One of the things I love most about football season is the NFL Draft in April, and I think the Hawkeyes could have quite a few players selected this year. From top tier stars to sleepers, I think the Hawkeyes have a good chance to make a mark on the NFL in the 2011 NFL Draft.
1. Adrian Clayborn, Defensive Line
Clayborn had an absolutely fantastic 2009 campaign when he absolutely dominated anyone that stood in his path. After 2009, he was considered to be one of it not the top college prospect in all of football outside of someone named Luck.
Clayborn's dominance was tainted by his run-in with a cab driver in Iowa City, but the incident was not bad enough for Kirk Ferentz to suspend him, so NFL teams should not fret. Clayborn will have a little convincing to do to NFL teams, but back to his on-field prowess.
Scouts will be taking a long look at Clayborn's 2010 film, mainly to see how his statistics seemingly took a nose dive. I haven't done film study on him, but I'm pretty sure what scouts are going to find will be a large amount of double teams and chipping running backs. I re-watched the Indiana game, and Clayborn was either double-teamed, being chipped, or both on any given play against the Hoosiers.
I still maintain that Clayborn is a superb talent, and that he will greatly benefit a team who utilizes a three man front, though he is obviously versatile enough to play end in a 4-3, or even tackle. Clayborn has the ability to set the edge against the run, but his most impressive assets are his hand placement, quickness, and lateral speed. Clayborn can chase down a running back better than most people his size.
NFL teams will also love that Clayborn is a four down lineman. He can stop the run on early downs, create pressure on quarterbacks, and he can also block kicks and punts. I love his potential at the next level, and if he can stay out of trouble, he will be a great addition to any team in the NFL.
2. Christian Ballard, Defensive Line
Ballard has great size at 6'4" and roughly 300 pounds. He is a very underrated part of Iowa's defense, and some have talked about him as a first round pick for a 3-4 defensive front. Ballard has played end and tackle for the Hawkeyes, and he does so many different things well.
Ballard doesn't have as much potential as Clayborn in my opinion, but I think he can be a starter in the NFL from day one. Time will tell if he was simply a benefactor of Iowa's depth on the defensive line, but I think he will be a good player at the next level.
He's got great size, the ability to play any position in a four man front, and the tools to be a very good end in a 3-4 front. You saw Tyson Jackson go 3rd overall because of his ability to play 5 technique, and some have compared Ballard to him. I don't see him going 3rd overall, but I think he could be drafted higher than we think, similar to Pat Angerer last year.
3. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Wide Receiver
Who knows what the future holds for DJK. Perhaps it doesn't involve football, and maybe it does. This evaluation could be completely moot, but before the incident a couple of weeks ago, DJK was well on his way to being selected in the first four rounds of the draft.
It's obvious that many don't spend as much time in the weight room as DJK, and while he's not the fastest guy on the team, he's deceptively quick and a big play waiting to happen. In many ways, he reminds me a lot of Brandon Lloyd with his passion for the game, his big play ability, and his diva-like presence on the field.
Not only that, but DJK is also a threat in the return game. If he is able, he will be either a late-round or undrafted gem for some team down the road. Obviously, with DJK's incident occuring in college, if he is eligible for the draft, he will not face suspension by the NFL and will have a clean slate.
4. Tyler Sash, Safety
I hesitate to put Sash below DJK, as I think he will likely be drafted higher than most of the guys on this list. He is a tough, hard-nosed safety who clearly has an attraction to the football. Sash is a ball-hawk and is getting better with his overall game.
I think another year at Iowa will greatly benefit Sash.
He's not a phenomenal athlete, but he's a hard worker, a fan favorite, and he has loads of potential as a free safety at the next level. With another year of seasoning, he could be a first round pick.
5. Ricky Stanzi, Quarterback
Stanzi reminds me a lot of Kyle Orton. He's a safe player, and he will make great throws at times. He's not overly aggressive, but he will also make bonehead throws.
In my opinion, Stanzi is definitely worth a mid-round flier for a team. He has been in a pro-style offense for three years, has made great improvements, and could be a nice developmental guy. He's certainly a better pro prospect than Matt Cassel was coming out of college.
Stanzi has the intangibles you look for in a quarterback in terms of his passion for the game and desire to win, but it seems like he ofted tries way too hard and makes silly mistakes because of it.
Still, I have seen this guy make every throw an NFL quarterback needs to make, and though his deep ball needs work, he could be a solid developmental QB a few years down the road, and at worst will be a serviceable backup.
6. Ryan Donahue, Punter
Donahue is an interesting player to me. He's been rock solid through his Iowa career, save for a couple of minor hiccups. I think Donahue could easily go undrafted, but he shouldn't. He will be a solid NFL punter.
7. Allen Reisner, Tight End
Reisner has really been on the rise of late. He's shown the ability to be a playmaker in the passing game, and Iowa has done a great job of developing tight ends in recent years. Admittedly, I have not seen enough out of Reisner to think of him as more than a late-round gem, but he has certainly played himself into the draft discussion.
I see him as a very poor man's version of Dallas Clark, and ironically, if he were to land on a team like Indianapolis, he could probably become a very good reserve and reliable target. He's also effective in the running game. Just a solid player.
8. Brett Greenwood, Safety
I love stories like Greenwood. From walk on to potential NFL draft pick, Greenwood's career at Iowa has been filled with great moments.
He might not be a top tier prospect at the safety position, but Greenwood will work his butt off to make an NFL team happy they picked him up. Initially, he will contribute as a special teams player, but it only takes one injury for someone to get a shot in the league. He's not quite the prospect that Sean Considine was, but who knows? Greenwood could turn out to be a very nice find.
There are obviously other prospects coming up for the Hawkeyes, but these are the biggest names that will be connected to the 2011 draft. It should be an exciting day for Hawkeyes fans, as these guys continue to improve Iowa's status as a professional football factory.