College Football

Surprise! C.J. Beathard first Hawkeye off the board in NFL draft

QB was projected as a fifth or sixth rounder, goes to 49ers in the third

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) hands off to Iowa Hawkeyes running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (29) during the first half of their Big Ten college football game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) hands off to Iowa Hawkeyes running back LeShun Daniels Jr. (29) during the first half of their Big Ten college football game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa, on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Just like everyone — read no one — predicted, Iowa’s first draft pick of the 2017 NFL draft was quarterback C.J. Beathard.

With the 104th pick in the draft, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to select Beathard, a 6-2, 219-pounder who led the Hawkeyes to a 20-7 record as a starter the last two seasons.

Among the Iowa draft hopefuls, this is an upset. Pro Football Focus had cornerback Desmond King ranked No. 64 overall, tight end George Kittle at No. 70 and defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson at 112th.

PFF had Beathard at No. 225.

“I had him in the fifth or sixth round,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “I thought his tape was down a little bit this year. I thought he was better as a junior. He has a better arm than expected when you sit down and study him ... People who went to his pro day said he had an excellent day.”

Beathard’s arm strength was a draw. On Beathard’s list of positives, PFF wrote “fluid quick release with a natural whip arm” and “arm is powerful with consistent zip at each level of the field” as the top two.

Beathard’s numbers dipped from 2015 to 2016. As a junior, he completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,809 yards and 17 TDs with five interceptions. Last season, it was 55.6 percent, 1,929 yards and 17 TDs with 10 interceptions. Beathard’s pass efficiency fell from 139.52 to 122.32. The numbers are no secret and it’s certainly been a topic with NFL executives, Beathard said.

But his confidence that he would be drafted never wavered.

“That’s just me, I’m confident in that,” Beathard said. “I know I’m going to get a shot at some point, whenever that is.”

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The “when” was a mild surprise. The 49ers’ website described Beathard as “developmental.” He’ll jump into competition with a depth chart that includes Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

Beathard joins Ricky Stanzi (5th round, 2011) as the only QBs drafted during the 18-year Kirk Ferentz era. According to spotrac.com, a website that tracks NFL contracts, Beathard should be slotted for a deal in the neighborhood of $3.1 million with a signing bonus of just more than $700,000.

PFF had this on Beathard overall: “Beathard’s arm and overall game is enough to warrant a late-round selection and a chance to develop as a third-string QB.” So, with the third-round grade and heading to a roster without a solid starting QB, Beathard is ahead of the game.

Rounds four through seven continue Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. King, Johnson and Kittle should go. Offensive lineman Cole Croston, running back LeShun Daniels and tight end Jake Duzey also might sneak into the late rounds.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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