Yesterday, we analyzed the top 10 prospects from the Big Ten West, and while there will be some overlap, here’s a deep dive into the top draft prospects from each team Northwestern face last season — yes, even UMass.
Stanford: Colby Parkinson, TE
In last season’s opening matchup against the Cardinal, Northwestern’s pass defense was abysmal. In hindsight, though, it was for good reason.
Stanford’s top draft prospect, Paulson Adebo, was a lockdown junior cornerback who opted to stay at Stanford for his senior season instead of enter the draft as a potential first-round pick.
Adebo was a large reason why Northwestern’s quarterback tandem of Hunter Johnson and T.J. Green combined to throw for only 117 passing yards. Since Adebo is staying in Palo Alto for his senior season, we set our sights elsewhere.
This weekend, Colby Parkinson, the Cardinal junior tight end who entered the draft a year early, should be the first Stanford player chosen.
He finished his junior season with 48 receptions for 589 yards and a touchdown, earning a spot on the All-Pac 12 second team. Against NU, Parkinson was relatively quiet and caught four balls for 38 yards.
As he looks to begin his professional career, Parkinson aims to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Cardinal Zach Ertz. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein predicts the tight end will be chosen somewhere between the fourth and fifth rounds.
UNLV: Javin White, S
When Northwestern beat UNLV in week two, Hunter Johnson turned in one of his best games in a Wildcat uniform. He finished 12-for-25 for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception. That one fault was caused by the Rebels’ Javin White, who picked off Johnson at the end of the first quarter.
White is one of a handful of prospects from UNLV who have the chance to make an NFL training camp roster, but the 6-foot-3 Oakland native is the most likely to be drafted. White advertises himself on YouTube by saying his skillset includes the ability to “cover a wide receiver like a cornerback, make tackles on the edge like a linebacker or drop into coverage and sneak in interception like a safety.” With these abilities, he projects as a day-three prospect for all NFL teams.
Michigan State: Josiah Scott, CB
Michigan State has a fairly weak draft class this year despite a few important names like linebacker Joe Bachie and, especially, cornerback Josiah Scott.
While Bachie totaled an impressive 14 tackles, a sack and an interception against Northwestern and could be a Sunday star, draft experts rank Scott, who recorded an interception against Northwestern, higher on most prospect rankings.
Scott is a versatile, ball-hawking corner likely to be off the board in the fourth round. Zierlein compares Scott to Avante Maddox of the Philadelphia Eagles, who has primarily played at nickelback in his NFL career.
Wisconsin: Zack Baun, OLB
This is a tough one. Wisconsin has two studs poised to get drafted tonight — one on each side of the ball. In the end, it will likely be a toss-up between Baun and running back Jonathan Taylor.
Baun will be of value to any NFL team as a result of his athleticism. While he did not do too much damage, he still recorded a solid seven tackles and registered three quarterback hits.
His athleticism and style of play are comparable to that of Kyle Van Noy, who has shown the ability to disrupt the quarterback both in the pocket and in coverage. He should be chosen in the first two rounds.
Nebraska: Lamar Jackson, CB
In the matchup against Nebraska, with a tie game and about a minute remaining, Aidan Smith threw an interception as Northwestern was crossing midfield on a potential game-winning drive.
Jackson made the play on a questionable no-call of pass interference or defensive holding. He returned the ball 10 yards, setting up a late drive that led to the game-winning field goal as time expired.
While he probably won’t hear his name until late on day three, the corner is the team’s best NFL prospect.
Ohio State: Chase Young, DE
Young is by far the best prospect coming on this list and the Big Ten as a whole. He’s likely to hear his name called only after Joe Burrow.
While the Buckeyes annihilated the ‘Cats in 2019, the one bright spot was how the Wildcats handled Young. Rashawn Slater blocked him masterfully. as he only registered two tackles and a sack against Northwestern.
Young is a generational pass-rushing talent who will be a valuable piece to a struggling Washington Redskins team this year. Any team in the draft would be lucky to have him.
As for the Buckeyes’ other top prospect, cornerback Jeff Okudah could be selected right after his teammate and is a surefire top-ten selection. Northwestern did not even throw at him once when the Buckeyes visited Evanston last fall.
Iowa: Tristan Wirfs, OT
In recent years, Iowa has produced first-round prospects at an unparalleled pace in the Big Ten West. This year is no different with offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs.
Wirfs is a stud who will play in the NFL for a long time. He has elite athleticism for an offensive tackle and does a good job in both pass and run protection. Many believe he will be selected fourth overall by the New York Giants, but if the club opts not to select him, he also is likely to be off the board within the draft’s first ten picks.
Indiana: Whop Philyor, WR (2021)
Considering the degree to which Indiana outplayed Northwestern in their November meeting, one would think the Hoosiers should have some pretty good draft prospects.
This year, though, Indiana has minimal talent entering the NFL draft. Offensive guard Simon Stepaniak could be a late-round selection or a quality undrafted free agent.
But the Hoosiers have an exciting prospect who will be entering the next year’s draft: wide receiver Whop Philyor. Against Northwestern, he caught two passes for 76 yards and hauled in 70 receptions for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns on the season.
He will be a significant prospect next year.
Purdue: Brycen Hopkins, TE
Despite the fact that the Boilermakers came away with a win over the ‘Cats, Hopkins did not do much in the game, finishing with just three receptions for 23 yards.
However, he did have a fantastic season overall. He finished the year with over 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. As a draft prospect, he offers great value as a pass catcher. He has the athleticism to make a true impact in an NFL passing offense next season. It will be surprising if he slips past the fourth or fifth round.
UMass: Jack Driscoll, OT
While he didn’t finish his career at UMass, Driscoll played a major role on offense before transferring to Auburn. After redshirting his first year, he started 20 games in two seasons with the Minutemen.
Driscoll went on to win 17 games, including the Iron Bowl, in two seasons on the Plains, and will likely be selected in the sixth round.
Minnesota: Antoine Winfield Jr., S
Minnesota’s top two draft prospects this season, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson, both impressed in the Golden Gophers handling of the Wildcats.
Johnson caught seven balls for 125 yards and a score while Winfield Jr. made 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
While Johnson may have enjoyed a more successful college career, Winfield, Jr. will be selected higher than his offensive counterpart. He should be taken in the first two rounds with his reputation as a hard-hitting safety. Many draft experts compare him to NFL safety T.J. Ward.
Illinois: Reggie Corbin, RB
Despite a successful season in Champaign for Lovie Smith, the Illini won’t have much talent joining the NFL. Illinois’s best prospect is running back Reggie Corbin.
While Northwestern neutralized Corbin in its HAT victory last season, allowing him just seven carries for three yards, he has the best chance of any Illini player to be drafted this weekend.
Corbin finished the season with 675 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. It was a modest drop-off in production after a junior season in which he ran for over 1,000 yards. He’s a likely late-round selection.