Continuing our extensive Scherff Week coverage (hey, it's late July and we're still a week away from even the empty calories of Big Ten Media Days), we got to thinking about where our beloved real-life Paul Bunyan might get drafted in next year's NFL Draft. Our curiosity was especially piqued after seeing this tweet recently:
Iowa OT Brandon Scherff could be No. 1 pick in 2015 draft. Was a 280-lb QB in HS. Now 6-4 5/8, 320. Strong like Suh. pic.twitter.com/c3FlyGTpXu— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) July 14, 2014
Scherff #1? Wow. That would be quite a career arc -- from 3* recruit and HS quarterback out of Denison, IA to the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft? It helps that there's no early consensus on a top pick for next year's draft; there's no athletic superfreak like Jadeveon Clowney or a once-in-a-generation QB talent like Andrew Luck projected to be in this crop of prospects. There's no consensus at all, in fact. I took a quick spin through a handful of 2015 mock drafts and each one had a different player going #1 overall. One had Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, another had Clemson OLB Vic Beasley, another had Texas A&M LT Cedric Ogbuehi, another had Nebraska DE Randy Gregory, and another had USC DT Leonard Williams. This could end up being a draft like the 2013 NFL Draft, when Central Michigan LT Eric Fisher somewhat surprisingly emerged as the top pick. Could Scherff be that guy this year?
If Scherff did become the first pick in next year's draft, he'd become the second Iowa player ever to go first overall, joining legendary Iowa QB Randy Duncan, who was taken with the #1 pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1959. Duncan actually never played a snap with the Packers; he ended up signing with the British Columbia Lions in the CFL instead. After two seasons in Canada, Duncan returned to football in America, playing briefly for the Dallas Texans (the historical predecessor of today's Kansas City Chiefs) before switching to a career in law. From #1 pick in the NFL Draft to lawyer in under five years? File that under things you'll probably never see again.
And now a brief history of former first-round NFL draft picks from Iowa:
The first Iowa player ever selected in the first round was also the first Iowa player ever drafted -- FB Dick Crayne in 1936. Crayne was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers with the 4th pick. Yes, to play football. It was a confusing time, alright? It seems oh-so-fitting that Iowa's first-ever draft pick was a fullback, too.
After Crayne, it would be several more years until another Iowa player was tabbed in the first round (legendary historic Nile Kinnick was, alas, only a second rounder). Finally, Iowa's first round drought ended in 1958, when the Lions selected DT Alex Karras with the 8th pick. The aforementioned Mr. Duncan made it two first rounders in two years for Iowa in 1959.
Iowa's next first round draft pick came in 1966, when the Cowboys drafted G John Niland with the 5th pick. In 1972, the Bears grabbed DB Craig Clemons with the 12th pick. In 1976, the Chiefs drafted G Rod Walters with the 14th pick.
Hayden Fry's arrival in 1979 turned around the moribund Iowa football program, which also led to a uptick in first round picks from Iowa. G Ron Hallstrom became Hayden's initial first round selection when the Packers drafted him with the 22nd pick in 1982. In 1984, T John Alt went to the Chiefs with the 21st pick. In 1986, following one of the greatest years in the history of Iowa football, not one, not two, but three players were drafted in the first round. QB Chuck Long went 12th overall to the Lions, RB Ronnie Harmon went 16th overall to the Bills, and T Mike Haight went 22nd overall to the Jets.
The first round pick train skidded to a halt after that, though. No Iowa player was drafted in the first round until 1997, when DB Tom Knight went 9th overall to the Cardinals and G Ross Verba went 30th overall to the Packers. And then Iowa football entered the years we don't like to talk about.
Kirk Ferentz's turnaround at Iowa finally produced a first round pick in 2003, when TE Dallas Clark was selected 24th overall by the Colts. A year later, T Robert Gallery was drafted 2nd overall by the Raiders. (Sigh.) In 2007, LB Chad Greenway went 17th overall to the Vikings. Iowa then had a three-year run of first round picks: T Bryan Bulaga went 23rd overall to the Packers in 2010, DE Adrian Clayborn went 20th overall to the Buccaneers in 2011, and T Riley Reiff went 23rd overall to the Lions in 2012.
|1936||4||Dick Crayne||FB||Brooklyn Dodgers|
|1958||8||Alex Karras||DT||Detroit Lions|
|1959||1||Randy Duncan||QB||Green Bay Packers|
|1966||5||John Niland||G||Dallas Cowboys|
|1972||12||Craig Clemons||DB||Chicago Bears|
|1976||14||Rod Walters||G||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1982||22||Ron Hallstrom||G||Green Bay Packers|
|1984||21||John Alt||T||Kansas City Chiefs|
|1986||12||Chuck Long||QB||Detroit Lions|
|1986||16||Ronnie Harmon||RB||Buffalo Bills|
|1986||22||Mike Haight||T||New York Jets|
|1997||9||Tom Knight||DB||Arizona Cardinals|
|1997||30||Ross Verba||G||Green Bay Packers|
|2003||24||Dallas Clark||TE||Indianapolis Colts|
|2004||2||Robert Gallery||T||Oakland Raiders|
|2007||17||Chad Greenway||LB||Minnesota Vikings|
|2010||23||Bryan Bulaga||T||Green Bay Packers|
|2011||20||Adrian Clayborn||DE||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|2012||23||Riley Reiff||T||Detroit Lions|
All draft history data culled from DraftHistory.com.
* * *
So how realistic is it that Scherff hears his name called first by Roger Goodell at next year's NFL Draft? Probably not very realistic, despite the fact that he's obviously an excellent player. Saying he probably won't go #1 isn't a slight on Scherff, but more a recognition of what things the NFL tends to prioritize in the draft. As the NFL transitions into more of a pass-first league, pass protection becomes increasingly important and Scherff is perceived as being better in run-blocking (where he is unquestionably an absolute terror-monster) than he is in pass protection. Scherff will certainly have another year to try and change that perception, though, and he'll have the opportunity to show off his pass protection chops a few times -- most notably against Nebraska's Gregory in the regular season finale. It would be ludicrous hyperbole to say that game could determine who goes #1 next year*, but NFL scouts will certainly be watching that game -- and that particular battle -- very closely.
* That said, if some news outlet does make that claim come November, remember: BHGP said it first!
It's also hard to project Scherff #1 without knowing which team will own that first pick next year; if it's a team that recently drafted or signed a left tackle, they're going to look elsewhere in this draft class. There's also a good chance that another prospect from a "sexier" position emerges as the front-runner in next year's draft. Quarterbacks and defensive ends induce no small amount of lustful drooling from NFL personnel types -- largely because they tend to be some of the biggest difference-makers on the field. So if Marcus Mariota or Florida State QB Jameis Winston has another knockout year this season, it wouldn't be a shock to see either of them become the top pick in the draft. Likewise, if Gregory or Michigan State OLB/DE Shilique Calhoun has a monster year terrorizing Big Ten QBs, it wouldn't be too surprising to see them tabbed for the #1 pick, either.
Still, whether Scherff ultimately gets drafted #1 or not, he seems like a lock to add to Iowa's solid history of first round draft picks, barring injury. And until then, we still have at least 12 games -- and hopefully 13 or 14 games -- to watch him do his thing in black and gold. And if you like watching a big, strong dude with a mean attitude flatten all comers -- and we do! -- then that's going to be a lot of fun to witness.