TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Wide receiver Keenan Davis #6 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs with the football on a 14 yard reception against the Oklahoma Sooners during the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sooners defeated the Hawkeyes 31-14. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
IT'S BEEN A HELLUVA RUN FOR IOWA FOOTBALL AND THE NFL DRAFT.
THE QUESTION IS...DOES IT CONTINUE NEXT YEAR? Iowa has some prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft but you'll have to look really hard for a first round draft pick. Iowa has had a player drafted in the first round the last three years in a row. Two of those players left school early and for Iowa to have a shot for a first rounder in 2013 it may be another underclassmen.
There's no doubt C.J. Fiedorowicz has all the physical tools to make NFL scouts drool. He's already considered by CBS Sports as the third best TE prospect amongst juniors. He's been a freak of nature since stepping foot on campus but he'll need a big junior season to even be considered a top draft pick in 2013.
As a sophomore CJF hauled in 16 receptions for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't really become a reliable piece of the offense until Iowa hosted Michigan State with just a few games to go in the season. His development at Iowa has been about learning the playbook and playing at the speed of Big Ten football. He has a new offense to learn and given his history it's not a given it clicks right away this season.
New Hawkeye offensive coordinator Greg Davis says CJF is the most talented tight end he's ever coached and Davis coached current Green Bay Packer and former Longhorn Jermichael Finley at Texas. Finley had a nice senior season, collecting 45 receptions for 575 yards. He is a fantastic tight end for the Packers in their wide open offense. The Pack picked him in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Current Kansas City Chief and former Hawkeye Tony Moeaki was also a third round draft pick. Moeaki is a better athlete than CJF but at 6'3" 255 pounds doesn't have CJF's size. Moeaki battled the injury bug his entire career at Iowa (and some in Kansas City) and finished his senior season with 30 receptions for 387 yards.
Long story short, yes the size and athletic ability will get Fiedorowicz thinking about the NFL in January when underclassmen declare. Iowa's history of producing NFL caliber tight ends will certainly be to his benefit. It will also help having Brian Ferentz on staff when scouts come calling. Is he a top three round pick? That's up to him. Physically he's ready but he'll need to prove he can learn a playbook and be a force on the field this season.
WHAT IF CJF STAYS OR JUST HAS AN OUTRIGHT BAD SEASON? The highest rated Hawkeye after CJF is corner Micah Hyde. CBS Sports ranks Hyde as fifth best defensive back among seniors heading into next season. Iowa's tendency to run a cover two/qaurters zone defense has limited Iowa defensive backs in the past. New defensive coordinator Phil Parker says he wants to run more press coverage this year and that will only boost the draft profile for future Hawkeye defensive backs.
Hyde has some versatility. He's played some free safety, albeit poorly. He's also returned punts at Iowa, again, not to electrifying results. He has good size for a corner being over six feet tall. He's shown some ball skills too with seven career interceptions.
Hyde reminds me physically of former Hawkeye and current St. Louis Ram Bradley Fletcher. Although, Fletcher was a bit thicker than Hyde. Both are six foot and close to 200 pounds. Fletcher ran a 4.44 forty yard dash at the NFL Combine, but Hyde could be a tenth of a second slower. If Hyde can turn in a sub 4.49 forty I believe he will land about where Fletcher did, the third round. If he shows he can lock up any receiver in the Big Ten playing press man-to-man he may even go higher.
THAT LEADS TO ANOTHER UNDERCLASSMEN. B.J. Lowery will break the starting lineup for the first time this season. He will also have the chance to show off his cover skills in a new look defense. Lowery should see a lot of action his direction as teams will steer clear of Micah Hyde. Both Shaun Prater and Hyde choose to return for their senior seasons at Iowa. Lowery will get some feelers from the NFL if he plays the way we think he can. He, like CJF, will have a decision to make next winter.
WHAT ABOUT KEENAN DAVIS? Davis is rated the seventh best senior wide receiver by CBS Sports. He recorded 50 catches for 713 yards last year as the compliment to all-time leader of everything Marvin McNutt. Davis has the size, 6'3" and 215 pounds. He'll need to prove this year that he can be the focal point of an offense.
It was a surprise when Marvin McNutt dropped to the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Davis is built like McNutt and also has a history of the dropsies. Davis will have to have a fantastic NFL Combine and run quick forty yard dash to be considered in the top three rounds. McNutt ran a 4.53 and Davis has ran quicker. That being said he's likely to fall where McNutt did, 6th round.
BRIAN DIDN'T GET DRAFTED, WHAT ABOUT JAMES FERENTZ? Brian signed an NFL free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. He spent a season there on the practice squad and had a brief stint with the Saints in 2007. James is the same size as his bother, 6'2" 285. Not exactly tall by NFL linemen standards but for a center it's not terrible. He may have peaked in terms of weight at 285, that might be light for an NFL center.
James and Brian have had similar career paths at Iowa. James is considered a tougher player while Brian was the smart one. James might work his way into a really late round draft pick but free agency is likely. Michigan's David Molk won the Rimmington last year and was a seventh round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The knock on Molk is size at 6'1" 298 pounds.
FINALLY, JAMES VANDENBERG GETS DRAFTED, RIGHT? James is ranked by CBS Sports as the 11th best senior quarterback. He has the size, 6'3" 210 pounds. He has the arm too. He'll need to show this season he can put together the numbers he did last year and without wide receiver Marvin McNutt.
He's not a mobile quarterback but he isn't a statue either. Vandenberg can rifle the ball when he needs to but his accuracy is sometimes sketchy. He's a smart kid in the classroom but he'll need to show this season he can pick up the blitz and make quick decisions.
As a junior he eclipsed 3,000 yards and had a solid 25:7 touchdown to interception ratio. He's heading into his senior season with a new play caller that may utilize him in the shotgun, one of his strengths. As a prospect he'll have come from a pro-style offense, something NFL personnel love. It's going to take a strong season and even better performance in postseason bowl games and workouts. Ricky Stanzi was a fifth round selection of the Chiefs and there's no reason to believe that with a solid season and workout performances he could fall in that range (5th-7th round). If anything, he'll get a free agent contract.
SURELY, THERE WILL BE FREE AGENTS. Brad Herman signing a free agent contract with the Patriots pretty much means that Zach Derby will get a shot in the league. Derby shared the tight end duties with Herman in 2011 but stuck in the lineup while Herman was replaced by Fiedorowicz. Hell, don't be surprised if Derby ends up a 6th or 7th round pick.
Matt Tobin may have lost his starting guard spot this spring but don't count him out yet. Also, don't be surprised if he signs with a team following next year's draft as a free agent.
A strong senior season from either Steve Bigach or Joe Gaglione could earn them an invite into a camp. There's also coaches sons Tom Donatell and Greg Castillo. The invites to the latter two may be with the thought of coaching in their future. It's crazy to think they can earn a spot based on ability but not to believe that their fathers can get them some on-the-job training before they begin their graduate assistant or gopher jobs in the NFL. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if coaching is in their future, just a guess). You could probably even add John Wienke to those last two.
IN SUMMARY. Iowa has two to three prospects that could earn a top three round grade. It's a long shot that Iowa makes it four for the last four first round draft picks. Micah Hyde, C.J. Fiedorowicz and maybe Keenan Davis could sneak into the third round. After that you have two or three prospects that could go anywhere from the fourth to seventh rounds. All-in-all, you have probably three to five Hawkeyes that get drafted. The most likely number being three. A few free agents, like usual, and the drum keeps beating.
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- Podcast: ‘On Iowa' discusses NFL draft picks, new football recruit
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- 7th Annual Hawkeye Day for Camp Courageous at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City
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- Does NFL Talent Correlate to Wins in College Football?
- Recruiting & Developing NFL Draft Picks - 2012 Review