Roberts: NFL doesn't respect Iowa wideouts

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Conspiracy theories don't do a whole lot for me. Tupac doesn't live in Cuba; the government had nothing to do with 9/11; the Cubs would suck with or without Billy Sianis' goat.

But the weekend's NFL draft raised a question that won't quite go away.

Does the NFL really disrespect Iowa wide receivers, or does it just feel that way?

Marvin McNutt sat waiting for his name to be called. He waited. He waited some more.

He watched 25 other wide receivers get picked before him.

He watched three kickers and a punter find professional homes before him.

He watched Miami, where former Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe now coaches wide receivers, choose a pass-catcher from the Big Ten. It wasn't him.

Philadelphia finally snagged him in the sixth round with the 194th overall pick, but the seed had long been planted.

What gives?

We're talking about the best wide receiver in Iowa history. McNutt owns four school records outright, and he is tied for tops in another. All of his 2,861 yards and 28 touchdowns came after the St. Louis native spent his first year and a half in Iowa City as a quarterback.

McNutt was named the Big Ten's Receiver of the Year and first-team all-conference in 2011; his 1,315 yards last season were the seventh-most in league history. He accounted for more touchdowns than any other receiver in the conference.

But he had to watch six other Big Ten wideouts get drafted before he heard his name called.

You can't look me in the eye and honestly expect me to believe McNutt was the 26th-best receiver available, much less the sixth-best in the Big Ten.

You can't possibly tell me three kickers and a punter can be expected to make more of an impact than Mr. McClutch, when — in the overwhelming majority of cases — specialists usually aren't selected until the seventh round (if they're drafted at all).

You can't tell me it isn't strange that the Dolphins — who desperately needed a wideout after finishing 23rd in the league in passing and hired a longtime Iowan to coach the receivers this off-season — passed on McNutt's record-breaking numbers in favor of B.J. Cunningham.

This isn't new, either. Kirk Ferentz became Iowa's head coach before the 1999 season, and since then, the NFL has drafted 13 Iowa offensive linemen, 11 defensive backs, 10 defensive linemen, and seven tight ends.

Wide receivers? Three. None of them (McNutt, Kevin Kasper, and Kahlil Hill) went before the sixth round.

The NFL holds clearly holds Ferentz in high regard; he coached under Bill Belichick, his name crops up whenever a coaching vacancy appears, and you can't argue with the 53 Hawkeyes drafted during his tenure.

But while Mel Kiper called him an "offensive-line guru"after Riley Reiff was picked in the first round on April 26, Ferentz has had an incredible amount of trouble hearing his receivers' names called in New York.

McNutt wasn't the best receiver in the draft (that would be Justin Blackmon), and because he was widely expected to be taken in the fifth round, a slide down to the sixth isn't that big a deal.

But the manner in which he slid should raise some eyebrows. He wasn't the best receiver, but he sure as hell wasn't the 26th-best, either.

McNutt didn't have character concerns like Alfonzo Dennard (punched a cop) or even Reiff (ran naked through Pita Pit). He was a polite, hardworking player who just happens to be the best receiver Iowa ever had.

I hope McNutt gets his fair shake in Philly. His stats alone say he deserves a chance.

But the NFL isn't fair.

Follow DI Sports Editor Seth Roberts on Twitter.

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