This week, we’ll take a break from Northwestern Athletics and take a look at a few Northwestern Wildcats who should be drafted this weekend in the 2016 NFL Draft. After two Wildcats were drafted last season – Ibraheim Campbell and Trevor Siemian – another two should be selected this year. So let’s take a look at the NUmbers behind Dan Vitale and Dean Lowry’s draft stock.
There are three defensive lineman in this year’s NFL draft that stand at 6’6” or taller and weight in at 290-plus pounds: DeForest Buckner, a top-10 pick, Chris Jones, a late-first or early second round pick and Lowry. Obviously there’s a talent gap between Buckner, Jones and Lowry, but Lowry has the size to succeed in the NFL either as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 DE. At 6’6”, 296 lbs, Lowry’s weight comes in at the 96th percentile among DE’s while his height is the 88th percentile in this year’s draft. There’s no doubt Lowry has the build to succeed as a defensive lineman in the NFL.
One things for sure about Lowry, he dominated these past four years, stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 31.0 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. Lowry was a monster on the field on a ‘Cats defense that ranked among the best in the Big Ten and the NCAA for much of the season. Statistics aren’t always the best predictor of NFL success, but against Big Ten competition, Lowry was able to perform amicably and should find himself a role on an NFL defensive line in the future.
The No. 12 defensive end and No. 120 overall player, according to CBSSports, Dean Lowry is a projected 3rd-4th round selection, which would put him on par with where Campbell was selected by the Cleveland Browns last season. In a draft with a deep defensive line class, being drafted in the third to fourth round would be huge for Lowry and would certainly signal that Lowry has a chance to get significant playing time in his rookie season.
Dan Vitale had himself at weekend at the NFL Combine in March as he finished as a top performer among running backs in multiple drills, including the bench press where he tied Nebraska FB Andy Janovich to lead all running backs with 30 reps. And taking a look at his MockDraftable chart, Vitale finished in the 85th percentile or better in six different drills including the 20-yard shuttle, broad jump and vertical jump.
While Northwestern uses a superback to its advantage on the field, it may end up hurting Vitale’s draft stock. Vitale had just six carries for 29 yards during his four-year career at Northwestern, as he wasn’t used much in a fullback or halfback role. Further Vitale wasn’t used much as a blocker with the Wildcats, which he’ll have to do as a fullback in the NFL. Vitale can certainly learn these skills, but its no doubt on a knock on his draft stock going into the draft.
While Northwestern passing offense was very anemic this past season, Vitale still had a pretty good season, catching 33 passes for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns, a 10.8 yards per catch average. Vitale had a huge game against Ball State, in which he caught two touchdown passes and also had some good games against Nebraska and Penn State. For his career, Vitale caught 141 passes for 1456 yards and 11 touchdowns, and while these might not be stats that jump off the wall, Vitale can certainly excel at the next level.