After the largest draft class for Nebraska football since 2012, I was able to estimate a draftable grade for eight NU seniors — and maybe a couple other Huskers — for the 2017 NFL draft. Each of these young men will have an opportunity, with a healthy and successful 2016, to hear his name called next spring.
Punter Sam Foltz: The highest rated Husker player as of right now, Foltz should be ranked as high as the third-best punter in the 2017 senior class.
Safety Nate Gerry: He ranks among the top 15 heading into the season at strong safety. Around 50 total defensive backs are drafted each year. I could see, with an all-conference type year, Gerry working himself into the third round.
Tight end Cethan Carter: The 2016 NFL tight end class only had 11 players drafted. So expect a larger group in 2017. Carter should start the season ranked among the top 15 senior tight ends with a chance to get into the top ten with a very good season. In a heavy tight end year, that would have Carter in the fifth round.
Wide receiver Alonzo Moore: He is the highest-rated returning wide receiver for the Huskers, ranking around number 25. Moore has the opportunity with a good year — and then a good 40 time — to make his way into the sixth round.
Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp: If Westy can run a sub-4.6 40 time, he fits into the NFL at the slot position very well. Still, with the amount of wide receivers who are drafted each year, I see him as a late pick or free agent.
Running back Terrell Newby: He enters the 2016 season in the top 20 of senior running backs. Anywhere from 20 to 25 running backs are drafted each year overall. In 2017 you can expect as many as 10 juniors to enter the draft, led by Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb. I think it will be tough for Newby to work his way into the 2017 draft, but he should run very fast in his 40, so there is always a chance.
Linebackers Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey: They are both ranked in the top 30 of senior inside linebackers entering the 2016 season. In a normal year, between 30 and 35 linebackers overall are drafted. With very good seasons, both guys will have a shot to be drafted — but it could be in the late rounds.
Another possible pick among the seniors is defensive tackle Kevin Maurice, who will have every opportunity to work himself into a draft pick this season. Former walk-on receiver Brandon Reilly is also a possibility.
In terms of early entries, receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El and cornerback Joshua Kalu could put themselves in position to have to make a choice after the 2016 season.