Recent years have relegated Northwestern to the doldrums of the Big Ten conference. While that may not change in 2022, the Northwestern Wildcats still have some prospects worth knowing in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Here’s a look at some of the top talents suiting up in purple this year and how they might project in the coming months.
Northwestern prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Most commonly known for its defensive back talent, the 2022 Northwestern squad tracks well with that reputation. The Wildcats offer plenty of upside in the secondary, but there are also standouts scattered across the roster. The entire group is led by one big-name offensive lineman, who might have a chance to be an early-round pick.
Evan Hull, RB
Northwestern’s offense was far from prolific last season, but Evan Hull was a definite bright spot. The 5’11”, 210-pound running back became a breakout star while amassing 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns on 196 carries. Hull doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he can make the most of lanes in the box with good burst and nifty footwork. He can also catch out of the backfield. A redshirt junior, Hull could find his way into an NFL running back rotation at some point in the future.
Malik Washington, WR
With Stephon Robinson moving on to the NFL, the Wildcats will need a new top target in their receiving corps. Senior pass catcher Malik Washington profiles as the next man up, having caught 44 passes for 578 yards and two scores in 2021. Washington is undersized, but he has a knack for finding open zones and can extend beyond his frame for catches. He might not be drafted, but like Robinson, he could get a chance in camp as a UDFA.
Peter Skoronski, OT
It’s not a guarantee that Peter Skoronski declares, but if he keeps following his current trajectory, it could be a legitimate possibility. A two-time second-team All-Big Ten honoree, Skoronski has locked down the left tackle spot since he set foot on campus. He’s smaller than average at 6’4″, 294 pounds, but he has great short-area athleticism, fluid hips, and a flexible torso. He also plays with fast feet and a steady base, understands leverage, and is comfortable playing beyond his center of gravity. His length isn’t elite, so a move to the interior could be in his future. But he very well could play on Sundays.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE
On defense, Northwestern will be led by edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore, who could factor into the late-round conversation in the 2023 NFL Draft. At 6’2″, 265 pounds, he’s a tad undersized and an average athlete. But within his boxy frame, Adebawore has good play strength and power capacity, and he’s a high-motor rusher whose effort is never in question. After amassing 8 1/2 tackles for loss, 4 1/2 sacks, three deflections, and two forced fumbles in 2021, Adebawore will look to reach new heights in 2022.
Bryce Gallagher, LB
Chris Bergin left for the NFL after the 2021 season, leaving a 132-tackle void on the Northwestern defense. That’s a void that Bryce Gallagher will be a primary factor in filling up. Gallagher put up good numbers in his own right in 2021. He was second on the team behind Bergin with 90 tackles, including 5 1/2 behind the line of scrimmage. Gallagher is undersized and stiff in space, so his NFL prospects are unclear. But he has a high motor and should be valuable for the Northwestern defense in 2022.
A.J. Hampton, CB
Northwestern doesn’t have a defensive back of Greg Newsome’s caliber in the 2023 NFL Draft. In fact, it’s likely they won’t have that kind of prospect again for some time. But A.J. Hampton is still a worthy successor. He received some draftable hype in the 2022 cycle before opting to return for a fifth season. Hampton is a bit lighter at 5’11”, 180 pounds, but he has good proportional length. Beyond that, he plays low in his stance, shows great explosiveness, and competes at the catch point. Hampton is not the most fluid, but his ball skills will keep eyes flowing his way.
Rod Heard II, CB
Entering his redshirt junior season, Rod Heard II might be an under-the-radar name to watch at Northwestern. At 5’11”, 185 pounds, he’s a bit lighter, but he has good proportional length, much like his teammate, Hampton. Heard has room to get stronger, both as a tackler and a playmaker at the catch point. He can also improve his technique at the line. That said, Heard is a quick accelerator when triggering on plays, and he flashed good play recognition at times in 2021. Able to play the boundary or the slot, Heard is someone to keep an eye on.
Cameron Mitchell, CB
The strongest unit on Northwestern’s depth chart, by a decent margin, is the secondary. The glory days of Newsome and Brandon Joseph are behind them, but Northwestern still has a decent crop of playmakers, among them cornerback Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell was modestly productive in 2021, picking up 43 tackles and five deflections with consistent starting action. Listed at 6’0″, 195 pounds, Mitchell doesn’t have great length, but he’s physical at route stems, and with his fluid hips, he can stack transitions.
Coco Azema, S
As good as Joseph was for Northwestern, he was one half of a safety duo completed by fourth-year player Coco Azema. Azema doesn’t have the size that Joseph brought, but he makes up for it with his ability and willingness to tackle in open space. Azema will continue to be a valuable safety blanket for the Wildcats. He’ll also be relied upon to be a higher-level playmaker after contributing four deflections and two forced fumbles in 2021.