Iowa State's NFL draft prospects in the mix for late-round selection, free agency

Wiltz, Tucker, Thomas try to be first Cyclone drafted since 2014

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AMES — The NFL Draft hasn’t been especially kind to Iowa State football.

There have been high points in recent memory like Sage Rosenfels, Ellis Hobbs, Kelechi Osemele and A.J. Klein, who have all produced lengthy pro careers after being drafted.

But those moments are few and far between.

The last two NFL Drafts have come and gone without an Iowa State player getting selected. No ISU player has been a first-round pick since George Amundson in 1973, with only eight players getting drafted in the last 10 years.

Iowa State has a few prospects that will be in the mix to get selected in defensive back Jomal Wiltz and defensive tackles Demond Tucker and Jhaustin Thomas. The draft begins with the first round Thursday and runs through Saturday.

“I’m prepared if I don’t get drafted,” Tucker said after Iowa State’s Pro Day last month. “I can go into free agency, but they’re saying it’s a possibility I could go late rounds somewhere.”

The last ISU player taken in the draft was Jeremiah George, who was selected in the fifth round by the New York Jets in 2014. Osemele’s second-round selection in 2012 was the highest a former Cyclone has gone since 1990.

Wiltz, more than any other ISU player, has had his name surface as a potential late-round draftee or a free agent in camp. The 5-foot-10 and 175-pounder ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at pro day, and isn’t deterred by any question marks about his size.

“I feel like my height made me who I am today and if I was taller, I probably wouldn’t be who I am,” Wiltz said. “I just take it and run with it and prove doubters wrong. That’s how I look at it.”

NFLDraftScout.com and CBS Sports selected one player from all 128 FBS schools that might not necessarily get drafted, “but has a good chance to keep his professional dream going.”

Wiltz was the ISU selection and was evaluated as “undersized and too easily shielded from the ball, but he competes with the instincts and ball skills to disrupt the catch point (11 passes defended in 2016).”

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of the handful of ISU players eligible for the draft, Wiltz has the “best chance” to be selected.

“He’s got some coverage ability,” Kiper said this week on a teleconference. “Cover guys, you need more than two, and he’s got a chance, like I say, with his cover skills to be like Tavon Young last year to the (Baltimore) Ravens in fourth round. But a late round priority, free agent type that I think can stick on a roster.”

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