2020 NFL Draft: Nate Stanley could be a gem for NFL teams

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images /

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley could be a gem in the 2020 NFL Draft, or he could be just another guy. His 2019 season is extremely important.

If you’re a baseball player whose greatest quality is hitting for power, that’s something most teams will invest in. But if all you do is hit 30 home runs a season and strike out most of the rest of the time, you probably aren’t going to play every day.

In fact, you’re probably going to be just a bench player and pinch-hitter most of the time.

What does this have to do with the 2020 NFL Draft? What does it have to do with Iowa Hawkeyes senior quarterback Nate Stanley?

Stanley is sort of like a young baseball prospect with a ton of power. He has talents every NFL team craves at the quarterback position, but he also has weaknesses right now that project him to come off the bench — or worse — as an NFL player.

Stanley has a big arm. He can hit for power. He now has to prove he can hit for a little bit of average.

The narrative hasn’t changed a whole lot for Stanley since he took over as Iowa’s starting quarterback two years ago. He’s always had the size. He’s always been able to operate the Hawkeyes’ pro-style offense, taking snaps from under the center, playing with his back to the defense, reading coverages, and all of that good stuff.

What he hasn’t been able to consistently do is use a full arsenal of weaponry to keep the Hawkeyes’ passing game in consistent rhythm.

Stanley has a cannon, but sometimes you need to pull out the finesse weapons and keep things on schedule rather than show off your arm talent.

In his last 26 games, Stanley has completed better than 60 percent of his passes in just 10 games. He has followed up some of the biggest games of his football career — like his 2017 game against Ohio State (5 TDs, 0 INTs) and his 2018 game against Indiana (6 TDs, 1 INT) — with some of his biggest duds (8-of-24 for 41 yards vs. Wisconsin; 11-of-22 for 86 yards against Maryland).

But it’s hard to argue the best of Stanley is not on par with some of the top quarterback prospects in the country this year.

Some of the throws he makes in this reel leave you wondering what it could be like if Stanley would put things together consistently, and in Iowa’s biggest games.

One very encouraging sign for the 6-foot-4, 243-pound senior out of Menomonie, Wisconsin? He finished the 2018 season — quietly — with some of the strongest and most consistently good play of his college career.

After completing 36.7 percent of his passes with two interceptions in a loss against Penn State, Stanley seemed to turn a corner.

Over his last five games of the 2018 season, he completed 98-of-158 pass attempts (62.03 percent) with 1,088 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. He also added a rushing touchdown in there as Iowa won their final three games of the season.

Those numbers aren’t winning the Heisman, but they’re going to put the Hawkeyes in position to win more often than not.

Perhaps Stanley’s most impressive performance in there came against Mississippi State, a defense littered with NFL players. He completed 67.7 of his passes with three touchdowns and just one pick. He did that without first-round tight end Noah Fant as well.

The positive signs are there for Stanley. As a matter of fact, they are more than positive signs — he looks like he has some elite NFL-caliber traits sometimes, but without any consistency, it’s hard to take Stanley seriously as an NFL prospect.

He should have a long career at least as a backup as a smart player who can run an NFL offense when called upon, but he could be so much more.

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Here’s hoping he puts that consistent level of play together in 2019.