In preparation for the 2014 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
2013 NFL Draft picks: 0
Last year was one of the most successful seasons in Northwestern history as Pat Fitzgerald and his team finished with 10 victories, marking only the third double-digit win season in program history and first since 1995. But despite their 2012 success, the Wildcats were shut out of the 2013 NFL Draft with players like Brian Mulroe, Pat Ward and David Nwabuisi forced to go the undrafted free agent route to the next level. But several talented players return to Evanston this fall and Northwestern has a better chance of producing a draft pick in the 2014 class.
Top Northwestern prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
1. SS Ibraheim Campbell (5-11, 205, 4.56)*
A high school running back, Campbell switched to the defensive side of the ball and redshirted in his first season in Evanston. He became the Wildcats starting strong safety as a freshman in 2011 and quickly established himself as a defensive leader, finishing among the team leaders in tackles the past two seasons. Campbell is a smart, alert player with a natural feel in the deep half of the field, despite his desire to be a ballcarrier coming out of the prep ranks. His lack of speed will show at times in coverage, but he also shows the confidence and short memory to stay aggressive and limit the mistakes. Where the coaches are most impressed with Campbell is his desire to improve and the daily progress on and off the field, showing significant improvement since he arrived. His aptitude in the film room shows up on game days and also rubs off on his teammates, a leadership trait that NFL coaches will love. Campbell still has two seasons left of eligibility for the Wildcats and he could wind up as one of the highest drafted Wildcats since Luis Castillo was a first rounder in 2005.
2. ATH Kain Colter (6-0, 190, 4.58)
The Wildcats projected starting quarterback, Colter has also seen time at wide receiver and running back over his career at Northwestern and is more of an “Offensive Weapon” type of prospect. In his three seasons in Evanston, he has amassed 1,691 rushing yards, 1,583 passing yards and 667 receiving yards with 40 career touchdowns. After Dan Persa graduated, Colter took over as the starting quarterback last season, but also saw considerable time at receiver. He has admitted in the past that he likely won't be a full-time quarterback at the next level, but is also willing to do whatever it takes to find the field in the NFL. Colter has terrific athleticism with a natural feel as a ballcarrier to find running lanes and slip through the grasp of defenders. Coach Pat Fitzgerald calls him the “most dynamic young man” in the Big Ten due to his versatile skill-set and ability to create and pick up positive yardage, anyway possible. Colter is expected to share the quarterback duties again in 2013, but scouts will certainly pay attention to what he does when he's not lined up under center and that versatility could make him a draftable prospect on some draft boards.
3. RB Venric Mark (5-8, 175, 4.43)
A scatback-type, Mark led the Big Ten in all-purpose yardage last season averaging 166.6 yards per game, recording 2,166 total yards. He started his Northwestern career as a wide receiver before moving to running back last season, starting all 13 games in 2012 and finishing with a team-best 1,366 rushing yards and 12 scores. Mark has also made his mark on special teams as a return man, averaging 18.7 on punt returns last year with a pair of touchdowns. He has a smallish frame and won't be able to add much more weight for the next level, but he has NFL speed to win the edge and out-run defenders down the sideline. Mark has the foot quickness and acceleration to dig his cleats in the ground and eat up grass in a hurry, using his agility and balance to deceive defenders. He showed signs of wearing down towards the end of last season and durability is something to watch with his undersized body type. Although he doesn't have the prototypical build to be an every-down back at the next level, Mark could be used as a complimentary weapon in the NFL who can catch passes out of the backfield and return punts and kicks.
Other Northwestern prospects worth watching:
WR Kyle Prater (6-4, 215, 4.58)*
An Illinois-native, Prater was a blue-chip recruit out of high school and took his talents to the west coast, enrolling at Southern Cal. But despite the hype he lasted only two seasons with the Trojans before transferring closer to home and the Wildcats. Prater caught just 10 passes last season, but he has the frame, athleticism and toughness to emerge as a reliable target for Northwestern in 2013.
C Brandon Vitabile (6-3, 300, 5.20)*
After redshirting in 2010, Vitabile has started every game at Northwestern the past two season and enters his junior season with an already impressive resume. He is smart, relentless and tough, both physically and mentally, acting as another coach on the field with his leadership. Vitabile, who can be found on numerous preseason award watch lists, is a center prospect to watch over the next two years.
DE Tyler Scott (6-4, 265, 4.82)
The Wildcats' 2012 leader in both sacks (9) and tackles for loss (12.5), Scott is a thickly-put-together edge rusher who uses his eyes well at the line of scrimmage to elevate and knock down passes (five pass break-ups last year). He has stiff body movements and struggles to quickly redirect, which will limit his ability to properly change directions and break down in space, but he is a physical striker in small areas.