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Iowa Football Players Turn Heads at NFL Combine

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A big weekend for four former Hawks

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It was another typical weekend at the NFL combine for Iowa players. A bunch of upperclassmen along the offensive line, a linebacker, and a cornerback or two did pretty well to solidify their long careers in the NFL.

Wait a minute? Iowa sent four guys to Indy? All underclassmen? NO OFFENSIVE LINEMEN? What is this?

It’s the future of Iowa football, where two tight ends with first-round talent get you 9 wins in the weakest division in Power-5.

I’m not bitter, you’re bitter.

In much better news, each player Iowa sent to the combine: tight ends Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, defensive end Anthony Nelson and safety/hybrid defensive back Amani Hooker all had great weekends in Indianapolis (not a sentence you normally read, in any context) and likely earned themselves some money in terms of bettering their projected draft position.

Let’s breakdown how their weekends went. The tight ends went first, so let’s start with them.

Noah Fant

Fant probably had the best weekend of all Iowa players. His 4.50 40 time was the best among all tight ends, and probably locked him into a first round pick.

He had 20 reps on the bench press, the third-best in the group (and three more than Hockenson). His vertical jump of 39.5 inches was also the best in the group (by two entire inches) as was his broad jump, (127 inches, 4 more than second place) three cone drill (6.81 seconds, Hockenson was second) and 60-yard shuttle (11.49 seconds, Hockenson also finished second there). Fant’s “worst” drill was the 20-yard shuttle, where he placed third with a time of 4.22 seconds, finishing behind LSU’s Foster Moreau and Hockenson.

Lots of places say Fant performed his way into the first round, and we’d have to agree.

TJ Hockenson

Hockenson had a great weekend as well. He’d surpassed Fant as the No. 1 tight end on a lot boards leading up to the combine, and only Fant’s Vernon Davis-like performance could’ve changed that.

Hockenson, measuring at 6-5, 251 lbs, ran a 4.7 40, good for seventh overall in the group. He was a top-3 finisher in every other event save for the bench press. His three-cone drill was a relatively blistering 7.02 and ran faster than Fant in the 20-yard shuttle.

He’s probably going in the first round, too.

Anthony Nelson

Nelson was relatively unknown nationally going into the combine, but his performance was enough for some scouts to consider him a viable replacement to costly veteran defensive linemen on a handful of rosters.

He did have the fewest amount of reps on the bench among all defensive linemen (18) but his wingspan (83’’) in addition to 6-7 frame is something scouts like to see. And many were salivating over his three-cone drill, where he placed second in the group, finishing in 6.95 seconds. His low bench reps are also likely a product of his incredibly long arms.

His 35 ½-inch vertical was fifth-best in the group, another measurable scouts love to use because it implies knocking down balls at the line of scrimmage. His 118-inch broad jump was tied for third-best and had the third-best 20-yard shuttle time.

Whatever this thing is makes him look pretty good, too:

Amani Hooker

Hooker also had himself quite the weekend. He perhaps did the most for himself by penciling his way into a mid-round pick on the second day of the draft.

For starters, he entered the mythical 4.4 40 range with a time of 4.48. That’s a sweet spot for a lot of scouts and GMs when evaluating DB prospects. His bench wasn’t great (14 reps) but more than made up for it with a vertical jump, (37 inches) three cone drill, (6.81 seconds) 20-yard shuttle (4.1 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.59 seconds) that placed him in the top-5 for each test. His cone drill was second-best among all safeties, behind only USC’s Marvell Tell.

Scouts may look at Hooker’s film and se a man with no country given his role reversal to adopt a hybrid “star” position for the majority of last season, but his natural skillset and experience probably make him an appealing project for a GM seeking #value towards the end of the second day of the draft. Say nothing for the track record of success former Iowa defensive backs established and are cementing even further in the NFL today. I’m not too worried about the reigning Big Ten defensive back of the year finding a home on Sunday’s.

Of all the players above, I think I might miss Hooker the most. Alas, we’ll always have this:

Best of luck to Iowa’s NFL hopefuls!