16 James Vandenberg, Quarterback, Senior 6’3″ 212 pounds
James Vandenberg came into Iowa City as one of the most decorated and statistically dominant high school quarterbacks in Iowa high school football history. Unfortunately, it looks like his career as a Hawkeye will end in vast disappointment. Vandenberg looked like a very promising quarterback of the future for the Hawks when replacing Ricky Stanzi in a big road game against Ohio State, flashing his strong arm and poise under pressure. Then, as a junior (first year as a starter), Vandenberg showed he had some stuff, throwing for over 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He looked poised to be one of the top senior quarterbacks in the country, surely one of the best in the Big Ten heading into his senior season. However, Vandenberg has had an historic fall in terms of his NFL Draft stock in 2012. He has not just been poor, but with what we assume to be a clean bill of health, the senior from Keokuk, Iowa has been incredibly terrible this year. He tossed only five touchdown passes in 10 games, completing under 60 percent of his passes and looking at times like he has no clue what is happening around him on the field. He continually locks into receivers prior to the play, has had countless delay of game penalties, and is not showing in-game awareness. It has gotten to the point where some Iowa fans are questioning how long (or short) Kirk Ferentz’s leash is/should be. Vandenberg is one of the most promising QB prospects I’ve ever known to come out in his senior season and not only not show improvement, but to show such a steep decline. Truly a disappointing situation, and probably an undraftable player who will get a look thanks to his strong arm and physical tools.
6 Keenan Davis, Wide Receiver, Senior 6’3″ 215
Keenan Davis is a big receiver with downfield ability, but he has not shown great improvement in his four years at Iowa City. He had a very solid junior season as the number two playmaker behind Marvin McNutt, but if arguably the best WR in Iowa football history (McNutt) isn’t getting drafted until the 6th round, the hope for Davis to get drafted is riding solely on his ability to blow up a Pro Day performance. He has solid length and the ability to win jump ball situations, but he’s not overly quick after the catch and hasn’t shown off his big time speed. Takes too long to get into second and third gear, and isn’t overly physical for his size. Has the ability to return kicks/punts. I think Davis has interesting physical tools and is certainly worth a look at an NFL training camp.
18 Micah Hyde, Cornerback, Senior 6’1″ 190 pounds
Hyde should be one of the best senior cornerbacks in the draft this year. He is one guy that I had doubts about very early in his career, but he has shown incredible improvements since he first started seeing significant action as a sophomore. By the time he was a junior, Hyde had emerged as arguably the top playmaker in the Hawkeyes’ secondary. As a senior, nothing has changed. Though Hyde has had an issue off the field, I think he is one of the better overall prospects at his position in the draft. NFL teams will value this kind of player very highly because of his size, athletic ability, and the ability he has to contribute on special teams. He is a great gunner on kick and punt coverage, he tackles well, and he is always around the ball. Hyde has great instincts and knows how to get his hands on the ball. He can return kicks or punts, and should be able to contribute as a special teams ace early on in his career. His consistent production and combination of size and toughness remind me a lot of Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears. I think he is worth a top 100 selection and I’ll be surprised if he’s not gone by the end of the fourth round.
31 Anthony Hitchens, Linebacker, Junior 6’1″ 225 pounds
Hitchens came to Iowa as a three-star defensive back prospect by many outlets, but he’s added nearly 25 pounds of bulk since he came to Iowa City and has turned into the team’s best tackler. Hitchens flies all over the field, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and shutting run plays down with his quickness. He is the ideal weakside linebacker for a Tampa 2 defense because of his ability to cover the pass and pick up backs out of the backfield. I would love to see Iowa use him more in blitzing situations, but I think Hitchens has the potential to be a Wesley Woodyard type of player, slightly undersized defensive back hybrid linebacker who can fly all over the field and make plays.
44 James Morris, Linebacker, Junior 6’2″ 230 pounds
Morris is a blue-collar, hard-nosed, tough-as-nails inside linebacker prospect who has the look of a future NFL starter, and a reliable one at that. He is rangy and has great leadership skills, and though he came into the Hawkeye football program as a 215 pound pup, he has emerged as one of the team’s top tacklers and grown into a 230 pound beast. Morris is a tackling machine who is always flying to the ball, and he’s been productive ever since his freshman season. He had 70 tackles as a freshman, 109 tackles as a sophomore, and as a junior, he’s looking to break the 100 tackle mark yet again with 96 through 10 games. The former running back is a little tight in the hips in coverage, and he’s not an elite athlete like the other LBs on Iowa’s roster, but he’s going to make tackles and make plays for your defense, and he’s a guy you’ll want to have on your team, undoubtedly.
20 Christian Kirksey, Linebacker, Junior 6’2″ 220 pounds
Kirksey may be the best linebacker prospect of Iowa’s stellar group. He doesn’t lead the crew in tackles, but he is definitely one of the most exciting defensive playmakers in the Big Ten. He has great athletic ability and is still growing into his frame. As a sophomore, Kirksey finished with 110 tackles and five tackles for loss, along with an interception, three passes broken up, and two forced fumbles. He has followed that up with a stellar junior season where he has 76 tackles, two pick-sixes, and 2.5 tackles for loss. He is excellent in coverage and his closing speed is second to none. He is a good wrap-up tackler and I think he can add a little more bulk and be one of the best OLBs in his class.
99 Joe Gaglione, Defensive Lineman, Senior 6’4″ 264 pounds
Gaglione has a limited body of work, but he is a big, physical defensive end who has done a great job of finding ways to make plays in his senior season. As evidence of his hard work, he leads the team with nine tackles for loss and has added five sacks in 2012. Worked his butt off to become a starter as a senior, and that hard work has really paid off. I’m not sure where Gaglione’s draft stock stands among NFL scouts, but they will definitely take note of the fact that he has sort of emerged as Iowa’s top defensive lineman in 2012. Seems like he could be a fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.
53 James Ferentz, Center, Senior 6’2″ 286 pounds
Ferentz is going to come out of Iowa as a very well-coached, fundamentally sound but not flashy offensive line prospect. I think he has the potential to be a top backup or a decent starter in the NFL if he’s given time to develop properly, and he has great football bloodlines. Obviously he is the son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and he’s been a starter for the Hawkeyes since his sophomore season in 2010. Iowa consistently churns out solid NFL offensive line prospects, and Ferentz should be drafted come April.