2020 NFL Draft: Iowa QB Nate Stanley saves best for last

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley may not be a day one or two pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he has intriguing skills for the next level.

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley isn’t going to be contending with Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa to be a top 10 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

He may not even be a day two selection, as a matter of fact.

Stanley’s career at Iowa has been a true up-and-down ride with some big, impressive wins and some really disappointing and heartbreaking losses. He never lost to Nebraska, Iowa State, or Minnesota. He engineered one of the most impressive all-around performances for the Hawkeyes in the past three years with a home victory over Ohio State. He never lost a bowl game at Iowa, including the team’s recent blowout win over the USC Trojans in the Holiday Bowl.

And it’s that performance against USC I want to take a look at as it relates to Stanley’s NFL future.

This was the best I’ve ever seen Stanley play, and the most “NFL” I have seen him in his four years with the Hawkeyes.

Stanley was calm, collected, and mostly accurate in this game, completing 18-of-27 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Most impressive, Stanley was excellent on third downs and when he had to go off-script, including on a beautiful touchdown play to wide receiver Brandon Smith where he ran across the line of scrimmage, kept his eyes downfield while getting back behind it, and firing a touchdown on a third-and-goal play.

When USC stormed out of the gates in the second half to cut Iowa’s lead to just four points before recovering a surprise onside kick, Stanley calmly engineered a response drive for the Hawkeyes which featured a beautiful downfield throw to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who also had maybe the game of his life.

This game also featured Stanley’s signature QB sneak, which is the best in all of college football and one of the most effective you’ll ever see. Stanley has averaged nearly four yards per carry on QB sneak specific plays. The Hawkeyes nearly scored on three straight plays from the eight yard line doing just QB sneaks with Stanley against USC.

Stanley’s college experience is obviously huge. There are holes in his game, but his work ethic is not a question and his arm talent is undeniable. He can sling it.

The problem with Stanley has always been erratic accuracy, for whatever the reason. He’s proven himself capable of making throws to every level of the field, it’s just been a matter of doing it consistently.

This game against USC was Stanley’s best in terms translating to the pro game. He was moving great in the pocket, making smart decisions with the ball, and would have had an even higher completion percentage were it not for a couple of bad drops.

His accuracy issues popped up at times, but this game was yet another in Stanley’s file that showed off his NFL potential. If you’re an NFL team needing a backup or developmental type of guy or both, Stanley would be a great fit in this year’s draft class.

Next: AJ Epenesa boosts 2020 NFL Draft stock

He ran a pro-style offense for three-plus years at Iowa, won a lot of big games, and showed he can manage a game well.

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