Iowa Hawkeyes generating buzz at the NFL combine

Four Hawkeyes competed in the NFL combine, and each drew plenty of buzz following solid outings in Indianapolis.

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Iowa Hawkeyes generating buzz at the NFL combine

Iowa tight end Noah Fant breaks free from an attempted tackle by Purdue cornerback Kenneth Major during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-36.

Iowa tight end Noah Fant breaks free from an attempted tackle by Purdue cornerback Kenneth Major during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-36.

Katina Zentz

Iowa tight end Noah Fant breaks free from an attempted tackle by Purdue cornerback Kenneth Major during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-36.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa tight end Noah Fant breaks free from an attempted tackle by Purdue cornerback Kenneth Major during the Iowa/Purdue game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-36.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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On Monday, the NFL combine wrapped up its final day, capping off the performances of four Iowa Hawkeyes.

Tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson, defensive end Anthony Nelson, and safety Amani Hooker all showed out in impressive fashion in Indianapolis.

Noah Fant, tight end

Combine numbers and position rank:

  • 40-yard dash: 4.5 seconds (first)
  • Bench press: 20 reps (sixth)
  • Vertical jump: 39.5 inches (first)
  • Broad jump: 127 inches (first)
  • 3-cone drill: 6.81 seconds (first)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.22 seconds (third)
  • 60-yard shuttle: 11.49 seconds (first)
 

Notable combine comparison according to MockDraftable: 78.5% – Mike Gesicki (Penn State, 2018)

NFL comparison: Eric Ebron

Notes: Fant’s 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, and 60-yard shuttle rank in the 91st-percentile or better. His 40-yard dash was faster than Houston Texan’s DeAndre Hopkins (Two-time first-team All-Pro wide receiver).

Even before the college football season began, NFL scouts had their eyes locked on Fant, and for good reason, too.

Fant is the most athletic tight end in the upcoming draft and has the size (6-foot-4, 249) and speed (4.5 40-yard dash) to keep opposing defenses clueless. Last season, he finished with 39 receptions, 519 yards, and 7 touchdowns. In his three years at Iowa, he scored 19 touchdowns – a program record for a tight end.

 

 

 

Buzz on Fant

  • “He’s also a natural catching the football, and though he isn’t going to give teams much as a blocker, he should step right in as a receiving weapon in his rookie year.”CBS Sports’ R.J. White
  • “Noah Fant is one ridiculously fast step closer to punching his ticket for the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.”NFL.com’s Dan Parr
  • “He needs to get stronger and more competitive at the point of attack to help a run game, but if that never happens, his ability to uncover and hit big plays will still make him a coveted prize for teams ready to add a move tight end as their new matchup toy.”NFL Analysts Lance Zierlein

NFL Draft projections

T.J. Hockenson, tight end

Combine numbers and position rank:

  • 40-yard dash: 4.7 seconds (seventh)
  • Bench press: 17 reps (10th)
  • Vertical jump: 37.5 inches (second)
  • Broad jump: 123 inches (second)
  • 3-cone drill: 7.02 seconds (second)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.18 seconds (second)
  • 60-yard shuttle: 11.55 seconds (second)
 

Notable combine results comparison according to MockDraftable79.3% – Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame, 2013)

NFL comparison: Travis Kelce

Notes: Hockenson’s vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle all rank in the 84th-percentile or better.

Hockenson has made a name for himself as the best all-around tight end available in April. The John Mackey Award winner excels in both the pass and run game, but when it comes to blocking, he’s a bulldog.

 

Buzz on Hockenson:

  • “While he didn’t leap off the screen running a 4.70-second 40, he showed how complete a prospect he is in the blocking drills and gave no reason to move him off the No. 1 spot at the position. He’s the kind of guy who looks more impressive in pads than shorts, anyway.”CBS Sports’ R.J. White
  • “Hockenson is an ascending talent with a chance to become one of the best all-around tight ends in the game. He should continue to fill out his athletic frame, but he’s already a sound in-line blocker with the toughness to sustain and finish. His above-average athleticism and separation burst will help him win against linebackers while his body control and hands give him an advantage over safeties. Hockenson has standout talent and fits any scheme, but he could be coveted early by teams looking to delve more heavily in 12-personnel (two TE packages).”NFL Analysts Lance Zierlein
  • “At this point, it would be a shock if Hockenson doesn’t come off the board in the first round.”CBS Sports
  • “I think he’s going to skyrocket. You can’t look at him as a one-dimensional player. He’s a multi-dimensional tight end who can do everything you want.”Mel Kiper Jr.

NFL Draft projections:

Anthony Nelson, defensive end

Combine numbers and position rank:

  • 40-yard dash: 4.82 seconds (fifth)
  • Bench press: 18 reps (NA)
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches (fifth)
  • Broad jump: 118 inches (fourth)
  • 3-cone drill: 6.95 seconds (second)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.23 seconds (third)

 

 

Notable combine comparison according to MockDraftable75.9% Chandler Jones (Syracuse, 2012)

NFL comparison: Carl Nassib

Notes: Nelson’s height, wingspan, arm length, 3-cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle all rank in the 92nd percentile or better.

Nelson finished the 2018 season as one of the Big Ten’s most disruptive edge rushers, totaling 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss. The redshirt junior had 45 tackles total, defended a pass, recovered a fumble, and also scored a touchdown.

In his three seasons on the field, Nelson notched 119 total tackles (31 for a loss), 23 sacks, defended 7 passes, and forced 4 fumbles.

Buzz on Nelson:

  • “Stock up for Nelson, a rugged, well-rounded defensive end with great hand work who we now know is a plus athlete. He could stand to get stronger though. It was a good day for him.”CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso
  • “Guys like Iowa’s Anthony Nelson and Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby also shined a spotlight on the depth of this class with strong workouts.” – Mel Kiper Jr.

NFL Draft projections:

Rounds 3-5 (Walter Football)

Amani Hooker, safety

Combine numbers and position rank:

  • 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds (eighth)
  • Bench press: 14 reps (NA)
  • Vertical jump: 37 inches (fifth)
  • Broad jump: 123 inches (eighth)
  • 3-cone drill: 6.81 seconds (second)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.1 seconds (fourth)
  • 60-yard shuttle: 11.59 seconds (fourth)

 

 

Notable combine comparison according to MockDraftable: Damon Webb (Ohio State, 2018)

NFL comparison: Deon Grant

Notes: Hooker’s versatility will serve him well at the next level. Last season, serving as Iowa’s linebacker-safety hybrid, Hooker finished with 65 tackles (3.5 for a loss), 1 sack, 4 interceptions, and 7 pass deflections. He’s a ferocious tackler that always has his head on a swivel.

 

Buzz on Hooker:

  • “Hybrid safety with an advanced feel for play design and recognition of where the ball is going and how to play it. He could thrive in a “robber” role or as a big nickel where he can match up against pass-catching tight ends. He’s not twitchy, fast or fluid and has some limitations in man coverage; however, he has the size, instincts and ball skills to become a plus starter, but needs to find his perfect scheme fit.”NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein
  • “Eyes, instincts, I love all of that. He’s not fast but you can scheme around it and he’s going to cover up some of it with how he sees the game. If you ask him to be an athlete, it could come back to bite you.”AFC defensive backs coach

NFL Draft projection:

Rounds 4-6 (Walter Football)

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