but his most recent contact has been with the Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Chicago native and Northwestern grad will hear his name called from the Auditorium Theatre, and that moment could come earlier than people expect.
CBS Sports: 274th overall, No. 24 defensive end
ESPN: 280th overall, No. 25 defensive end
VanHoose missed Northwestern's pro day for personal reasons, and he missed the Wildcats' bowl game with a finger injury. However, the four-year starter is still ranked fairly highly by ESPN. He should get a shot as an undrafted free agent.
Gibson was a 4-3 defensive end at Northwestern, but many NFL teams actually see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He'll need to learn coverage techniques to have a future as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but Gibson developed every year of his Northwestern career, so perhaps he'll be able to learn quickly and hang around during NFL training camps.
Shuler was the most notable performer at Northwestern's pro day, where he ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. He was not a productive player in his two seasons at NU, where he struggled with drops and inconsistency, but his athleticism earned him an invite, along with other local prospects (including Lowry and Vitale), to a workout with the Chicago Bears.
Zack Oliver, Traveon Henry and Garrett Kidd are all unranked by both ESPN and CBS Sports, though all have been training with a view towards a pro career.