NFL Draft Guide for the Hawkeyes 2018 Class

Story by Matthew Kinney

The 2018 draft class is a loaded one for the Iowa Hawkeyes, with a diverse group of skill players and position staples that Ferentz is knowing for producing at offensive lineman and cornerback. The class is projected to be the Hawkeyes’ first draft with two first-round picks since 1997, when cornerback Tom Knight was drafted with the 9th overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals and offensive tackle Ross Verba was selected 30th overall to the Green Bay Packers. Here’s a look at the Hawkeyes’ 2018 draft class and how the current draft class compares to former Hawkeyes in the NFL.

Round 1-2

Josh Jackson, CB, Junior:

Jackson is projected to go in the mid-to-late first round, and is sure to make an instant impact on the field, regardless of the team that chooses him. A popular destination for Jackson is the Seattle Seahawks, who have a major deficiency at cornerback after losing Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, and Jeremy Lane. Green Bay also needs help in the secondary, and it’s well known the Packers love to draft Hawkeye players. Jackson would give them an immediate playmaker that can shut down an entire side of the field.

Lockdown cornerbacks never lose their value in the NFL, and Jackson fits the bill. His ballhawk skills were well documented in his one year starting for the Hawkeyes, as he led the nation with 8 interceptions and 26 passes defended. Jackson was a bit of a one-year wonder, and had a standout junior season similar to fellow Hawkeye Desmond King. Jackson should have won the Thorpe Award, which would have given the Hawkeyes the last two winners of the award, but he was snubbed. Nonetheless, Jackson proved to be electric in his one season starting, with his greatest performance coming in the 55-24 rout of Ohio State, where he recorded three interceptions.

The biggest knock on Jackson is that his combine numbers weren’t eye-popping and he hasn’t had much starting experience, but none of this will matter when he gets to the NFL; great players do great things on the field, regardless of 40-yard dash time. Phil Parker is tremendous at developing defensive backs, and has shown he can consistently groom his players into top-tier NFL talent. Jackson will be following in the footsteps of fellow Hawkeye greats Micah Hyde, Shaun Prater, Bradley Fletcher and Bob Sanders. However, none of these prospects were graded nearly as high as Jackson, nor predicted to make an impact like he is. The closest former Hawkeye comparison to Jackson is Micah Hyde. With virtually the same height and weight at 6 foot and 197 pounds, along with the lockdown coverage and the ability to turn a game on its head with one play, Jackson should follow in Hyde’s footsteps and become a perennial quality starter at an all-pro level.

James Daniels, C, Junior:

Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes have become synonymous with producing outstanding offensive linemen at the next level. Daniels will follow in the footsteps of fellow first rounders Brandon Scherff, Riley Reiff, Bryan Bulaga and Robert Gallery. Daniels is widely regarded as the best center in the entire draft class, and should be taken in the late first round. Daniels became a rare true freshman starter on the offensive line for Ferentz in 2015 and improved every year, starting 12 games in 2017 and garnering honorable mention all-conference honors.

With great quickness and movement for a center, Daniels will be an immediate starter in the league. NFL teams go crazy for Ferentz-coached linemen, and rightfully so. They’re disciplined, well-coached, and optimized for great performance at the next level. At 6’3, 306 pounds, Daniels still has to add some mass to his frame, but that should be no problem once he gets in the weight room. Most mock drafts have Daniels going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 21st pick; the Bengals have a huge need for a solid center, and Daniels would be an immediate impact starter. One NFC team college scouting director went as far as to say that Daniels “would come in and immediately challenge for best center in our division right away”.

Daniels would be the third center drafted under Ferentz, joining Austin Blyth and Bruce Nelson. Jackson and Daniels should comprise the first Hawkeye draft class with two first-rounders since 1997, and the first under coach Ferentz.

The BTN released the following tweet on Daniels yesterday:

Rounds 4-7

Josey Jewell, LB, Senior:

Coming out of high school in Decorah, Iowa, Josey Jewell wasn’t heavily recruited; he was too slow, not big enough. None of that mattered. Josey Jewell finished his career at Iowa with one of the most impressive seasons in Hawkeye history. Named a first team all-American and earning all-Big Ten first team honors, Jewell solidified his place in Hawkeye history as one of the greatest linebackers to ever don the black and gold. Jewell was the most important player on the defensive side of the ball, acting as the heart and soul of the defense and consistently having big-time performances. Jewell will be the first Hawkeye linebacker drafted since A.J. Edds in 2010.

With a relatively poor performance at the NFL combine, Jewell has fallen off the radar of a lot of NFL scouts; as we saw with Desmond King last year. However, combine numbers don’t mean everything. Jewell didn’t fare very well in the 40-yard dash and doesn’t have optimal NFL size, but has incredible instincts, is disciplined, and can make tackles in the open field. Whoever picks Jewell will be getting a steal, and while he might not be an immediate starter, I think he will develop into a quality NFL player. Much like Chad Greenway, Jewell came largely unrecruited out of a small-town high school and didn’t have the eye-popping combine numbers many hoped for; yet like Greenway, Jewell is a natural leader. I think that Jewell will develop into a Greenway-like force on the defensive side of the ball, being an anchor and leader who racks up tackles. All you have to do is watch tape on Jewell and it’s easy to see how much of an impact player he is. 

Here’s an interesting tweet/article from Adam Kurkjian with The Boston Herald:


Akrum Wadley, RB, Senior:

One of the most electric players in Iowa football history, Wadley flourished as a Hawkeye running back. No other running back under Ferentz has had the agility, pure athletic ability or shiftiness that Wadley possesses. The last Iowa running back to be drafted was Shonn Greene in 2009, but I expect Wadley to have an even greater impact than Greene did at the next level. Shifty running backs that create space for themselves and gain extra yardage are a hot commodity in the NFL, look at Kareem Hunt for the Chiefs in this previous season. Wadley had fumble issues early in his career, but the Hawks simply couldn’t afford to keep him off the field due to his homerun potential and ability to make huge plays out of nothing. While Wadley doesn’t have prototypical size for an every-down back at the next level, his innate athletic ability and versatility is enough to make him a solid pick. Scouts are worried about his durability and small frame, but I believe if Wadley is utilized correctly he will have the opportunity to make an impact.

Wadley never saw much action in the return game at Iowa, but I think he would flourish in a role returning punts/kicks and provide a spark to any teams return game. If he can improve his pass-catching ability, Wadley will be a great option as a third-down back. Wadley’s athletic ability and plethora of jukes and cuts are something that can’t be taught, and I think if given the opportunity, he’s going to grow into a great contributor capable of changing a game in one play.

Sean Welsh, G, Junior:

Sean Welsh has been a staple of the Iowa offensive line since he was a freshman. Welsh finished his career with second team all-Big Ten honors, and will likely be chosen in round 6 or 7. As is said about every Iowa offensive linemen, Welsh has great fundamentals and can be shifted from center to guard, giving him some versatility with whoever drafts him. Welsh’s size is a bit of a concern, with many seeing him as unfit to play guard in the NFL, he will probably be moved to center. Welsh could be the first guard from Iowa drafted since Adam Gettis in 2012. Welsh has been compared to, and has virtually the same height/weight, as former Iowa center Austin Blythe. Time will tell if Welsh can find a consistent spot on an NFL roster, but he should round out an outstanding draft for the Hawkeyes.

Under the Radar

Matt Vandeberg, WR, Senior:

Vandeberg had a tough senior year coming off of an ankle injury, but was still a sure-handed option for the Hawks. Vandeberg was an integral part of the 2015 Rose Bowl team, and was instrumental in going 12-2. While he’s projected to go undrafted, I think he will find a spot on a roster. He is a reliable option on punt/kick returns and could find himself in a Riley McCarron-type role as a slot receiver. Iowa players are known for their toughness and discipline, and I think there may be a few teams willing to take a chance on Vandeberg.

James Butler, RB, Senior:

Butler was another fantastic player marred by injuries his senior year. Butler was the thunder to Wadley’s lightning, and he was a reliable every-down back before his elbow injury. With a combination of power and speed, Butler was a star at Nevada before transferring to Iowa for his senior year. Butler makes defenders miss, breaks tackles with ease, and has great elusiveness. He has also proven to be a capable pass-catcher, and when he gets in open space he gains yards after contact. Butler has the whole package, and while he’s only 5’9, he has a skillset and attitude that could very well land him a spot on an NFL roster.

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