Sometimes, it’s not you. It’s them. NFL draft slots are an inexact science, but as a general rule, the deeper the pool is at your particular position in that particular draft year, the steeper the hill your case has to climb.
Welcome to the class of 2017, where the hill is steepest at running back, wide receiver, tight end, cornerback and safety. And where the greatest weak sauce is at quarterback and along the offensive line — especially at tackle.
With all-star games in the rearview mirror and the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine just a few weeks away, what’s the water like for some of the Big Ten’s best prospects? Land of 10 circled back to Dan Shonka, general manager of Ourlads.com and a member of the selection committee for the East-West Shrine Game, and to Pro Football Focus Big Ten analyst Josh Liskiewitz, who both scouted Big Ten prospects at the Senior Bowl, to gauge the updated NFL stock for a handful of Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Jordan Westerkamp, WR
Shonka: He was very impressive with the interviews (at the East-West Shrine Game), I’ll tell you what. I think there were two or three guys that were injured and they couldn’t participate, but Harold Richardson, the director, brought them in anyway because they were great, quality kids, so they could interview and meet with teams.
Westerkamp, he was outstanding in his interviews, and I was talking to different teams, I mean, they really liked him. Ironically enough, being from Illinois, in the Chicago area, he’s going to be battling (former Northwestern wideout) Austin Carr, probably, for a spot in a way because they’re very similar in regard to what they could do for a team.
I saw him walking around. He looked like he was walking around OK. But he was limping at the East-West. I saw him in the lunch room and on the field and things like that. Was it the (meniscus)? Because he wasn’t on crutches or anything like that. Nevertheless, it takes time to rehab it and to heal and get it back to 100 percent, but it’s not as bad as, like, an ACL.
Nate Gerry, S
Liskiewitz: At the Senior Bowl, he didn’t get beat vertically at all, but didn’t do anything to prevent passes from being completed in front of him, either. With safeties, it’s hard for those guys to stand out. They have to do something special. The UConn safety (Obi Melifonwu) stood out because they put him in coverage against wide receivers. He’s 6-4, 210, runs like a deer and could beat a wide receiver up. I didn’t see any of that with Gerry. (Had him) with three tackles, a stop, and a missed tackle. Three catches for 35 yards against (and) a 24-yard pass in the game. So that’s not particularly good.
If I had a vote for top defensive player in the Big Ten (in 2016), I might have gone with Gerry. I thought he was awesome this year, I thought he was really fantastic. (Michigan LB/S) Jabrill Peppers wasn’t even the best guy on his team; I think ultimately could have made an argument for Jourdan Lewis, (Orange Bowl) game aside.
— Josh Liskiewitz (@PFF_Josh) January 28, 2017
Shonka: He’ll probably be the first (Cornhusker) drafted. But it was kind of surprising; he had real short arms, which surprised people. He had a good (week). The thing he does best is play the run. He doesn’t play the pass well, even though he was Johnny-on-the-spot with interceptions (four during the regular season). This is also a good draft for safeties and he may end up having to prove himself as a free agent. He’s got talent and he does some good things, but he’s a guy that is going to be on the fringe of getting drafted or not.
Cethan Carter, TE
Shonka: It would be my guess (he’d go) in the seventh round or the free-agent route. He has been nicked up in his career. He’s 6-3, 240 or 238, he’s a good-sized guy. There’s some things I like about him. He can catch the ball. Tommy Armstrong was so inconsistent, you never knew where (the ball) was going with him. There are about three or four positions that are really deep this year and tight end is one. So he’s going to be (behind) a lot of tight ends. I think you’re probably looking at a priority free agent for him. You put an asterisk, but with all these guys, all it takes is one guy to like you to make this team.
Josh Banderas, LB
Liskiewitz: He’s another guy that graded really well for us. They had a couple of disastrous games down the stretch, but for the bulk of the season they looked very, very good.