Jackson, Wirfs set to continue long draft history for Iowa offensive linemen

Since Kirk Ferentz took over as head coach at Iowa, the program has seen 17 offensive linemen drafted to the NFL. Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are next in line.

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Jackson, Wirfs set to continue long draft history for Iowa offensive linemen

Iowa offensive linemen Alaric Jackson embraces Purdue safety Navon Mosley during the Iowa/Purdue football game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-15. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa offensive linemen Alaric Jackson embraces Purdue safety Navon Mosley during the Iowa/Purdue football game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-15. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa offensive linemen Alaric Jackson embraces Purdue safety Navon Mosley during the Iowa/Purdue football game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-15. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa offensive linemen Alaric Jackson embraces Purdue safety Navon Mosley during the Iowa/Purdue football game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. The Boilermakers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-15. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Sports Editor

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Iowa offensive tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are no longer flying under the radar. They are two of the best offensive linemen in the conference and could make a case for being the most outstanding tackle duo in the country.

Jackson and Wirfs — both entering their junior seasons in the Black and Gold — have caught the attention of the NFL in their time at Iowa thus far. With another season full of making defensive linemen miserable, the two could very likely follow the paths of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant and declare for the NFL Draft a year early.

Both have been projected as first-round picks by many draft analysts, which would make it two years in a row that the Hawkeyes had more than one first-round pick.

If this hypothetical draft declaration and subsequent first-round selection were to come to fruition, Jackson and Wirfs would be the 18th and 19th Iowa offensive linemen to be drafted under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Let that sink in.

RELATED: Iowa defensive backs look to keep up with recent history

Ferentz was hired to replace Hayden Fry as Hawkeye head coach on Dec. 2, 1998. Since then, Ferentz has joined the legendary status of his predecessor, and one of his calling cards has been his ability to develop and coach offensive linemen.

Hence the 17 offensive linemen — and counting — to be drafted under his watch.

Going all the way back to Eric Steinbach (second round in 2003) to James Daniels (second round in the 2018), Ferentz has had an offensive linemen drafted in 11 drafts.

Jackson and Wirfs will very likely make it 12.

The pair of Big Ten heavyweights could also become the fifth and sixth offensive linemen under Ferentz to be drafted in the first round.

Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga, Riley Reiff, and Brandon Scherff were Hawkeye first-round draft picks. Gallery (second overall pick in 2004) and Scherff (fifth overall pick in 2015) were top-five selections.

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The first round is not the only place to find a quality Iowa-bred offensive linemen. Marshal Yanda is a seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro who has spent his entire career as a right guard or right tackle on the Baltimore Ravens.

Daniels has had success with the Chicago Bears after being a second-round draft pick in 2018. The former Iowa center made ESPN’s all-rookie team after last season.

Iowa’s success on the line goes all the way down to the seventh round, where the Indianapolis Colts selected Austin Blythe in 2016. Blythe is now a the starting right guard for the Los Angeles Rams, the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl last season.

Jackson and Wirfs will find themselves among these players and all the rest of the Iowa offensive linemen drafted under Kirk Ferentz, whether it be after declaring early or graduating.

Whichever is the case, the two will ensure that Iowa’s supply of talent in the trenches continues to be represented well in the NFL.