Micah Hyde was the only Hawkeye player drafted in the 2013 NFL draft. Iowa finished 4-8 last season. Coincidence?
While Iowa was within six points of winning five more games last year (as well as losing two of the games they won), there was definitely a talent deficiency on the roster when compared to most of the years before it. Will that be different this year?
While it remains to be seen, looking at the NFL draft prospects of a team may reveal what type of hand Iowa has this year.
NFL BEST BETS: THE SENIORS
These are the players I feel will be drafted from Iowa’s senior class. First, the defense:
BJ Lowery is one of the best true corners Iowa has had in the Ferentz era and this after the Hawkeyes have had a nice string of them.
James Morris: He’s taken more than his fair share of criticism for some reason in the fan base. I won’t sit here and say he was always in position last year, but he hasn’t had the luxury of playing behind great defensive lines the way Pat Angerer, AJ Edds, Abdul Hodge, Chad Greenway and others did for most or all of their careers. Morris has played behind two of four most challenged Iowa defensive lines of the Ferentz era and thus has seen more traffic heading his way. I believe Iowa’s defensive line will be better this year than last and I think you’ll see a better James Morris. If he stays healthy, he’ll be drafted.
I can say some of the same things for Anthony Hitchens and Chris Kirksey. Hitchens will need to improve in his consistency in reading and recognizing coverage duties (he was benched vs Purdue last year in the second half because of that and was leading the Big Ten in tackles) and Kirksey has sometimes gone for the big hit as opposed to the clean tackle, but these two are also being bandied about as late round draft picks right now.
It would be something if all three Iowa linebackers were drafted next spring and that’s isn’t some far fetched homer tale; it could happen.
On the line, Dom Alvis is the only senior and he would have to have a pretty big year to play into the draft and I just see that as a long shot. IF he did, it would mean Iowa won more games than it lost. On the back end, Tanner Miller does have a shot of playing his way back into consideration. He has the athleticism we’ve seen in past Iowa free safeties who have gone on to be drafted in the NFL…this year, he needs to make better decisions.
The Offense (including juniors):
CJ Fiedorowicz still has some things to prove in the blocking area and he doesn’t play as physical as you’d like to see, but he is a huge target, put together well and should have a big year this year. I thought the same thing last year related to a big year and it didn’t happen until the last four games of the year or so. But Kirk Ferentz keeps saying how things will be different this year (Greg Davis will be a better Iowa coordinator this year, people are more on the same page this year with the offense, etc) so we’ll see. Fiedorowicz should also be a better player and should get drafted.
Brett Van Sloten: Marc Morehouse of The Gazette wrote a while back that every Iowa right tackle since 2001 has had a chance to make an NFL roster. That should continue with Van Sloten. The only question will be whether he is drafted or has to go the free agent route. Some pundits say Iowa has the best tackle tandem in the Big Ten. Given the Iowa OL pedigree in the NFL, Van Sloten will get plenty of looks.
Mike Meyer has a shot at the draft with another year similar to what we’ve seen from him in recent years, including last year, but you just never know with specialists. He’ll certainly have a free agent shot as long as he’s healthy.
If Brandon Scherff plays at the top of his game this fall he may have an NFL decision on his hands. The junior looked good last year before suffering a broken leg against Penn State and he’ll need to show NFL scouts that potential is there with a full season of play. But he’s good, possibly a 1st team All Big Ten player in the making and that usually means NFL decision if you’re a junior.
In all, I think Iowa sees four players drafted for sure (Morris, Lowery, Fiedorwicz and Van Sloten) and make it five if Scherff comes out. Then you have three players right on the edge of the draft at this time, which gives Iowa a pretty solid number.
There’s more mature talent on this roster than last year’s and maybe even more than the 2011 roster had, but Iowa is green in some important places (DL & QB just for starters) so this will be a work in progress.