Mulling the Hawks in next NFL draft

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Alex Kroeze

Iowa defensive back Desmond King celebrates after an interception at Kinnick Stadium on April 23, 2016. The defense beat the offense 20-18 in the spring game. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

 

Just one Iowa player came off the board at the NFL draft, the lowest number of picks since 2013.

It was also the latest round the Hawkeyes first player drafted had gone since 1993.

Next season, however, should be better. This year’s roster is flowing with talent, meaning more than a few should hear their names called during next year’s draft. With that in mind, let’s take an early look at next year’s NFL draft hopefuls.

Desmond King, cornerback

King is ranked as the No. 1 cornerback by CBSsports entering this season, and it’s not hard to see why.

At 5-11 and 200, he has decent NFL size but what he really has going for him is his athleticism. He’s spent significant time as the Hawkeyes’ primary returner and will do so again this season. King has yet to return a kick for a touchdown, but he has scored twice on interception returns.

With those returns, he’s also shown good field vision and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He has 11 interceptions in his career, which would suggest it’s because he’s a student of the game, not simply lucky.

One of the rare players Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz played as a true freshman, King will also be fairly young (around 22 and a half) when he’s drafted.

It would be an absolute shocker if he falls out of the first round.

George Kittle, tight end

In just one season of real playing time, Kittle became one of Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard’s favorite targets, catching 6 touchdowns last year.

Expect more of the same during Kittle’s senior season. He has added 20 pounds to his 6-4 frame, which puts his playing weight somewhere around 235 pounds. Kittle has said it’s helped him with his blocking, something he struggled with at times last year.

NFL teams absolutely love Iowa tight ends, and Kittle will have a chance to play somewhere in 2017. Currently ranked as just the 35th-best tight end by CBSsports, he has plenty of time to improve his stock.

If things come together for him, he could be a mid-round pick.

C.J. Beathard, quarterback

The second-ranked quarterback by CBSsports, Beathard is a unique prospect.

At 6-2, he’s certainly not small, though for a quarterback who likes to run, 209-pounds is a little slight. Beathard does have a bit of injury history now, but he’s extremely tough and is willing to play through significant pain.

While he did not put up great passing numbers, he also did not make very many mistakes — Beathard only threw 5 interceptions last season.

He’s also an established rushing threat and is quite athletic.

Depending on what kind of year Beathard has, his draft stock could go wildly up or down. A safe bet would probably be somewhere in the third to sixth round, unless a team really likes him.

The rest

Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, and cornerback Greg Mabin all are legitimate NFL prospects.

VandeBerg and Johnson both have good size and might get drafted. Mabin will also have quite a bit of time to show his stuff, because teams will target him more often with King on the other side of the field.

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