It’s that time of year when April showers turn to May flowers – perfect weather for sports. As other leagues enter their postseasons, the NFL will make its return to the stage on Thursday, April 27, 2023, to open the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City, Missouri.
Northwestern is proudly represented by four draft-eligible Wildcats this year– third-year offensive lineman Peter Skoronski, fourth-year defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore, third-year cornerback Cameron Mitchell and third-year running back Evan Hull.
Peter Skoronski: talent like no other
For Skoronski, this looks like another year where a Northwestern left tackle will be drafted high in the first round. Like former Wildcat and current Los Angeles Charger Rashawn Slater, Skoronski was at the top of his game during his college career. He earned unanimous First Team All-American honors and was selected as the Rimington-Pace B1G Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2022.
There are high expectations for Skoronski; he’s projected to be the best tackle in the draft along with the likes of Ohio State’s Paris Johnson, Jr. and Georgia’s Broderick Jones. The one knock on him, however, is his wingspan. It measures 32 ¼ inches, noticeably shorter than the so-called “standard” of 33 inches. Some teams have considered switching him from tackle to guard, but regardless of his position, he stands at the top of many draft boards.
As for where he will be drafted, Skoronski could go as high as seventh to the Las Vegas Raiders. He could also fall all the way to the Buffalo Bills at the 21st pick. I have him slated to stay home with the Chicago Bears drafting him with the ninth overall pick as the first lineman off the board. The Bears need linemen to protect their star quarterback Justin Fields, and Skoronski would fit like a glove.
Adetomiwa Adebawore: a man among boys
Voted Third-Team All-Big Ten in 2022, Adebawore had a stellar senior season that earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl. He then posted monster numbers for his position in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical jump at the NFL Combine, earning him a 97 overall athleticism score.
Adebawore has the speed and athleticism to make it in the NFL, however, there are concerns about his size and rawness as a tackler. Thanks to his Combine results, he should hear his name called on draft day as high as 18th to the Detroit Lions or as late as somewhere in the second round. Having shot up mock draft boards to the first round as of late, I have him going to the New Orleans Saints, a team in need of defensive line depth, at 29th overall.
Cameron Mitchell: stepping up big time
During his Northwestern career, Mitchell was a two-time All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and is coming off of a 10-pass breakup season. A leader on and off the field, he became the face of the secondary following the departures of cornerback Greg Newsome to the NFL and safety Brandon Joseph to the transfer portal.
Mitchell might be prone to drawing flags in the NFL due to his handsy style when getting beat over the top and in zone coverage. However, what he lacks in those areas, he makes up for with natural ball skills and great instincts during man-to-man coverage. Projected to go anywhere between rounds four and seven, I predict Mitchell as a fifth-round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Evan Hull: steal of the draft
Coming off of back-to-back 900-plus yard rushing seasons– including a 1000-yard season in 2021– Hull is hoping that his past performance will draw the attention of NFL teams in need of a backup running back. He may not offer much in pass protection, but Hull has good vision and a low center of gravity, making tackling him difficult.
Most experts have Hull going in the sixth or seventh rounds or being picked up as an undrafted free agent. The New England Patriots could take a chance on him late in the draft, probably with their seventh-round pick. New England is known for drafting “sleepers," or underrated players, and keeping a stacked running back room, so this pick wouldn’t surprise me.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Joseph
Fans will remember Notre Dame’s third-year safety as a force of a player with the Northwestern Wildcats. During his first two years in Evanston, he was named B1G Newcomer of the Year, recorded nine total interceptions and snagged an incredible one-handed interception in the 2020 B1G Ten Championship Game.
The 2021 Preseason All-American player transferred to Notre Dame before the 2022 season seeking an opportunity to win a championship. Though a ball-hawk with a high football I.Q., Joseph does struggle with consistency, particularly in tackling. The hype around Joseph has waned, and most experts now have him as a Day 3 (fourth through seventh round) pickup. I believe he will fit in nicely with the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round.
In the end, Northwestern will be represented by four stellar young men from last year’s team, all of whom have a chance of hearing their names called during the NFL Draft. With their selections, Northwestern can prove that it carries top talent on the football field, despite what the record shows. But, only time will tell in Kansas City.
Thumbnail photo by Brandi Simpson/North by Northwestern