In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 5
2012 NFL Draft picks: 2 – TE Drake Dunsmore (7th round, 233rd overall), WR Jeremy Ebert (7th round, 235th overall)
Northwestern leads the Big Ten in several academic categories, but the Wildcats' football program will never be mistaken with Ohio State or Michigan on the field. The last Northwestern player taken in the top-20 picks? 1983. Over the past six years, only five Wildcats have been drafted, and none in the top-100 picks. And with a relatively young roster in 2012, it's no guarantee that Northwestern will have a draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Under the tutelage of head coach Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats have gone bowling each of the last four seasons, the longest streak of consecutive bowl appearances in program history. However, Northwestern hasn't won any of those postseason games, in fact, the school hasn't won a bowl game since 1948 (Rose Bowl), their only bowl game win in school history. Despite returning only 10 starters from last season, Fitzgerald has routinely been able to get the most out of his team and could have his team playing in a bowl game for the fifth straight year. But the Wildcats' NFL outlook for the 2013 NFL Draft isn't as promising.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OG Brian Mulroe (6-4, 295)
Entering his third year as a starting guard for the Wildcats, Mulroe returns as one of the most experienced members of the Northwestern offense. He proved to be the rock of the team's offensive line last season, earning All-Conference Honorable Mention honors. Mulroe was a three-star offensive line recruit out of high school and committed soon after receiving his scholarship offer from Northwestern. He redshirted in 2008 and missed most of his freshman season with an injury. Mulroe became a full-time starter in 2010 as a sophomore and has started 26 straight contests over the past two years, at both left and right guard. He will be expected to be the anchor of the line again in 2012 as one of the top interior linemen in the conference. Mulroe has good lateral quickness with the mobility to get out in space and block at the second level, but can be too much of a waist-bender at times and needs to keep his butt close to the ground. He blocks with a mean streak and tenacious attitude, delivering a blow off the snap and playing with heavy hands. Mulroe has enough athleticism and tools to warrant a late round draft pick, but needs to clean up his technique and be more consistent.
2. WR Kyle Prater (6-5, 215)*
It's tough to accurately evaluate a prospect for the next level when he has only one career catch, but Prater has obvious talent and will be an intriuging player to watch moving forward. He was considered the No. 1 wide receiver recruit out of high school in Illinois and received a scholarship offer from just about every program in the nation, choosing Southern Cal. After redshirting in 2010, Prater battled injuries and saw action in 10 games last season, registering just one reception. He was granted his release from the Trojans and moved closer to home, enrolling in Evanston. He recently received a residence waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play in 2012 and not sit out the usually required one season. Prater has already received rave reviews from the Wildcats' coaching staff and should see extensive action this season, especially as the team tries to replace the loss of their top two receivers from 2011. Prater is a tall, lean target with good length to extend and snatch the ball away from his frame, showing big hands and the focus to reel-in tough catches. He comes with some durability concerns, missing chunks of the past two seasons with various minor injuries and needs to prove he can stay healthy. Only a redshirt sophomore with a blank college résumé, Prater is barely a blip on the draft radar, but he is a player NFL scouts will keep an eye on this season.
3. S Ibraheim Campbell (5-11, 205)*
Another young up-and-comer on the Northwestern roster, Campbell (pictured above) is only a redshirt sophomore, but if one year is any indication, he is in for a productive career in Evansville. Lining up at safety last season, he led the team in tackles and earned Freshman All-American honors by the FWAA. Campbell was recruited as a running back out of high school in Pennsylvania and chose the Wildcats over offers from Stanford, Michigan State and Boston College. After redshirting in 2010, he moved to defense and earned a starting safety job last fall (12 starts) and led the team in tackles (100, ninth in the Big Ten), adding 3.5 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions. Despite his youth, Campbell quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the Northwestern defense and is the only returning starter to the secondary from a year ago. He has average size, but hits like a truck with quick reaction skills, reading his keys and making snap decisions with natural football awareness. With expectations now on his shoulders, Campbell will try and avoid a sophomore slump this season, but his future as a pro prospect looks promising.
4. OT Patrick Ward (6-7, 310)
A two-time starter at right tackle, Ward is expected to move to the left side in 2012 as a senior, a position he hasn't played before at Northwestern. He is also best known as the player that received the cheap shot by Illinois Jonathan Brown last season that resulted in a suspension for the Illini linebacker. Ward was a top-30 offensive tackle recruit out of Illinois and passed up offers from Notre Dame, Stanford and Illinois to sign with the Wildcats. He was mostly used a reserve true freshman in 2009, seeing time in 12 games at both tackle and guard. Ward earned the starting right tackle job as a sophomore and started there every game the past two seasons (26 starts). With Al Netter graduating, Northwestern has a void at left tackle in 2012, a hole that the coaching staff is hoping Ward can fill. He has a large frame with average length and has been lauded for his intelligence both on and off the football field. Ward has good snap anticipation and get-off quickness, but needs to clean up his footwork and body positioning in his initial kickslide. He will need a big senior year to turn himself into a draftable prospect, but the move to the left side will give him every opportunity to show the NFL what he brings to the table.
5. OLB David Nwabuisi (6-1, 240)
After finishing third on the team in tackles last season in his first year as a starter, Nwabuisi returns as one of the defensive veterans of a young Northwestern offense. Recently named to the pre-season watch list for the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker), he is arguably the Wildcats' best defensive player. Nwabuisi was recruited more as an athlete out of high school with most schools viewing him as a fullback, picking the Wildcats over Arizona State and Air Force. After redshirting in 2008, he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons mostly as a reserve and on special teams, earning one start. Nwabuisi became a full-time starter at strongside linebacker last season, finishing with 84 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and two forced fumbles. Known as a speedy athlete, Nwabuisi is a rangy player with the foot quickness and fluidity to cover a large area. He has streaky instincts and doesn't always trust what he sees, taking too many false steps and struggling to disengage blocks. Nwabuisi produced respectable numbers as a first-year starter, but it's his senior performance this season that will determine whether or not he will be considered draftable next April.
OT Chuck Porcelli (6-7, 315)
OT/OG Neil Deiters (6-8, 315)
DE Quentin Williams (6-4, 255)
For all of NFLDraftScout.com's team-by-team previews of the top prospects to watch in the 2012 season in preparation for the 2013 NFL draft, click here.
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