It's never too early to start thinking about the 2021 NFL Draft. In the case of the Northwestern Wildcats, next year's draft is exactly where their next group of NFL prospects will come from. For many years Northwestern was considered a football wasteland. But with Pat Fitzgerald as the head coach, NU has become a breeding ground for NFL talent.
As the team has gotten better so have their facilities, national television exposure, and their ability to attract recruits. The Wildcats have seen their greatest success under Fitzgerald's watch. So here are five Wildcat players (in alphabetical order) who should be on the NFL's radar once the 2020 season kicks off.
Paddy Fisher, LB
For teams that will be looking for energy for the middle of their defense next season, Fisher is a solid candidate to do just that. The Wildcats middle linebacker is like a tank with a sports car engine on game day. He's already posted 315 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, nine forced fumbles, eight pass deflections, three interceptions, and two sacks in his first three seasons. He plays well against both the run and the pass, he easily moves sideline to sideline, and he could probably play inside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment as well.
Blake Gallagher, LB
Gallagher has played right next to Fisher for those same three seasons. And it seems like he feeds off of Fisher's energy as evidenced by the 248 tackles, 12 TFLs, and four interceptions he's recorded in Evanston. Gallagher's best trait is his ability to make stops in the open field.
Riley Lees, WR
Slot receivers are now a necessity in the NFL, and Lees could fill that position for any team. He's caught 91 career passes for 879 yards and seven touchdowns, all while averaging 9.7 yards per catch. Lees isn't afraid of making the tough catches in traffic or tight windows, and he can draw multiple defenders towards him to create opportunities for his teammates. He has very good hands and is precise in his route running.
Peyton Ramsey, QB
Ramsey transferred to Northwestern from Indiana in early March. He did so after completing 66 percent of his passes in a Hoosier uniform for 6,581 yards (6.9 ypa) and 42 touchdowns (23 INTs), with a passer rating of 134.3. He ranked in the Big Ten's top 10 in just about every major passing category last year, and he's the favorite to win the Wildcats' starting job in 2020. His arm strength, accuracy, mobility, and decision-making will serve him well in the NFL, and he could develop into a solid backup in the pros.
Rashawn Slater, OT
He can play both guard and tackle positions and is light on his feet for his size (6-3, 305). His streak of 30 straight starts came to an end this past season but he's started in 37 total through his first three years. He also was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a junior by both the media and coaches.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.