The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and speculation about who will go where is reaching a fever pitch. Two Wildcats have been drafted in each of the past three drafts, and that trend is likely to continue come late April if Justin Jackson and Godwin Igwebuike are taken in the late rounds. In March, they participated in the NFL Combine, where each player ranked in the top five of their respective positions in multiple drills. They both put themselves in terrific positions to hear their names called during the NFL Draft later this month; all they can do now is sit and wait.
While Igwebuike and Jackson will probably get picked on the second or (more likely) third day of the draft, defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster and safety Kyle Queiro are two other Wildcats who were very productive at Northwestern and potentially have NFL skillsets. Here’s a look at how Northwestern’s top four prospects performed this offseason and where their stocks are headed into the draft.
Godwin Igwebuike, S
Like his more celebrated running back teammate, Godwin Igwebuike played in all four seasons of his college career. Last month, he displayed his solid athleticism, finishing fifth in the broad jump among safeties and second in the 20-yard shuttle.
Igwebuike also ran a 4.44 second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis last month, good for fifth among all safeties. Measured at 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, he’s smaller than the prototypical strong safety, but his burst and speed could allow him to play the nickel. Nevertheless, NFL scouts say Igwebuike will have to improve his man coverage skills and his route anticipation in order to succeed as a free safety in today’s pass heavy NFL. He is likely to be the first Wildcat (of the Northwestern variety, at least) taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, probably in the fourth round or later.
CBS Sports: No. 196 overall, No. 10 free safety
ESPN: No. 172 overall, No. 13 safety
Justin Jackson, RB
Despite his record-setting career, and his very strong showing at the NFL combine, Justin Jackson will likely be a Day 3 draft pick. He finished top six in all notable events at the combine, in addition to recording the fastest 20 (4.07 seconds) and 60 yard shuttle (11.06 seconds) times among all running backs.
The Ball Carrier registered four 1,000 yard seasons at Northwestern. He is Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher and he put up great numbers at the combine. His agility and elusiveness obviously pops on tape, and his production at Northwestern doesn’t lie. The knock on Jackson is his smaller build and his lack of strength (only 13 bench press reps), and his huge workload in college could be a red flag for pro teams.
CBS Sports: No. 223 overall, No. 23 RB
ESPN: No. 226 overall, No. 16 RB
Tyler Lancaster, DL
Wildcat fans know Lancaster’s story. His father, one of Northwestern football’s biggest supporters, passed away earlier this year. Wearing No. 1, Lancaster was one of the most inspirational Wildcats in 2017. Although he was not invited to the combine, Lancaster surely made his pops proud at Northwestern Pro Day.
He weighed in at 313 pounds and was measured at 6-foot-3 — he’s a mammoth. His 36 bench press reps would have been fourth best at the NFL combine. Where Lancaster is uncanny is his agility and nimbleness for his size; his 40 yard dash (4.96) and shuttle times (4.43) were also fast for his position.
Lancaster’s lack of exposure and lack of pass rush ability will likely cause him to go undrafted (he had 3.5 sacks during his Northwestern career). However, he should get a chance in training camp.
CBS Sports: N/A
ESPN: N/A, No. 62 DT
Kyle Queiro, S
Queiro, a Pro Football Focus wonder boy, did not receive an invite to the combine either. But, he has good size for the safety position, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, and was a ballhawking safety for the Wildcats. He had five interceptions this past season— most importantly his clutch pick-six in the Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky.
Perhaps more significant for his NFL future, he posted a passer rating against of 39.2 and he was named to the Pro Football Focus’ 2017 First Team All Big-Ten.
His numbers at Northwestern Pro Day were not outstanding, but they shouldn’t drive his stock down either. He had a successful collegiate career, possesses good size and is loved by advanced analytics. He should also get an NFL opportunity via a training camp invite if he is not drafted.
CBS Sports: N/A