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Tracking Iowa Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

Phil HarrisonCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

Tracking Iowa Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    We are on the doorstep of the 2012 version of the NFL draft. It's so close that we're ringing the doorbell, taking the shoes off and getting ready to snuggle up on the couch with meat products and fermented beverages.

    While the festivities of draft day are a hoot for NFL fans and hecklers of Roger Goodell, it's also another opportunity to root for your favorite college team to make a splash by ratcheting up the NFL football factory—and to garner some bragging rights.

    Like other programs, Iowa has a few good men looking to go from hobby to the launching of a career via millions of adoring fans—and plenty of coin.

    And while the Hawkeyes aren't forecast to have guys taken at the very top of the draft board, they are projected to have the first Big Ten player taken somewhere in the middle of the first round when offensive lineman Riley Reiff looks to be selected

    But that's not all.

    In addition to Reiff, the "beak" is also looking to see a potential of at least six others who wore the black and gold get selected during the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. There's defensive tackle Mike Daniels, a couple more offensive linemen in Adam Gettis and Markus Zusevics, and wide receiver Marvin McNutt and friends. In fact, if the projections are accurate, Iowa is expected to do better than any other Big Ten Team this year.

    In addition to some biased rooting interests, there will undoubtedly be no shortage of twisted plot lines and stories to follow throughout the seven rounds of supremely good theater as the nation's best college football players walk the stage in New York.

    That's right. That means it's time to put the kids to bed, bribe the wife and lock yourself and some buddies up in the man-bunker for three days because it's about to get interesting.

    We'll be covering every player drafted from Iowa real time, so keep the laptop and smartphones handy as everything unfolds beginning at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, through the final selection made on Saturday.

    Who's comin' with me?

     

    You can follow Phil Harrison on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Riley Reiff, OT, Drafted by the Detroit Lions, No. 23 Overall

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes have been known to produce NFL quality offensive linemen in bunches lately, and offensive tackle Riley Reiff continues that trend this year. Reiff is 6'6" 313 pounds, but light on his feet. He plays with a mean streak and a stunning punch, but there are concerns about his ability to translate to left tackle in the pros, like former teammate Bryan Bulaga, who is currently starting at right tackle after he was drafted 23rd by the Green Bay Packers in 2010.

    Expert opinions on Reiff focus on the question of where he will fit in the NFL.

    Mike Mayock, NFL Network:

    “ I feel much more comfortable taking him somewhere in the 20s. I think he’s a good player who’s a right tackle to start with, and ultimately, 2-3 years down the road, could develop into a left tackle. But I don’t see him as a guy you could plug in at left tackle Day 1 and say, ‘We’re good.’”

    Mel Kiper, ESPN:

    “You like Iowa offensive linemen, No. 1. (Iowa head coach) Kirk Ferentz really helps those guys coming in. Kirk has the ability to coach up offensive lineman. That’s his specialty. This is a guy that gets after you. He has a rugged approach. He’s really serious about his business. … He works on his game and practices hard. Arm length is an issue at left tackle. He doesn’t have the longest arms of the left tackles in this draft. That’s a concern at the left tackle spot.”

     Yahoo! Sports Doug Farrar:

    Despite Reiff's obvious limitations, I don't see him as an automatic switch to right tackle in the NFL. In power-blocking schemes like those run by the Tennessee TitansAtlanta Falcons, and Miami Dolphins, he's got enough fundamental correctness to make it work. For a team passing 50 times per game, however, his inability to pass-block at the highest level with any degree of consistency will limit him. Moreover, I'm not sure how much higher his ceiling is -- Reiff has managed to find ways to get around his physical flaws (arm length; lack of optimal quickness in space) through canniness and coaching, but it's tough to know how much untapped talent remains.

    No matter where he is lined up, Reiff is going to give his all and make an instant impact. He can be an impact right tackle right away and a "learn on the job" left tackle for a team with a hole at the position. He will probably have a bigger impact on the running game than the passing game at first, and may need help when matched up with speed rushers. Still, Reiff is one of the safest first-round picks and a likely 10-year starter in the NFL.


Mike Daniels, DT, Drafted by the Green Bay Packers, 4th Round (132nd Overall)

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    Iowa Hawkeye Mike Daniels is but one of a strong defensive tackle class in this 2012 NFL Draft. The presence of seven or eight DTs in this year’s top 50 athletes overall (depending on who is doing the list) is a beautiful thing if your team needs interior line strength.

    Not so much if you are the 18th-ranked defensive tackle, according to Lindy’s Sports Pro Football Draft. NFLDraftscout.com listed Daniels as the 26th DT in 2012.

    At 6’0" 291 lbs., Daniels projects well into the 4-3, although he did interview with a few 3-4 teams in February. 

    Strengths

    Daniels is an experienced senior starter who played in 21 games in his last two years at Iowa, including all 13 games in 2011. He ranked 24th nationwide in quarterback sacks last season.

    As a captain, he led his team in tackles and sacks, was named on several All-Big Ten honors lists and was elected to the Hawkeyes 2011 Leadership Group. And he did all of this with two sprained ankles and a torn labrum.

    He’s fast at the snap, plays with the proverbial “high motor” and is stronger than he looks when it comes to getting away from blockers.

    Highlights

    His quickness and explosiongive him a literal “jump” on the offense. He prides himself on being a quick learner and a hard worker. He plays smart to compensate for his challenges in the height department.

    CBS Sports is a believer:

    There is a lot to love about his first step burst and explosion. He was the spark plug of the defense at Iowa and was productive against both the pass and run...he has active hands to slip blocks…and nimble footwork with smooth body control…love his effort and determination.

     

    Weaknesses

    The senior year injuries and offseason shoulder surgery are a concern, although it speaks to tremendous mental and physical toughness that he played through it all.

    His performance at the end of last year coming back from injury was impressive. Interviewed at the combine, Daniels said, “Those last few games [showed] that I’ve come along with my healing process and definitely [played] how I should have been playing all season.”

    At 6 feet, he is small for today’s D-line, but he uses quickness to work his way inside past blockers. Multiple scouts have expressed concern over his size.

    At the Combine talking doctors

    Potential Rookie Impact

    Mike Daniels is hardworking, smart and and has extremely high-character, according to all sources. A “quarterback-driven league” has, perhaps unintentionally, resulted in a new kind of defensive line that is built to rush, while still being quick enough to react to the run. And that philosophy is dependent upon keeping these sack machines fresh.

    So, today’s D-line is a rotating monster requiring at least six big, fast and strong men. Mike Daniels will see the field in 2012, where he’ll have a shot at proving you can make it as a DT even at 6 feet. His leadership and character will keep him on the team if he can make it past the initial shock of NFL cold water.

Adam Gettis, OG, Drafted by the Washington Redskins, 5th Round (141st Overall)

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    Adam Gettis has been selected by the Washington Redskins in the fifth round to fill a need on the offensive line. More information will be forthcoming...

Shaun Prater, CB, Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, 5th Round (156th Overall)

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    Cornerback Shaun Prater is a fiery, athletic three-year starter out of Iowa with two interceptions returned for a touchdown in his career. He was a good player against some strong talent throughout his college career.

    His stock dropped with a poor finish to his senior year, including the Insight Bowl against some of Oklahoma's NFL-caliber talent. But the 5'10", 192-pound Prater has the quickness and mental makeup to play early at the next level.

    Prater declined to do anything other than bench press at the combine due to minor knee and hamstring injuries. He did 14 reps at 190 pounds, which is pretty solid for a CB.

    Pro Day reports were mixed. According to SI's Tony Pauline, Prater posted 40-yard dash times as fast as 4.39 seconds, and also timed 4.19 seconds in the short shuttle. However, others reported he ran 4.48 and 4.49 40s, and a 4.29 short shuttle.

    In the East-West Shrine Game, Prater had a very strong showing, looking sharp during the week of practice and causing scouts to take notice.

    A plus tackler and a willing learner, Prater plays with high energy and is very aggressive attacking receiver blocks.

    Has very quick feet and accelerates very quickly. Flashes ability to create turnovers.

    "Prater has good awareness for a zone scheme," says Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
                                                              
    And NFL draft expert Mike Mayock states, "[Prater] is a third- or a fourth-round guy who can play nickel and play phenomenally on special teams."

    However, he can get overmatched by bigger, more physical wideouts (for reference,Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is the same height, but 15 pounds heavier).

    Will get complacent with his technique in Iowa’s Cover 2 base. Let too many WRs have outside releases on Cover 2, and gave up some big completions because of it. Consequently, probably best suited as a slot CB on the inside early in his career.

    In man, Prater is competent but can struggle at timesHe has the hips and footwork to mirror his man downfield, and the recognition to make a play on the ball once it's thrown. He has good flexibility, and it shows when he is maneuvering at the top of routes to stay in close to his man.

     But while he has straight-line speed to stay with his assignments, he will look lost at times when having to look back to the quarterback. Most of Prater's issues in man can be handled with coaching.

    CBSSports.com draft profile:

    Receivers can arm-bar downfield to create separation. He's too often caught peeking in the backfield and gives ground on double moves. Fails to maintain inside technique in man coverage. Not a press corner. Doesn't high-point the ball.

    Prater can make an immediate impact as a nickelback or slot cornerback. His lack of size will limit his long-term potential to grow into an outside corner against elite receivers.

Marvin McNutt, WR, Drafted by Philadelphia, 6th Round (194th Overall)

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    Former Hawkeye Marvin McNutt is 6'4", 215-pound wide receiver who holds the Iowa school records for receiving yards in a season (1,315) and career (2,861). He's also top in single season (12) and career touchdown receptions (28). In 2011, he was named the Richter-Howard Wide Receiver of the Year in the Big Ten.

    Combine Results: 40-Yard dash: 4.54. Vertical Jump: 37 inches. 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.07. No bench press.

    McNutt offers great size at WR and is an ideal target coming across the middle. He has shown that he has great hands, and with his 37-inch vertical, he has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point.

    Now, McNutt has average speed at best, as he ran a 4.54 in the 40. Because of this, McNutt does not necessarily project as a true No. 1 receiving option in the NFL. He does not possess the same athleticism that elite receivers with similar size (e.g. Calvin Johnson) have shown throughout their careers.

    ESPN.com's draft insiders have said this about McNutt:

    Not a burner that will run by you, but sets up defenders and has enough top end speed to occasionally get behind coverage. Tracks the deep ball well and can adjust to win one-on-one battles. Makes a quick transition up the field after the catch. Sneaky run-after-catch ability, not overly elusive but is shifty enough in the open field to make defenders miss without breaking stride. 

    McNutt has the potential years down the road to have NFL GMs scratching their heads and asking why they did not take a chance on him earlier in the draft.

Jordan Bernstine, CB, Drafted by the Redskins, 7th Round (217th Overall)

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    The Washington Redskins have selected CB Jordan Bernstine in the seventh round to fill a need in the secondary. More information to follow..

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