Football: Jackson selected by Chargers, but other Wildcats passed over in NFL Draft


(Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette)

Justin Jackson runs past a Bowling Green defender. The accomplished Northwestern running back was chosen in the seventh round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Digital Projects Editor


After a long wait, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson was selected with the sixth-to-last pick in the NFL Draft on Saturday. The Los Angeles Chargers took Jackson with the 251st pick, making him the only Wildcats draftee in the seven-round draft.

Jackson is the all-time leading rusher at NU, racking up 5,440 rushing yards over his four years with the Cats — the 11th-most in NCAA history.

He’ll be joining a Chargers team that now has five running backs on its active roster, headlined by Melvin Gordon. The former Wisconsin Badgers star and first-round pick started all 16 games last season and racked up 1,105 rushing yards, good for seventh-best in the league.

It’s not a particularly deep group, however, and Jackson will have a decent chance to make the team. Backup Austin Ekeler provided solid contributions in all 16 games as well, totalling five touchdowns and over 500 yards from scrimmage. The remaining running backs listed on the active roster, however, have combined for zero career carries.

Surprisingly, Jackson was the only former NU player selected. Safety Godwin Igwebuike was projected as a mid-round pick, but fell out of the draft and was signed afterward as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Igwebuike was a four-year starter for the Wildcats who missed only one game in his entire collegiate career. He was a fixture in multiple lockdown defenses over his time, as both the 2015 and 2017 squads rode strong defensive efforts to 10-win seasons.

The Buccaneers also drafted a safety, Jordan Whitehead out of Pittsburgh, and Igwebuike will compete with veterans Chris Conte and Keith Tandy to make the roster, along with younger guys like Whitehead, Isaiah Johnson and Justin Evans.

Jackson and Igwebuike are not the only former Cats players set to battle for spots in the NFL this summer, however. Safety Kyle Queiro, defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster and linebacker Warren Long all signed as undrafted free agents, while superback Garrett Dickerson and center Brad North were invited to rookie mini-camps.

Queiro was signed by the Dallas Cowboys, and he’ll look to bring his playmaking skills to a team that intercepted only 10 passes last year. Queiro had five by himself in 2017, including a game-changing “pick-six” in the Music City Bowl.

Lancaster will join the Green Bay Packers and former teammate Dean Lowry along the team’s defensive line.

The Seattle Seahawks snapped up Long, a former running back who converted to linebacker for his senior season. While he totalled only 21 tackles last year, his speed and athleticism likely impressed teams. He ran a 4.55 second 40-yard dash at NU’s pro day, only 0.04 seconds slower than eighth overall pick Roquan Smith, the first linebacker taken in the draft.

Dickerson and North will both head to AFC North mini-camps, as Dickerson travels to Cleveland to attempt to make the Browns roster while North will do the same for the Baltimore Ravens.

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