Opinion | Two Hawkeye undrafted free agent signees will make an NFL roster to start the season

Five undrafted Hawkeyes signed rookie deals after April’s NFL Draft and two of those players have a good chance of making their team’s 53-man roster this fall.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa defensive back Matt Hankins gets set before a play during a football game between No. 10 Iowa and No. 9 Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cyclones 27-17.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

Five undrafted Hawkeyes signed rookie deals after the NFL Draft in April. However, just two currently have a realistic chance of making their team’s roster.

Tyler Goodson, who was picked up by the Packers, is a very talented back, but it’s unlikely he cracks Green Bay’s rotation. The Packers have two established runners in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, and General Manager Brian Gutekunst invested a seventh-round pick in Kylin Hill just last year.

Goodson is currently listed fifth on the team’s depth chart, and last season, the Packers kept just three backs on their roster. In other words, Goodson probably won’t make the roster over Hill, who is returning from a torn ACL.

However, Goodson is more than talented enough to find a home elsewhere in the NFL, and he will likely earn a tryout with another team at some point. Expect to see Goodson on a practice squad for 2022, but he could very well end up on an active roster at some point throughout the year.

Kicker Caleb Shudak has reportedly impressed coaches at Titans training camp thus far. However, Tennessee invested in a two-year, $4.68 million contract for Randy Bullock this offseason, so odds are he won’t take the veteran’s roster spot.

Bullock made 26-of-31 field goals last year in his first season as a Titan and didn’t miss a single try inside of 40 yards.

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Safety Jack Koerner was released by the Saints just days after signing his undrafted free agent deal, and the Saints are absolutely stacked with talent on the back end.

He has the skills and intangibles to make another team’s roster, but first, he needs an opportunity to showcase his talents. Koerner will likely end up on a team’s practice squad this season, taking the Jake Gervase route, who bounced around multiple practice squads until finding a home and winning a Superbowl with the L.A. Rams.

The two Hawkeyes with the best chance of cracking their respective team’s roster are edge rusher Zach VanValkenburg and cornerback Matt Hankins.

VanValkenburg signed with the Las Vegas Raiders after the draft and is listed fourth on the team’s depth chart. The Raiders tend to employ a handful of edge rushers each season, so VanValkenburg has a decent shot at not only making the team, but being a secondary contributor alongside Malcolm Koonce behind the trio of Chandler Jones, Maxx Crosby, and Clelin Ferrell.

Hankins signed his rookie deal with the Falcons, who sport one of the worst top-to-bottom rosters in the entire league.

The Falcons are severely lacking talent in their defensive back room, and Hankins provides a high upside option at a low cost. He has a very good chance to make the roster.

Overall, the Hawkeyes have a very good track record of putting undrafted free agents on NFL rosters.

There’s a chance Goodson could outplay Hill and incumbent Patrick Taylor in training camp and earn a roster spot, or the Titans could decide Shudak has more potential than Bullock. However, I believe only two undrafted Hawkeyes currently have a clear path to active rosters this fall.

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