This past weekend saw three former Iowa players get drafted. If we’re to believe our Black & Gold-colored glasses, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers got tremendous value for James Daniels and Josh Jackson, respectively, while the Denver Broncos may have gotten their next all-pro linebacker with Josey Jewell.
Akrum Wadley and Sean Welsh didn’t get their names called like they expected, but they, along with a handful of other Hawkeyes will get to test the the NFL waters. Many mock drafts had Jackson AND Daniels in the first round this year. That did not happen. Mock drafts leading up to the actual draft are dumb. Speculative draft articles 357 days before the next draft? Even dumber.
So without further ado, here’s some Hawkeyes who could definitely maybe get their names called next year:
I’ll admit, I probably should have taken a closer look at the Iowa football roster and spring depth chart before I sat down to write this. The latest depth chart has just three senior starters on offense and three on the defense (that number will stay the same as Aaron Mends loses his spot to injury and Matt Nelson’s eventual return) so this is a pretty green team as far as Iowa football goes.
Even with a few talented seniors on the squad, Iowa’s best shot of having someone go early in the draft will likely be a junior, barring a breakout season from someone else. And even then, all these guys will need a breakout season of sorts to hear their name called a year from now.
The way I see it, Noah Fant is Iowa’s best chance at having another guy go in the first round next year. He hauled in 30 balls for 500 yards and 11 (!) touchdowns a year ago, and even slight improvement of those numbers will get him drafted as a junior. Hayden Hurst, the first tight end taken last weekend at 25th overall, had 44 catches for 559 yards and 2 touchdowns as a junior for South Carolina this past season. Fant will garner special game planning from opposing defenses next year; it will be interesting to see how his offseason work with Nate Stanley will make him an even bigger scoring threat.
And I’m not the only one who thinks Fant will go in the first round next year. Equally-dumb mock drafts from CBS, the Sporting News and yes, SB Nation, have Fant going in the first round in 2019. Draftscout has him as their No. 1 TE in college football next year and it’s tough to disagree, we’ve all seen the tape.
If Fant has another ... Fant-astic season, then that means in all likelihood Nate Stanley had himself another year of slinging the ball at will across the gridiron. If Stanley can even slightly improve his numbers from a year ago (2,437 yards, 26 TDs, 6 INTs, 55% completion rate) while leading a 10+ win Iowa team, then he will turn the heads of draftniks. He’s proven he has the arm to make every kind of throw, now he just needs to improve on his touch and not fumble the ball. It will be tough with a unproven-ish receiving corps, but Iowa’s two leading receivers from a year ago in Nick Easley and Fant return and Ihmir Smtih-Marsette and TJ Hockenson could prove to be valuable No. 3&4 options.
It wouldn’t be an Iowa draft article if I didn’t include an offensive lineman, so right now I have to include Keegan Render, simply because he’s the upperclassman with the most experience on the line. He’ll be playing center this year so he’ll be making a noticeable impact along the line as James Daniels’ replacement.
After those three guys, it’s going to take some major work for a Hawkeye to get drafted next year methinks.
The potential breakouts
The last two seasons saw Desmond King and Josh Jackson get drafted for Iowa and there’s optimism that another corner on the roster could breakout the same way Jackson did. That leaves Manny Rugamba and Michael Ojemudia as breakout corner options. While I don’t see either of them making such huge strides one year removed from a relatively pedestrian 2017 campaigns, it still wouldn’t surprise me. I’ve learned to trust Phil Parker’s development of DBs.
I think Matt Hankins probably has the best year at corner for Iowa next year, but doubt he’d leave Iowa City after just two years. I also do not believe he would be eligible, given the confusing NFL draft eligibility requirements.
The safety trio of Amani Hooker, Jake Gervase and Brandon Snyder is muddied. Hooker seems to have locked up strong safety, but he’ll just be a junior next year so I doubt he declares early unless he becomes Ed Reed. Gervase and Snyder proved they can play, but it’s going to be an uphill battle for Snyder to get back on the field given his injuries and run-in with the law — but something tells me he’s the starter as soon as he’s healthy. Both Snyder and Gervase are slightly undersized, and it would take a truly spectacular year from either one of them to get drafted.
Ross Reynolds is another easy name to throw out. He’s the other senior alongside Render who will likely see time on the offensive line this year, but has played very sparingly in four years at Iowa with just one career start. He’ll be a stretch to get drafted even with a spectacular senior campaign, but weirder things could happen.
Alaric Jackson is another sneaky pick to go next year if he kills it at left tackle. He already has the size at 6-7, 320; if he can shore up his pass blocking and keep Stanley’s blindside clean next year he could be very valuable to an NFL franchise. It will take some serious improvement from his game a year ago, but we’ve been privy to the Doyleization of players for years now.
Anthony Nelson could fly under the radar as a junior DE next year. He’s already proven to be a destroyer of worlds with 13.5 sacks in two years as a starter, and an all-B1G season next year is likely. I just have a tough time seeing an underclassman defensive lineman leave early unless he’s a shoe-in for the first or second round.
Possible, but unlikely
Parker Hesse has been nothing short of spectacular as a defensive end for Iowa the past two years and I fully expect him to be the vocal leader on this defense next season. He’s just too small to play defensive end at the next level.
Matt Nelson certainly has the size to play at the next level, but since he’ll be playing out of position for the final two years of his career, it could be tough for him to stick on. His size is probably worth a look alone from NFL scouts, and scouts will get plenty of looks at him when they watch tape featuring Anthony Nelson.
And that’s that. There’s not shortage of stars on this Iowa team, but with some of them being underclassmen, it’s tough to predict what the future holds. Also, I’m sorry Nick Easley, I love you, but an Iowa receiver just ain’t getting drafted.