Northwestern Wildcats Poised to Place Pair in NFL Draft First Round

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By about this time, exactly two weeks from now, the first round of the NFL Draft will be wrapping up, and by that time not one, but two Northwestern Wildcats will have heard their names called. This should easily be the most exciting NFL Draft ever, from a NU fan perspective.

Rashawn Slater is almost certain to be the first or second OT selected, and he could easily go in the top ten overall. Greg Newsome II, one of the top three or four cornerbacks in this class, could be a top 15-20 selection. NU has never had more than one player drafted in the first round, in the same year, so without further ado, let’s cover profile Slater and Newsome in detail. (For our latest mock draft go here)

We’ll start with Rashawn, a massive (6-3, 325) people mover with good footwork, quickness and balance that comes off as basically transcendent, given his size. The Houston native is great at running his feet, staying attached in his blocks, with a tremendous ability to recover from any and all mistakes.

“When you went and watched him in practice there was one guy that jumped out, and it was him,” Pat Fitzgerald said on media call today (h/t Inside NU for the transcript), of when he was scouting Slater in high school.

“It was athletically, it was size, it was the person he was, when you got in the building everyone loved him, adored him. Great family, professional family, his dad (Reggie Slater) had a great NBA career. He came in here, right away, ready to go, ready to compete. Earned a starting role as a freshman, and then obviously had an illustrious career.

pat fitzgerald

“You’ve probably seen the videos and that is who he is, he’s a humble guy. But when he steps on the field that humility goes away, and he’s a physical, talented, light-on-his-feet guy that has an incredibly high ceiling moving forward, with him playing only three years for us.

Slater allowed 0 sacks in 329 pass blocking attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. He slots in well at #8 to Carolina, #10 Dallas, or #11 L.A. Chargers.

“Is he gonna be the first guy off the board? Fitzgerald asked rhetorically.

“I don’t know, I think that’s gonna be an exciting storyline at the offensive line position. And if he’s not, I think he’ll go pretty quickly after that.”

It’s down to either Slater or Oregon’s Penei Sewell as to who is the first offensive tackle selected in the draft, and teams seem to be rather evenly split, reportedly, on that right now.

As for Newsome, he might be a great fit to stay local and go to the Bears at #20, but #16 to Arizona or #21 to Indianapolis could work too. Newsome, ho had 71 tackles, 1 INT and 25 PBU in his college career, is a plug ‘n’ play ready on day 1 to play in the NFL kind of prospect.

At 6’1″, 192 he’s an agile, tall corner who is fundamentally sound and stays crouched with great ball awareness.

“Greg, obviously, Glenbard North, the tradition and great experience we have had there,” Fitzgerald said of Newsome.

“He’ll be the second NFL player in my time that played for Ryan Wilkins. Obviously he went down to IMG for his senior year, but he and his mom and his family were adamant that they’d stay loyal to his commitment to us.

“A lot of other schools came in and recruited him, and he stayed true to us. He’s a great leader in the back-end, great playmaker, very high football IQ. From a football standpoint IQ, he can not only be a corner, but also sub-nickel player. He’s got the physicality to be able to do that.

“With him, you get passion. You see it on the field. It shows up on tape. That wasn’t the fake juice that some young men have, he’s a passionate player.

Newsome posted a 4.38 40 at his pro day, which showcased his top end speed and thus solidified his day one status as a prospect.

“Both guys are complete,” Fitzgerald added.

“Both guys will be ready to start on day one when they walk into an organization, and both guys are bonafide first-rounders. And we’re incredibly proud of them.”

And they’ll walk out of here, obviously, with their degree, and that’s what it’s all about. They’re prepared for life, they’re prepared for the NFL, and we couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The personality of Newsome is best reflected by his getting fired up and motivated by ESPN’s “Fighting Rece Davises” comment in midseason.

“That’s what they view us as,” he said. “At the end of the season they can call us Rece Davises all they want as soon as we get to that Big 10 championship and win that. That’s all right with us. It’s just gonna keep fueling us every single week.”

Newsome will bring that spirit and fuel to the next level.

We brought this up to Northwestern CB AJ Hampton, who was hosted by Newsome on his official visit.

“Greg thinks he’s the best at everything, no matter what it is, and that’s why I love Greg,” Hampton responded on media call today.

“We’re playing a video game? He thinks he’s the best at that. But it’s just that chip on his shoulder. He takes everything personally and he wants to be the best and he wants to win. I feel like that’s definitely a big reason, that’s one thing I have been trying to transfer over to the young guys, and I am really glad he transferred over to me.

“Because when you play with that chip on your shoulder, that “why not me,” it really takes you to a totally different level. In terms of his mindset, I feel like that is one of the biggest things that has allowed him to reach that next level and really separate himself and get the respect that he deserves.”

pat fitzgerald

Hampton also discussed how Newsome has motivated him:

“I knew that when I came in, the one thing he said to me, he said, “when we come in here, we got one goal. Our goal is to make it to the league and our goal is to shut people down. And we are gonna do that, we are gonna be brothers, we are gonna be close through it all, but we are gonna work.”

“And that’s one thing I kind of cherished about Greg. He’s always had that mindset that “I’m the best player on the field.” And he’s always been like “why not? why not us? Play with that chip on your shoulder.” Especially Northwestern, we already don’t get the recognition we need.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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