The drop-off between Northwestern Football’s 2021 season and the year prior was certainly reflected in the difference between the two following NFL drafts. While the 2021 NFL Draft saw both Rashawn Slater and Greg Newsome selected in the first round, Northwestern’s first time ever with two first-round picks, no Wildcats went off the board in 2022.
There has also been a disparity in undrafted free agents who signed with teams after the draft. Although none of them heard their names called, Paddy Fisher, Peyton Ramsey and JR Pace were among eight former Wildcats who signed contracts with NFL teams after Northwestern’s Big Ten West title year. Since the draft’s conclusion on Saturday, only two members of the 2021 team have reached deals with new squads. Both major contributors in Evanston last season, wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. and linebacker Chris Bergin will have the chance to battle for a roster spot in rookie minicamp and beyond.
Stephon Robinson Jr: WR, Arizona Cardinals
Robinson’s high quality of play in 2021 was not necessarily indicated by his stats when the season ended. The graduate transfer may have only caught for 625 yards and two touchdowns, but the sub-par numbers were largely a product of inconsistent play surrounding him on offense. The speedy wideout consistently created separation and had great hands the entire year. When his quarterbacks were able to get him the ball, he balled out, notching 116 yards and 115 yards in consecutive games against Nebraska and Rutgers, respectively. Robinson also showed his quickness against Wisconsin, where he broke a 49-yard run.
To say Robinson’s path to a roster spot is crowded is an understatement. Arizona has a loaded room of pass catchers, led by DeAndre Hopkins, recent acquisition Hollywood Brown, AJ Green, Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz. Behind the battle for playing time from those five is another battle to simply make the roster — Robinson would have to compete with Andy Isabella and Antoine Wesley just to be included in the final 53. While the road to sticking in Arizona may be rocky, Hopkins’ six-game suspension may open up an opportunity for Robinson to prove himself.
Chris Bergin: LB, Chicago Bears
Bergin did not sign a contract like Robinson did, but the linebacker was invited to the Bears’ rookie camp on May 6. The nation’s leading tackler will have a lot to prove in the coming month; at just 5-foot-11, Bergin lacks the prototypical size needed to play linebacker. However, the former Northwestern team captain has the leadership traits and heart that pro teams desire on their rosters.
If he is able to make it out of rookie minicamp, Bergin could have a chance to make himself last in the windy city among an incredibly shaky Bears linebacking core. Roquan Smith currently holds down the fort in the middle, but the other two projected starters for Chicago combined for three tackles last year. There’s definitely a place for Bergin to slide in on the depth chart, but size will definitely be considered an obstacle for the former walk-on.