Commentary: Projecting next year's NFL-bound Hawkeyes

BY DI STAFF | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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With a school-record-tying six players selected last weekend at the NFL draft, Iowa has now produced 45 picks under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Next year could be the third straight in which at least six Hawkeyes are selected. Who are the top potential candidates?

Riley Reiff, offensive tackle (redshirt junior)

After redshirting as a true freshman, Reiff has started in 24 of Iowa's last 26 games. The 6-6, 300-pounder would have been picked had he chose to declare early and enter this year's draft, but the decision to stay for at least one more year was probably a wise one.

Reiff is a man of few words with reporters but comes off as a driven individual who is only focused on getting better. Assuming he can stay healthy and has another solid season at left tackle, he's a sure-fire first-rounder — that is, of course, if he chooses to forego his senior season. It worked out well for Bryan Bulaga last year.

Way-too-soon projection: Top-15 pick

Shaun Prater, cornerback

Prater submitted paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board last December as a junior — which allows a potential prospect to get a general idea of where they may be picked if they choose to enter the draft. The Omaha native elected to return, and like Reiff, it appears he made the correct decision. Last week, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. listed Prater as the third-best corner in the 2012 class.

As a proven stopper — he had four interceptions last season and was named first team All-Big Ten — Prater may not see as many passes thrown his way in 2011 (see: Amari Spievey in 2009, now with the Detroit Lions). Still, if Prater's as reliable as he has been, he could be a second-rounder.

Way-too-soon projection: Early to middle second round

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Mike Daniels, defensive tackle

Kiper also listed Daniels as the third-best player at his position for 2012. He might be undersized for the NFL — 6-1, 275 pounds — but Karl Klug was thought to be, too. The Tennessee Titans swooped him up with a fifth-round pick on April 30, so why can't Daniels make it, too?

Plus, Daniels might be faster and was more disruptive as a junior than Klug was. Offensive lines will key on Daniels in 2011, so how he responds will be crucial. Here's guessing he does just fine.

Way-too-soon projection: Second to third round

Marvin McNutt, wide receiver

The St. Louis native flourished last year in his second full season as a receiver, catching 53 passes for 861 yards and eight touchdowns. He now figures to be option No. 1 (and maybe No. 2) in the Iowa passing game, so he should produce even better numbers.

Standing at 6-4 and about 220 pounds, he has prototypical NFL size, and scouts should like the fact that he used to play quarterback.

Way-too-soon projection: Third round

Tyler Nielsen, linebacker

The 6-4, 235-pounder may already physically be ready for the NFL. Add in one more season of experience, and the Humboldt native should become a professional. Nielsen looked good in eight starts in 2010 before a neck injury cut his season short, but it's not a big enough body of work to put him any higher than the fifth round. His combination of athleticism and size is intriguing.

Way-too-soon projection: Fifth to sixth round

Brad Herman, tight end

With Allen Reisner not being selected last weekend, Iowa ended its streak of seeing every starting tight end of the Ferentz era drafted. Reisner should still end up in an NFL camp once the lockout is sorted out, and Brad Herman could start a new streak. Herman enters his senior season with only 10 career catches, but he will likely be this year's starter.

If he is a consistent playmaker in 2011 and his blocking continues to improve, Herman should be selected late.

Way-too-soon projection: Seventh round

Honorable Mention: Broderick Binns (defensive end), Marcus Zusevics (offensive tackle)

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