By Blake Dowson
Fresh off a Jim Thorpe Award honor, then-junior Desmond King was looking like a top-20 pick in the 2016 NFL
He decided to return to Iowa to get his degree and finish what he started with his Hawkeye teammates, saw a decline in production because quarterbacks wouldn’t throw in his area, and saw his draft stock drop.
What round will King go in, and what position will he play at the next level? That’s one of the questions surrounding Iowa players in this year’s draft. C.J. Beathard, George Kittle, and Jaleel Johnson will all likely get drafted along with King.
Below is a look at Iowa’s draft prospects leading into the NFL Draft, which begins tonight in Philadelphia.
C.J. Beathard — quarterback (6-2, 219 pounds)
Beathard has all the intangibles NFL teams want. He’s smart, he’s fearless, he commands respect from his teammates, and when he’s healthy, he’s mobile.
His biggest downside seems to be pocket awareness, which many Hawkeye fans would agree with. Beathard had a tendency to not feel pressure in the pocket, leading to sacks.
With all that in mind, it seems hard to believe that a team wouldn’t pick him up in the later rounds to try to develop into a backup quarterback.
Projected round: 6-7
Desmond King — defensive back (5-10, 201 pounds)
King didn’t have the flashy numbers in his senior season that earned him the Thorpe Award after his junior season. Nevertheless, he was still one of the better corners in the Big Ten.
The biggest knock on King has been his speed, although he ran a 4.50 40-yard dash at Iowa’s Pro Day.
King is quite possibly the best tackling corner in this draft, which could trigger a move to safety along with the speed questions.
Projected round: 3
George Kittle — tight end/fullback (6-3, 247 pounds)
Kittle, who played tight end at Iowa, is listed as a fullback on ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s final Big Board.
The versatile Kittle could be used in many different ways, and lining him up in the backfield could be one of those. He is an athletic blocker and has shown an ability to make tough catches as well.
The biggest factor hurting Kittle’s draft stock is the depth at tight end. There are five tight ends listed in Kiper’s top 75 (Kittle comes in at No. 93 as the No. 1 fullback).
Projected round: 4
Jaleel Johnson — defensive tackle (6-2, 316 pounds)
Johnson’s rise in draft stock is similar to that of former Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis in 2015. Davis had a standout senior season on the interior of Iowa’s defensive line and was drafted in the back half of Round 3 by the Baltimore Ravens.
Johnson has the same path. His production this season (7.5 sacks, 53 tackles) was off the charts. Johnson is one of the best pass-rushing interior linemen in the draft, which has him moving up some draft boards.
His ability against the run is what has him moving down some boards. His 5.38 40-yard dash could be cause for concern as well, although he played faster than that last season.
Projected round: 3-4