Iowa Football

Time for the NFL combine: Breaking down Iowa's prospects

Draft Olympics begin this week for former Hawkeyes, Cyclones

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Josh Jackson (15) closes on defensive back Wes Dvorak (1) during a practice session at the team's outdoor practice facility in Iowa City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Josh Jackson (15) closes on defensive back Wes Dvorak (1) during a practice session at the team's outdoor practice facility in Iowa City, Iowa, on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — This is the time of year you’re going to hear bad things about your favorite college football players.

If you think the players don’t pay attention to the multitudes of pre-draft scouting reports, check this quote from Mike Daniels, former Hawkeye and current Green Bay Packers defensive tackle. Daniels was a 2-star recruit coming out of Blackwood, N.J., Highland Regional High School in 2007.

Scout wrote: “Lacks a stout anchor and can be redirected off the snap with underwhelming base strength ...”

Daniels, in speaking with the NFL Network, said: “Does that guy still have a job?”

The NFL scouting combine begins Wednesday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The five Hawkeyes up for individual strength and condition testing that will include a 40-yard dash and a timed bench press with 225 pounds on the bar among other feats of athleticism are offensive lineman James Daniels, cornerback Josh Jackson, linebacker Josey Jewell, running back Akrum Wadley and offensive lineman Sean Welsh. Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard, the Cyclones' career receiving leader, also will be at Lucas Oil.

NFL personnel people, an extensive medical and athletics training staff and interviews with team executives await the six former Hawkeyes and Cyclones.

OL James Daniels

The 6-4, 295-pounder announced after the 2017 season that he would skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Daniels received a first- or second-round rating from the NFL draft advisory committee and that drove his decision.

Daniels will be just 20 years old when the draft takes place (April 26-28). He said after the Pinstripe Bowl age is just a number. Also, Daniels fought knee injuries throughout his three seasons at Iowa. After missing the opener with an undisclosed injury, he played every snap that mattered.

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The negative thing on the internet (from NFL Network): “The Iowa guys are always going to be quick and proficient, but you have to see them tested against power because they are usually going to be a little smaller, too. This guy has decent size and I think he’s got pretty good functional power. He would come in and challenge for best center in our division right away.” — NFC team college scouting director.

That wasn’t so bad. Let’s add this from the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah: “Daniels is one of the best center prospects I’ve evaluated in the last five years.”

CB Josh Jackson

Jackson’s Iowa career went from corner to wide receiver and finally back to corner, where he was a solid nickel option in 2015 but lost that spot in 2016. Then in 2017, Jackson won the job and led the nation with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended, earning consensus all-American honors.

Iowa’s 2017 season was an 8-5 deal. Certainly, the highlight was the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 victory over Ohio State (Iowa’s first victory over OSU since 2004, a span of five games). Jackson picked off three passes, and if you’ve forgotten the one-hander, why are you reading this post?

The negative thing on the internet (from Bleacher Report): Bleacher Report has Jackson rated No. 14 on its list of top 50. That seems low, but this was as negative as it got for Jackson on the internet. Jeremiah has Jackson at No. 18 on his top 50.

“Overall, Jackson might lack ideal twitch and deep speed, but his combination of size and ball skills is outstanding. He is a plug-and-play starter,” Jeremiah wrote. Even Jackson’s bad is good. He’s going to have a fun draft.

LB Josey Jewell

Jewell’s job this week is to show athleticism. He finished his Iowa career with 433 tackles. Jewell, also a consensus all-American, is always going to be better when the competition comes with pads and helmets.

Jeremiah lists Jewell as his linebacker “sleeper.” NFL Network’s Chad Reuter has Jewell as his fifth “safest” pick, “Showing off better-than-expected athleticism in Indianapolis will move him from a safe prospect to a must-have prospect.”

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The negative thing on the internet (from NFL Network): “Doesn’t have long limbs and loose frame. Lateral agility, change of direction and overall reactive athleticism is just average.”

There are a lot of reads in the draft realm that give Jewell credit for being quicker and more athletic than people will think. Also, in that same NFL Network take, it compares Jewell to Sean Lee, a former Penn State linebacker and star with the Dallas Cowboys.

RB Akrum Wadley

Wadley had an amazingly productive career with the Hawkeyes. In head coach Kirk Ferentz’s going-on 20 seasons, Wadley ranks third overall in the Ferentz era with 2,872 yards and 28 TDs.

The negative thing on the internet (from Breaking Football): “Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not Wadley could carry the ball 20-plus times a game for 16 or more games a season. Another issue is ball security, as he had 7 fumbles in college and had a fumble rate of 83 touches per fumble — one of the highest fumble rates of all running back prospects.”

Versatility and receiving abilities will help Wadley get in the NFL. His 190-ish pounds might limit the teams where Wadley would fit.

OL Sean Welsh

Welsh showed tremendous courage last summer when he wrote an editorial and spoke at a news conference about his ongoing struggles with depression.

How will the NFL view that? It probably won’t make a big deal out of it. Welsh, his family and doctors — and everyone in the Iowa football building — figured it out. Welsh missed 2015 spring practice, but that was it. After Welsh spoke about his battle, he said he received tons of support and thanks.

League scouts, however, will go after him for size and strength.

The negative thing on the internet (from Bleacher Report): In a mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Welsh going to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns finished 0-16 last season. On the bright side, Welsh is from Springboro, Ohio.

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Iowa State WR Allen Lazard

Lazard owned Memphis in the Liberty Bowl, setting a bowl record with 10 catches for 142 yards, including a 5-yard TD that put the Cyclones up for good.

To say Lazard was productive at Iowa State is an understatement. He is the school’s career leader in receptions (241), receiving yards (3,360), 100-yard receiving games (12), consecutive 100-yard games (four) and consecutive games with a reception (48).

The negative thing on the internet (fromNFL Network): Lazard’s combine emphasis will be speed. That’s the knock. “Lacks explosiveness as an athlete. No juice into his patterns. Talented press corners will be a challenge to shake,” the NFL Network post says.

At 6-4, 225, could Lazard play tight end in the NFL? That could end up being part of the discussion with him.

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

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