The Senior Bowl has finished and the attention will then turn to the NFL Draft Combine which begins February 22nd. Kirk Ferentz has had a player drafted in each year as the coach at Iowa. This year will be no different. To find out which players from the 2013 Iowa team get their named called in the draft, we asked an expert. James Christensen is a draft analyst at NEPatroitsDraft.com. He was kind enough to answer our questions about the upcoming draft.
Q- Had Brandon Scherff declared for the draft following this season, would have been a first round pick? Where would you project Scherff in the 2015 NFL Draft?
Christensen- I had Scherff listed as a Top-20 guy in this year's draft before he stated that he would return. Although he might have dropped a bit after the inclusion of Auburn's Greg Robinson to the 2014 NFL Draft, I still think he would have snuck into the latter stages of the first round as long as everything tested well medically at the NFL Combine.
Q- Does C.J. Fiedorowicz have a chance to hear his name in the late first round of this year's NFL Draft? If not, where do you project he gets drafted?
Christensen- If Fiedorowicz was being drafted 15-20 years ago, I think he is a no-doubt first round pick. In today's NFL, I think that might be a little rich. I see C.J. coming off the board somewhere on the second day of the draft - probably around the middle of round two.
Q- What are C.J. Fiedorowicz's strengths and weaknesses? Can he improve his draft stock with a strong NFL Combine?
Christensen- I see a lot of Heath Miller in his game. Fiedorowicz is like having a third offensive tackle on the field. If he didn't have any receiving skills, a team might try and bulk him up and play on the line a la Steve Maneri or Will Yeatman. He has excellent technique-a hallmark of Ferentz-coached lineman-and wins easily at the point of attack with a good punch, excellent positioning and strong leg drive.
If fans think they are getting the next Rob Gronkowski with CJF, however, they are mistaken. C.J. just doesn't have the long speed to compete down the seam in the NFL on a regular basis. He will still be able to win on curl and out routes due to his frame, but he won't be a huge matchup problem down the field.
Like many Iowa players, the NFL knows what they are getting with Fiedorowicz. I don't see him raising his stock too much at the combine, nor do I see him slipping down the boards if his 40-time is a tenth slower than someone predicted.
Christensen- I think Kirksey is a lock to be drafted - potentially as high as the third round although the fifth is much more reasonable. He is currently in my top 100 prospects. Morris and Hitchens should be drafted-they both have the instincts, athleticism and production to compete for a roster spot in the NFL. Neither would last too long on the undrafted free agent market.
Q- Can any of Iowa's linebackers fit in the 3-4 defense or are they 4-3 linebackers only?
Christensen- With so many hybrid defenses out there today, I don't want to pigeonhole anybody as 3-4 or 4-3 only. In the traditional sense, I think Kirksey fits in best as a "Will" in a 4-3 scheme where he doesn't have to take on blockers and can just run and hit. Morris and Hitchens fit more as inside linebackers to-not sure Hitchens or Morris could hold up as a "Sam."
Q- Does cornerback B.J. Lowery get his name called in the NFL Draft or is he a free agent?
Christensen- If a team feels like they can weed the inconsistency out of Lowery's game, he is certainly worth a flier. As weird as it sounds, some coaches-Mike Shanahan for example-still love watching highlight tapes. If they see Lowery's, he'll hear his name called. If he doesn't get drafted, he has a good chance of making a 53-man roster if he lands in the right situation.
Q- Last year, former Hawkeye Greg Castillo got a long look in the preseason from the Chiefs as a free agent pick up. Also, Matt Tobin made the Philadelphia Eagles. Does that bode well for any of Iowa's current seniors? Does Tanner Miller or Dominic Alvis get a shot as a free agent?
Christensen- NFL coaches love having Iowa guys around. Stereotypically speaking, they know their job and they do their job. Miller and Alvis are two guys that look practice squad players initially, but are smart enough to be called up to the 53-man roster in an emergency.
Q- What makes Iowa football players so attractive to NFL teams? Does the Iowa system better prepare players for a career in the NFL?
Christensen- Simply put, yes. The Iowa system prepares players for the NFL better than most. Coach Doyle's strength program is top notch and the players have been taught by guys with NFL experience. As I mentioned before, teams are rarely surprised by Iowa players. Their coaching staff is known for not artificially pumping up their players to scouts.
Q- With Scherff sticking around, does Iowa have an offensive lineman drafted this year? Is a free agent opportunity more realistic for Brett Van Sloten or Connor Bofelli?
Christensen- I'd be surprised if Van Sloten didn't get drafted late. He is well thought of in many scouting circles. Bofelli is more likely an undrafted free agent.
Q- Besides Scherff, who are Iowa's potential prospects for the NFL Draft in 2015? Does Mark Weisman have a chance in the league as a fullback? Do NFL teams even draft fullbacks? Is center Austin Blythe going to get a lot of attention?
Christensen- Weisman could get some looks as a fullback, depends on how well he can show off his skills in the passing and blocking game. He is fun to watch, but just doesn't have the elusiveness or speed to be an effective ball-carrier at the next level.
As for Blythe, I see plenty of NFL talent. He has a lot of the same traits as James Ferentz, but with a frame that is better suited for play on Sundays. Interior linemen rarely enter the draft early, so I'd expect Blythe to be one of the top centers picked in 2016.
Q- Finally, looking further down the road. How good is Desmond King and where does he rank right now among college defensive backs? Is he Iowa's best defensive back prospect since Tom Knight?
Christensen- I was incredibly impressed by King this year. He seems to have a better feel for the ball in flight than many Hawkeye defensive backs before him. Going into the next year, he wouldn't crack my Top 10 cornerbacks in college, but I'd fully expect him to be challenging for that spot going into his junior season.
I was too busy attending middle school to do too much scouting of Tom Knight, but I can say that King has a good chance of passing Micah Hyde, Amari Spievey, Charles Godfrey and Bradley Fletcher in terms of draft position.
And again, thanks to James to taking the time to answer our questions. For more about his site:
Over the last three years, no other internet draft site has been more accurate with their Top 100 Draft Board (83%) and our Undrafted Free Agent tracker is invaluable in the chaos surrounding the aftermath of each NFL Draft. Feel free to stop by NEPatriotsDraft.com from now until May as we cover the entire NFL Draft with a slight New England bias.