Five former Iowa football players are in beautiful Indianapolis this weekend to get poked and prodded and everything short of branded as they showcase their freak athletic ability in front of a bunch of weird old men.
Nate Stanley, Tristan Wirfs, AJ Epenesa, Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone are going through the meat grinder at this year’s juncture, and while Iowa always sends a couple-plus guys to Indy just about every season, this year it feels like the spotlight is shining a bit brighter on the Hawkeyes present.
AJ Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs are each first-round talents at big money positions. Wirfs is as high as No. 6 on the Ringer’s big board, while Epenesa is somewhere between 10-25 or so on just about every other mock draft.
And then there’s Nate Stanley, who everyone seems to be calling a dark horse (if everyone calls him a dark horse, is he now white stallion?) to be picked up in the mid-rounds at the quarterback position.
Stanley is among 17 quarterbacks at the combine, and measured up well when compared to his peers.
Coming in at just over 6’3’’ he’s the seventh-tallest QB present. Only Oregon’s Justin Herbert came in heavier, albeit by a pound, at 236 lbs. His 10-inch hands put him in the middle of the pack, and better than Joe Burrow’s TINY 9” mitts.
The biggest takeaway from Stanley’s time in Indy so far is the announcement of his involvement with Tony Racioppi, an apparent QB guru who I guess has fixed Stanley’s throwing motion in just three sessions out in New Jersey.
Couldn’t be more excited for Nate. Started 3 years in a fantastic program coached by an elite coaching staff. Worked his tail off over last 6 plus weeks. Chasing perfection and greatness everyday. @TEST_Football @Njstan4 @nfl #nflcombine https://t.co/mzbfXiafO6— Tony Racioppi (@Tonyrazz03) February 26, 2020
His Q&A at the combine included the following, maddening anecdote:
“I never really worked with anybody (on mechanics),” Stanley said. “I was just throwing a football like I would throw a baseball when I was a kid.”
Stanley added that the focus at Iowa was primarily on strategy and less about mechanics.
“They worked on a lot of footwork. It wasn’t really the width of your base — it was more so just timing things up with your feet. And the explanation of why you missed throws wasn’t always there,” Stanley said.
I mean I get why maybe the Iowa coaching staff didn’t help him with this kind of stuff… but at the same time, I simply do not.
Stanley will participate in on-field workouts this afternoon.
Wirfs got some good back-and-forth Wednesday, and measured up well alongside the 24 other tackle prospects present. He was even declared a “winner” by virtue of his size:
Any idea of Wirfs needing to move to guard were put to rest after his weigh-in with arms right at 34 inches, well above what teams want at the position, which is typically 32 or, for some teams, 33 inches. At 320 pounds with a wingspan over 80 inches, Wirfs looks the part of a powerful NFL offensive tackle. No bad weight. Great length.
I’m putting “no bad weight” and “great length” on my Hinge profile.
It’s refreshing to see that draftniks are projecting Wirfs, who started approximately one million games at tackle at Iowa, as a… tackle in the NFL. It’s also refreshing to hear him say that AJE was the best pass rusher he faced all season, and that he had 14 pancakes against Nebraska.
The offensive linemen workout Thursday and Friday.
Epenesa won’t address the media and workout until later this weekend, but the defensive linemen went through the carwash Wednesday annnnnd it’s been confirmed: AJE is BIG.
Epenesa came in taller, heavier, longer and wingspanier than the 34 other edge rushers in Indy, out-sizing notable names like Ohio State’s Chase Young, Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson.
Like Wirfs, draft junkies have already declared AJE a winner due to his size:
We all expected Epenesa to have some monstrous numbers at the weigh-in, and he did. His figures, across the board, were more impressive than Chase Young’s and not far off from Myles Garrett’s three years ago.
SHOCKED to learn that an Ohio State football player might be overrated.
The defensive backs start their week the latest, so Geno Stone and Michael Ojemudia are just getting settled in now. I was more than a little surprised and skeptical (and selfishly disappointed) when I learned that Stone was forgoing his senior season to enter the draft, but folks smarter than I are high on the junior.
It's officially combine week so let's fire off a take:— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 24, 2020
Iowa S Geno Stone is the most underrated player in the draft
Hearing tons of buzz on this safety heading to Combine— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 10, 2020
S Geno Stone - Iowa
5’11 209 Junior
Cover Safety with Range
New Castle, PA
Fluid, Smooth Pedal
Ball Skills, Doesn’t Panic
Tough in Alley/Blitzer
Special Teams Value
Turnover Magnet pic.twitter.com/3pQelMsW8r
I am also considering adding “Fluid, Smooth Pedal, Loose Hips, Ball Skills, Doesn’t Panic and Tough in Alley/Blitzer” to my Hinge profile.
Ojemudia is receiving little fanfare so far, but I imagine he’ll rise to the occasion just as well as his teammates are.