Northwestern is not exactly a breeding ground for the NFL, but with 27 wins over the past 3 seasons and the longest winning streak in the Power 5, they are certainly on the radar screen of scouts. Twelve Wildcats have been drafted since 2010 – more than schools like Minnesota and Purdue, but, for reference, the same amount as Alabama had in 2018 alone. Northwestern had just one player drafted this year in Justin Jackson (it still hasn’t hit us yet), but in the days after the draft four players were signed as undrafted free agents: Godwin Igwebuike, Tyler Lancaster, Kyle Queiro and Warren Long. NBN Sports takes a look at which products of Fitz' system have a chance to make a roster and contribute to their teams.
Jono Zarrilli: We’ve got to start with Justin Jackson here. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 251st pick in the seventh round. While he fell lower than any Northwestern fan knows he should have, especially after his eye-opening NFL Combine, The Ball Carrier has plenty of opportunity in the City of Angels. Fellow Big Ten product and Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon (who Jackson beat his freshman year) is the undisputed lead back and workhorse, but behind him Jackson has only Austin Ekeler to compete with for the backup gig. If the Chargers want to take 3 tailbacks, Jackson should end up on the Week 1 roster as an athletic, versatile change-of-pace back.
Lukas Stachtiaris: As the only drafted Wildcat, seventh-round-pick Justin Jackson had one of the most impressive NCAA resumes in the draft. Jackson holds the Northwestern school record for rushing yards, but more impressively ranks 11th all-time across Division 1 Football in career yards. Despite an impressive resume combined with a stellar combine, Jackson enters the draft at 23 years of age at a position where the drop-off age is commonly believed to be around 27 years old, one of the youngest positional drop-off ages in professional sports. So, while Jackson offers a more impressive resume than much of his competition, he offers a shorter NFL lifespan in comparison to players like 21-year old #2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. If Jackson wants to see NFL field time, he’s going to have to prove his worth early with the Chargers.
Trevor Lystad: Jackson probably has the best shot at making an NFL roster, but I think DT Tyler Lancaster might surprise some people in Green Bay after going undrafted. NU’s captain had impressive measurables at his Pro Day: He has great size at 6-foot-3 and 313 pounds and ran a 4.96 40-yard dash, quite fast for a player that big. (For context, the first DT drafted this year runs a 5.10.) Green Bay is known for running a 3-4 scheme similar to Northwestern’s style, and they aren’t especially deep at nose tackle behind starter Kenny Clark. Lancaster has lots of room to grow, especially as a pass rusher, but don’t be shocked if Lancaster is still a Packer come the regular season (even if our good friends at InsideNU are haters).
Shreyas Iyer: Godwin Igwebuike dropping out of the draft entirely was a big surprise for me. Igwebuike was a projected Day 2 or 3 pick at safety, especially after crushing his combine. The former standout placed first in the three cone drill and the 60-yard shuttle for safeties, and finished in the top ten in the 40, bench press, vertical, and broad jump. Although he is a relatively small safety at 5’11’’ and 225 pounds and will have some growing pains with man to man coverage at the next level, he could be a great downhill thumper for Tampa Bay behind presumptive starter Chris Conte, or at the very least a special teams performer with the tackling prowess to contribute immediately. Although Conte had a decent year last year, the Bucs defense isn’t full of world-beaters; Igwebuike should be able to challenge for a roster spot. With his strong tackling ability, he may find a use as a safety-linebacker hybrid in coordinator Mike Smith’s defense.