For the bulk of the last 10 seasons, Iowa has finished outside the final AP Top 25. The Hawkeyes ended up 20th in 2008 and seventh a year later.
The average on-field results the last decade hasn’t handicapped players in the program when it comes to the NFL Draft, however. According to NFL.com, Iowa ranked 16th nationally in that category with 39 athletes picked. Nebraska, Penn State, Oregon, Michigan and Tennessee sat behind the Hawkeyes.
Four Iowa players were selected in the first round during that stretch. Two of them were offensive linemen (Bryan Bulaga ’10, Riley Reiff ’12), one was a defensive lineman (Adrian Clayborn ’11) and the other was a linebacker (Chad Greenway ’06). Quarterback Chuck Long and running back Ronnie Harmon in ’86 were the last Iowa skill position athletes taken in the opening round.
Iowa has built a reputation for producing quality players at the physical positions, most often the offensive and defensive lines. And that held true when it came to its prospects in ’15. Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff is a projected Top 15 pick overall while Carl Davis (DT), Andrew Donnal (OL) and Louis Trinca-Pasat (DT) ranked as the other Hawkeyes most likely to hear their names called when the three-day draft kicks off Thursday.
Scherff has noticed during the pre-draft process like the combine and pro day that professional player personnel people believe in Iowa’s strong lineman reputation.
"They have no football questions for us. It’s just all about your background, where you come from and why you chose Iowa. They said that you guys learn from the best of the best. You guys are technicians. That has everything to say about Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and Coach Brian (Brian) and Coach (Reese Morgan) Morgan," he said after March’s Iowa Pro Day.
Scherff will be the fourth offensive lineman from Iowa to be picked in the first round since Kirk Ferentz became head coach in ’99. Robert Gallery, the No. 2 overall selection in ’04, preceded Bulaga and Reiff. The Baltimore Ravens chose Marshal Yanda, an all-pro O-lineman, in the third round in ’07.
Scherff has tested well leading up the draft but his stock has remained about where it was projected back in January. The biggest discussion regarding the Denison (IA) product is whether he’s a tackle or a guard.
"(Pro scouts) asked me which one I preferred. I said wherever you play me I’ll play that. That’s how I answered that," he said.
Davis enjoyed a good week at the Senior Bowl in January, spurring discussion that he could be a first-round pick.
"There’s a lot of stuff that’s going around. I hear late first or early second. I don’t worry about that. I took care of business (at Iowa’s pro day) and at the combine. Whatever happens on draft day happens," he said at pro day.
Davis (6-5, 320) said he’s tried to show scouts that he can be a dominant down lineman at the next level.
"They said I have the ability to do it. The goal is to do it on a more consistent level. This is just the first step. Coach (Kirk) Ferentz told me I haven’t scratched the surface of my potential of what I can be. I really do believe that. I’m looking forward to the opportunity I have to keep playing," the Michigan native said.
Trinca-Pasat (6-1, 290) also performed well at the Senior Bowl. He’s been projected as a mid-to-late round selection.
"If I get drafted, I do. If I don’t, I’m just going to go where they want me and do what I do, keep putting in the work and continue to prove people wrong," the former two-star recruit from Chicago said at pro day.
Donnal, a former US Army All-American as an Ohio prep, could be a mid-to-late round pick as well.
"(NFL scouts) see me as a versatile guy that can play tackle or guard on either side," the 6-foot-6, 313-pounder said.
Mark Weisman caught the attention of pro personnel folks when he logged a sub 4.7-second, 40-yard dash at pro day. The 6-footer said last week that he’s bulked up to more than 240 pounds. A fullback at the next level, he’s been projected as a late-rounder or free agent.
Kevonte Martin-Manley, Damond Powell, Damon Bullock, Tommy Gaul, John Lowdermilk, Mike Hardy, Ray Hamilton and Quinton Alston are hoping to at least land free agent deals after participating in Iowa’s pro day.