Finishing No. 10 in the AP poll for the 2020-21 season, Northwestern football dominated the Big Ten West en route to their second Big Ten Championship in three years. Thus, it should come as no surprise that several players from the squad are projected to hear their names called sometime from April 29 to May 1 during the NFL Draft.
Highest among the list of Northwestern players in the draft is someone who didn’t even play in the COVID-19 complicated season — Rashawn Slater. The former Wildcat offensive tackle is the favorite to be the second offensive tackle off the board in the 2021 draft class thanks to the impressive tape he accrued in the three years he played for the Wildcats. Most mock drafts—like FantasyPros’ compilation prediction—peg Slater at the 13th overall pick to the Los Angeles Chargers, while others place him even higher, to teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals.
In addition to Slater, Greg Newsome Jr. is likely to be selected in the first round. As one of the key contributors to what ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky recently called “the best defense in college football,” Newsome solidified the ‘Cats’ secondary with his incredible speed and lightning quick reflexes to track down speedy wide receivers game after game. Most mocks place Newsome somewhere in the range of 20-32 for the first round picks, with The Draft Network mocking him to the Indianapolis Colts at 21, and ESPN’s Todd McShay projecting him to the Tennessee Titans at 22 in his most recent piece.
Just having those two picked in the first round would be considered a success for the program given its previous draft history. However, other longtime ‘Cats such as linebackers Paddy Fisher and Blake Ghallager hope to hear their names called toward the latter rounds of a packed draft class. Riley Lees also threw his name in the draft ring, hoping he gets a chance at the next level to show off his swiss army knife wide receiver skills that he displayed during his Northwestern tenure. Quarterback Peyton Ramsey decided to forego another year in the purple and white to potentially play in the NFL, though he’ll likely have to go the route of being signed as an undrafted free agent to make it.
While Northwestern fans were certainly sad to see these former ‘Cats go, they can take solace knowing their favorite players will continue to play on the big stage, and maybe even for their favorite professional team. Here’s to hoping that Rashawn Slater, Greg Newsome, Paddy Fisher and every one of these former Wildcats entering the draft will extend their football legacies past their former home of Evanston and do Northwestern proud.