The 2016 NFL Draft is over and four Nebraska Cornhuskers (Maliek Collins, Vincent Valentine, Alex Lewis, Andy Janovich) heard their names called. However, it’s never too early to look to next year and see which members of the Big Red could keep the Huskers’ impressive half century-plus long streak of putting players into The League alive.
Jordan Westerkamp, WR
A near-lock to extend Nebraska’s streak of NFL draftees, Westerkamp will be Nebraska’s No. 1 receiver and have every opportunity to become the first Husker to break the 1,000-yard barrier as a pass catcher.
Route running isn’t an issue and he has arguably the best set of hands on the team. Ideally he can put on some more solid weight during the offseason to up his already impressive durability. He won’t blow scouts away based on raw speed, but his agility and ability to simply make plays speaks for itself.
Nate Gerry, S
Gerry’s another Husker that could leap up draft boards with a banner year. He already has excellent size (6-2, 210) and picked up his level of play towards the end of 2015 with solid games versus Iowa and UCLA. Not only can he attack the run well, his heads-up play and nose for the ball have helped him total nine interceptions over the past two seasons.
A defensive captain as a junior, Gerry needs to have a consistent year of taking proper tackling angles and not being out of place when trying to play a receiver. Let’s not forget that he was part of a secondary that was ranked No. 122 (290.5 passing ypg) last season. Even a modest uptick in performance should help the Huskers and his draft stock.
Cethan Carter, TE
Quite possibly the first Husker to be taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, Carter is being set up to excel much like fullback Andy Janovich – who was selected in the sixth round by Denver – was last season. Carter has already showed that he can thrive in Mike Riley’s offense. Not only was he one of six Huskers with more than 20 catches in 2015, he became one of the Big Red’s fiercest run blockers as the year progressed.
Carter also flashed his potential as a running threat with a 32-yard touchdown run versus Rutgers and a similar 16-yard scamper versus UCLA in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl. His physicality simply cannot be denied. A solid senior year coupled with a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine (assuming he gets an invitation) could make Carter a wanted man a year from now.
Terrell Newby, RB
Newby’s climb onto a team’s draft board is only partially controlled by him. It appears that he’ll be splitting time in the backfield with Devine Ozigbo and Mikale Wilbon as of now. If Newby asserts himself as the No. 1 back and can improve on 2015’s 765 yards rushing, that’ll be part of the equation. He’ll have to polish his pass-blocking skills and show he can be a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield as well to make a compelling case.
Josh Banderas, LB
A potential defensive captain, 2016 is Banderas’ year to shine as he’ll be looked to help stop the run and chip in on pass coverage. He lacks elite speed, but has versatility being able to play both interior and outside roles. He likely sticks to the former for the Huskers’ upcoming season.
Despite missing four of the first six games in 2015 with a groin injury, he still managed to be one of the Big Red’s leading tacklers with 61 (34 solo). He already has the size (6-2, 210). He’ll have to show the ability to get into the backfield more often and be a more reliable defensive pest in pass coverage to get noticed.
Sam Foltz, P
If former Florida State Seminole kicker Roberto Aguayo is worth trading up to select in the second round, Foltz surely needs to be mentioned as a potential mid- to late-round pick. In 2015, he was ranked No. 21 in the nation with an average of 44 yards per boot, downing 15 punts inside the 20-yard line and booming 16 beyond 50 yards.
Three punters were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft. You’d better believe Foltz will have every opportunity to show off his thunderous foot and make hismself too tempting for one of the 32 teams to pass up.