'06 NFL Draft Watch: Northern Illinois

After finally getting into the post season last year, the Huskies made the most of their opportunity winning a bowl game. NIU consistently competes at a high level in the MAC Conference and should do so again this year. There are several middle round selections and an underrated receiver, a position Northern Illinois is famous for.

Scouting the MAC: Northern Illinois

Senior ball carrier A.J. Harris is a solid back with good size\speed numbers. Working runs, Harris uses an effective straight arm and aggressively puts his shoulders into defenders when tackled. Quick through the hole, Harris picks up yardage off initial contact yet is more a straight-line runner with marginal open field skills. Harris has the physical ability to play at the next level yet needs to pull it together as a senior and prove he has potential as a feature runner. The next top receiver to come from the Northern Illinois program could well be Sam Hurd. Adequately sized, Hurd is a consistent pass catcher who possesses both soft and strong hands. Displaying excellent eye\hand coordination as well as concentration, Hurd effectively uses his frame to shield away opponents then makes the difficult reception in a crowd. Getting vertical to pull the ball out of the air, he has outstanding timing yet does not display a second gear nor is a deep threat. Not highly rated by most scouting combines, Hurd could develop into a productive third or fourth receiver at the next level. Junior tackle Doug Free is a solid pass protector who plays with excellent lean, making outstanding use of blocking angles. An adequate run blocker, Free possesses both size and growth potential for the next level. Ben Lueck is a strong, short area blocker who displays power at the point. Fighting hard throughout the action, Lueck is quick into blocks and works hard. Lacking footwork and ability in space, he's ineffective in motion and will only be productive in certain systems. Center Brian Van Acker is an explosive blocker on the pivot who displays excellent skill in motion. A solid position blocker, he seals open holes and plays aggressive every snap. Undersized, Van Acker does not open up the middle of the field and has difficulty finishing blocks yet does offer potential for the next level.

All the defensive prospects are of the late round or free agent variety. Linebacker Javan Lee is a solid weak side prospect with skill in coverage. Scraping well laterally, he finds his way through the traffic to the ball carrier and explodes up the field filling gaps. Over pursuing the action, he has only average size\speed numbers. Safety Ray Smith is another player to keep an eye on.

NIU Prospect List

Name Pos Yr #
Doug Free T 4Jr 62
A.J. Harris RB 5Sr 24
Quince Holman DE 5Sr 96
Sam Hurd WR 5Sr 84
Javan Lee OLB 5Sr 47
Ben Lueck G 5Sr 79
Shatone Powers WR 5Sr 83
Ray Smith S 5Sr 48
Brian Van Acker C 5Sr 65

* there may be some discrepancy on the actual year of NIU prospects

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