Iowa Hawkeyes Top NFL Prospects for 2012 and Beyond


The Iowa Hawkeyes capped off one of the more disappointing seasons in recent team history with a spectacular victory over Blaine Gabbert and Missouri in the Insight Bowl, and sent six players to the 2011 NFL Draft (Clayborn, Stanzi, Ballard, Sash, Vandervelde, Klug).

Now, the Hawkeyes are priming for a season where they lose more  than 11 starters or key contributors, and still, they are expected to churn out even more NFL talent. In fact, this Hawkeyes team has had 18 players from the same four year window already drafted to the NFL, which is only three shy of a school record.

Marvin McNutt (RS Senior), WR, 6’4″ 215

McNutt is a former quarterback who has really come into his own as one of the Hawkeyes’ top receiving threats, and has emerged as one of the better up-and-coming receivers in the nation. McNutt will drop some passes, but he understands how to read coverages and run routes. He is not the fastest receiver, but he is smart and is usually sure-handed, but like I said, he will sometimes drop some easy ones. As a former quarterback, he is one of the more instinctive players on the field, and he’s growing into his own as a playmaker. Over the last two seasons, he leads the Hawkeyes with 16 receiving touchdowns, and could break his single season record of 8 this season as the primary target.

Brad Herman (Sr.), Tight End, 6’5″ 255

Iowa continues to produce NFL tight ends like clockwork. Kirk Ferentz loves to go with veteran players at the tight end position, and while Herman could lose some playing time to top recruits like C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ray Hamilton, he could also do what Allen Reisner did and establish himself as the top tight end on this team. He obviously has the requisite size, but he’s not fast. He has solid hands but could improve in that area as well. Relatively inexperienced, but with only 9 catches last year averaged over 17 yards per catch.

Riley Reiff (RS Junior), Offensive Tackle, 6’6″ 300

Perhaps even more so than the tight end position, the University of Iowa is an absolute offensive lineman factory. Kirk Ferentz is a former NFL offensive line coach, and the Hawkeyes have one of the best strength and conditioning programs in all the land. Riley Reiff was a 250 pound defensive end when he came to Iowa, and with one year of strength, conditioning, and a change in diet, the Hawkeyes got him up to 300 pounds and in two years have developed him into a first round offensive tackle. Reiff will likely be an All Big Ten performer in 2011 and if he stays healthy, could be a top 15 pick in the draft. A great athlete with a blue-collar style of play, and a name to keep an eye on.

Mike Daniels (Senior), Defensive Tackle, 6’1″ 280

Mike Daniels came out of nowhere last season to lead a star-studded Iowa defensive line (three NFL draft picks) in tackles for loss. Perhaps it was the company he was in that helped him along the way, or perhaps he has some skill of his own. My bet is on the latter, and Daniels could really break out in 2011 as a playmaker on the Iowa defensive line. He is a quick twitch lineman who plays with a low center of gravity and has a nose for the ball carrier. His performance will be huge this season for the Hawkeyes.

Tyler Nielsen (RS Senior), Linebacker, 6’4″ 235

Big linebacker prospect who was having a very solid run last season before he went down with an injury. Obviously, injuries will be a concern for him going forward, but if he has a big season he has the size and athletic upside to be a fifth round pick or better in the NFL, not unlike former Iowa linebacker AJ Edds who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. Nielsen really needs to emerge this season as one of the leaders of a suddenly young Iowa defensive unit.

Shaun Prater (Senior), Cornerback, 5’11” 180

Prater could stand to add a little bit of weight, but he is the prototypical Tampa 2 cornerback. He has ideal speed and athletic ability, and can make plays on the back end. He is a solid tackler and will have three years of starting going into the NFL next year, and he was one of the Iowa players who dabbled in leaving early for the draft. In my opinion it would have been foolish of him to leave early for the NFL, and 2011 will be a huge season for Prater. He needs to really step up his game and turn it on this offseason to get himself ready for the NFL.

Broderick Binns (Senior), Defensive End, 6’2″ 261

Binns has been a very valuable reserve for the Iowa defensive line over the last few years, and now he’s ready to break out as a starter. Binns is a pass rusher through and through. He knows how to get to the quarterback, and made one of the biggest plays of the year for Iowa last year against Arizona–an interception returned for a touchdown that tied the game, only to be ruined by a missed extra point that would have given Iowa the lead. Binns is a little undersized for defensive end, but he could really make an impact this year after spending the last three years behind one of the most talented lines in team history and waiting patiently for his time to shine.

LeBron Daniel (Senior), Defensive End, 6’2″ 250

Another slightly undersized defensive end prospect who is in the same boat as the aforementioned Binns. Daniel has been a rotational player for the last three years, and will now have his time to shine as a starter. Daniel has the athletic ability to play at the next level, but he will really have to show his quickness and ability to get to the quarterback this year. Iowa’ defensive line is its source of pass rush, so he will need to be on top of his game.