Iowa City, Iowa – Before the first pick in the draft rolled off in Philadelphia, many thought the talented Iowa seniors would hear their name called early. All but one fell past the first two days.
Desmond King held a draft party Thursday night with hopes of being selected in the first round. Many others pictured him as a mid to late second round pick. King a former Thorpe Award winner for the nation’s best cornerback returned to school to improve his draft stock.
Tight end George Kittle caught the eyes of scouts with his combine performance, particularly in the 40-yard dash. He climbed into some expert’s top-five tight ends list. Those lists include three who were selected in the first round.
Both defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and quarterback CJ Beathard, the only Friday selection, played in the Senior Bowl as an extra opportunity to show their talent. Neither attracted as much hype as the others but still showed potential to get early selection.
The local excitement around the draft built the expectation that Iowa players would go very high. Possibly higher than deserved. Now that the draft has come and gone, those watching got a clear explanation of how the team evaluated the former Hawkeyes.
CJ Beathard, QB, 49ers (Round 3)
Beathard, the highest Hawkeye selection, joins the San Francisco 49ers after they called his name late in the third round. Beathard threw for 17 touchdowns each of the last two years.
He joins a roster that is home to veteran Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Having those two leading him on the depth chart creates completely different scenarios.
Option one, Beathard ends up sitting behind and learning from two other quarterbacks. Despite neither having a huge amount of success, they have more experience than Beathard. This leaves him as either a potential starter after learning in a few years or as a career backup.
Option two, he finds himself starting as a rookie. The 49ers 2-14 record a year ago presents endless opportunities for a young quarterback. Any of the third could end up under center when the 49ers play Carolina week one.
Jaleel Johnson, DT, Vikings (Round 4)
Johnson came off the board quickly as Saturday began when the Minnesota Vikings grabbed him with the 109th pick. He won’t be playing far from Iowa City.
Johnson will fit well into the defense in Minnesota especially since defensive line is one of their biggest needs. They have a good amount of players at the position but none have been extremely impressive.
He leaves Iowa as one of many notable defensive linemen over the years including recent player Adrian Clayborn. Johnson has starter talent and could see action as soon as next season in Minnesota.
Desmond King, DB, Chargers (Round 5)
At the completion of his junior season, King was a lock in the first round. He chose to come back for another year at Iowa.
His explanation for returning revolved around the scout’s interest in him developing his speed. King used the opportunity to graduate from Iowa and continue to develop his overall game.
The change was he dropped from a first round selection, as late as the college seasons final week, to a fifth round selection by the Los Angeles Chargers. King was the 151 overall selection.
Whether or not King will fit into the Chargers secondary remains to be seem. What King does have is versatility. In the NFL, he will be able to shift freely between corner and safety.
His ability to impact the game as a hard hitting safety makes King a valuable pickup. He also plays well in coverage, intercepting eight passes his junior season.
King slipped on draft boards leading up to the draft but falling into the fifth round came as a shock for many.
George Kittle, TE, 49ers (Round 5)
George Kittle will join Iowa teammate CJ Beathard as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
Kittle, who could’ve gone as high as the third round, found his name picked slightly before King at 146. He climbed many teams draft boards after he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the Combine.
It may be too soon for comparisons but Kittle has potential similar to former Hawkeye Dallas Clark. Kittle is slightly taller but possesses similar on field skills to be a receiving tight end that can block when asked.
Kittle showed up less this past season with the Hawkeyes due to injury but the previous year spoke prominently for him.
Four notable Hawkeye players went undrafted. Offensive lineman Cole Croston, running back LeShun Daniels, defensive back Greg Mabin, and punter Ron Coluzzi. None were expected to be drafted but all are looking to continue their football careers.
Croston, as an Iowa offensive lineman, led the group as the most likely to hear his name called Saturday.