The 2021 NFL Draft is just around the corner and the Hawkeyes are looking to make it 43 consecutive years with at least one player drafted. As we approach draft day, we’re profiling several former Hawkeyes who have a chance to be drafted, whether that be in the first round or the last. Check back daily for new profiles and be sure to follow along on draft day as we break down the landing spots for each Hawkeye selected in this year’s draft.
The Iowa Hawkeyes have a rich tradition of sending players to the NFL. This year is set to be the 43rd consecutive season Iowa has had at least one player drafting, meaning every year of both the Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry eras has seen at least one Hawkeye hear his name called in the draft.
While Iowa has become known as an NFL factory for a few positions, perhaps no other has been as widely publicized of late as the tight end position. In 2021, Iowa looks to build on that reputation by sending yet another TE to the league.
Position: Tight End
Hometown: Shellsburg, IA
Projection: 7th Round
After sitting behind a pair of 2019 1st round picks in Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, Iowa tight end Shaun Beyer made his first real impact in the 2019 season, splitting time with now New York Giants tight end Nate Weiting and a future NFL tight end in Sam LaPorta. Beyer would finish his junior season with 117 yards and no touchdowns on seven receptions while demonstrating some plus athleticism and tremendous blocking.
His senior season brought much of the same with 158 yards and his only career touchdown on just 11 receptions. He again showed off some flashes of greatness with some remarkable catches and leaping over would-be tacklers.
But if Shaun Beyer is drafted this week, it will be based on his potential as a pass catcher and his blocking capabilities much more so than his on-field production at Iowa. He finished his career with just 275 receiving yards and one TD on only 18 career receptions. Production is hard to come by when you’re sitting behind a pair of 1st rounders and splitting time with two more guys who will ultimately be in the league.
So, why will Beyer be drafted at all? His frame is ready made for the NFL and his prowess as a blocker make him worthy of a late round flyer by somebody. He can contribute on special teams and if nothing else, you end up with a practice squad guy capable of providing a good look throwing some mean blocks. But his size and athleticism make him an upside play as we’ve seen with flashes throughout his career. The issue has always been consistency in the passing game.
What Scouts are Saying
Most NFL scouts seem to have a similar line of thinking. Beyer comes from a long line of talented tight ends at Iowa that will likely warrant a roster spot come fall camp for somebody. He’s noted for his blocking and his good size. Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had to say:
Beyer was touted as a breakout candidate by Iowa staff members on multiple occasions, but he failed to truly take off. Through no fault of his own, Beyer had to wait behind the likes of George Kittle, Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson and lost much of 2018 due to injury. He’s a former wideout with good athleticism and soft hands, but still needs to prove himself as a pass catcher, since there isn’t much career production. He’s a willing blocker, but fails to play with the hand grip and technique to stay connected to blocks for as long as he will need to. The 24-year-old doesn’t fit neatly into a tight end type, which could create a challenge for his NFL prospects.
Above-average athlete and accomplished high school high jumper.
Secures and works up to seal block on play-side linebacker.
Keeps working to stay busy into defender’s frame.
Back-side cut-blocks to knock defensive ends off their pursuit.
Stays engaged on the move with good lateral foot churn.
Former wideout with soft mitts and natural hands.
Adequate route quickness to separate from linebacker.
Plucks the ball on the go without breaking stride.
Lost playing time to injuries and talented tight ends ahead of him.
Just 18 career catches and one touchdown.
Schemed open by play-action rather than winning one-on-one.
Below-average catch radius.
Hands need to get stronger and more forceful as blocker.
Will lunge and lean into block to make up for average size.
Inconsistent hitting his landmarks as zone blocker.
First strike must come faster at point of attack.
Zierlein gives Beyer an overall score of 5.5, meaning he thinks he has a chance to make an NFL roster. That seems fair.
Over at SI.com, they have a similar take:
Big #42 looks the part on the hoof, boasting NFL size and length with even more growth potential moving forward. Beyer has a powerful lower half that shows up big time in the run game where he has asserted his biggest impact to date. He is tough as nails, showing outstanding effort working at the point of attack and in cleanup opportunities down the field. As a pass receiver, Beyer has put a few highlight reel plays on film, showing nice extension and hand strength to corral a couple circus catches. Beyer is a solid enough athlete, showing plus straight line speed to threaten the seam on occasion. He was never able to garner significant volume, lacking the suddenness to create separation as a route runner and threaten multiple levels of the field. Beyer has an extremely limited route runner, mostly running deep over routes off of play action. He is an older prospect that begs the question just how much upside lies with a player like Beyer. His ability as a run blocker will offer him a look but the limitations as a pass receiver and limited production will hurt his chances to stick long term.
At the end of the day, Beyer is a fringe draft guy. He has limitations and his production on the field make him a player that would likely be overlooked if not for the logo on the side of his helmet. But those things do matter. For a guy like Beyer who has struggled with injury and talent in front of him, that brand name is a positive.
He may ultimately go undrafted, but will surely be signed to a deal and make a fall camp. That’s really all anyone can ask for. From there, his blocking, good frame and solid athleticism will give him a shot to make a roster if he finds the right opportunity and puts in the work. History says that’s a good bet.