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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The NFL draft — or are we obliged to write “Draft” with an uppercase ’D’ because of its importance? — starts Thursday night.
The draft is a three-day affair. There have been shorter wars, marriages, and delays for freight trains in downtown Cedar Rapids. The Homer Halibut Tournament takes less time, and there are plenty of halibut in Kachemak Bay.
Often, Iowa has had players chosen on the first night, which is just the first-round. It’s had plenty of players go on Night 2, when the second- and third-rounders are plucked.
Northwestern hasn’t had a player taken in the first three rounds of the 10 previous drafts and no first-rounder after 2005. Iowa has had eight first-rounders since then.
There were reasons Northwestern won the Big Ten West last year. One, of course, was the Wildcats erasing a 17-0 deficit at Kinnick Stadium and beating Iowa, 21-20. Another was good players.
Northwestern has had many of those in the Pat Fitzgerald era. Yet, in previous NFL drafts the Hawkeyes have been runaway winners over the Cats. In the last three, Iowa has had 13 players selected to Northwestern’s two. Three of those Hawkeyes — T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant and Tristan Wirfs — were first-rounders.
Over the 10 previous drafts, there have been 37 Hawkeyes picked and just 10 Wildcats. Northwestern hasn’t had as many as three draftees in any year since 2010, and hasn’t had four since 1985 when the draft lasted 12 rounds and three of the four Wildcats went in Round 9 or later.
So, the Hawkeyes can lord all that over their West division rival, but shouldn’t. Because Northwestern has been to two of the last three Big Ten title games and Iowa’s lone such appearance was back in 2015.
Iowa calls itself a developmental program, and Northwestern says “Hold my beer.”
There’s always considerable noise around here over trophy games, which is what happens when you play four of them. It’s not true this year’s Kent State-Iowa game will be for the Ohiowa Trophy. Not yet, anyway.
Somehow, there is no trophy at stake when Iowa plays Northwestern, just meaningful results.
In 2018, the Wildcats celebrated clinching the West title after the game following their 14-10 November win over Iowa, with two weeks still left in the regular season. That got Northwestern a trophy that doesn’t travel.
The Wildcats claiming one and quite possibly two first-round NFL draft picks in the same year, however, is different. The world keeps changing.
By the way, don’t look to way-early 2022 mock drafts for any sort of hint on how the 2021 season may go. A year ago today, 2021 mock draft first rounds were without quarterbacks Zach Wilson and Mac Jones and tight end Kyle Pitts. All could go in Thursday’s first five picks.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum apparently isn’t considered a 2022 first-rounder right now. Uh huh. Get back to us in 11 months on that, draftniks.
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