Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg awaits for a punt return from UNI at the UNI game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (File Photo/The Daily Iowan)

Undrafted free agents find homes


The Hawkeyes who didn’t find NFL homes during the draft signed or got invites to NFL camps.

By Pete Ruden

Akrum Wadley, Running Back — Tennessee Titans

It was a surprise when Wadley didn’t hear his name called during the draft. A shifty back with a knack for making defenders miss, Wadley was expected to go anywhere from the fifth to seventh round. He has a home, though. Wadley will join a Tennessee backfield with the likes of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. Lewis has only played in all 16 games once in his career, and now without DeMarco Murray in the mix, Wadley has a chance to be an athletic change-of-pace back who is a threat out of the backfield in the passing game.

Sean Welsh, Guard — Washington Redskins

Welsh was the other Hawkeye who received an invitation to the NFL Combine but didn’t get drafted. Projected by as a seventh-rounder or undrafted free agent, Welsh definitely has the potential to make a roster and have an impact at the next level. Welsh has been a versatile member of the Iowa offensive line for years and drew comparisons with former Hawkeye Austin Blythe. Both are undersized, and Welsh’s versatility and technique make him a nice pickup in free agency.

Matt VandeBerg, Wide Receiver — New York Jets

VandeBerg took a step back in 2017 after an impressive 2016 campaign. His 2017 numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, but he has solid route-running ability. With a few veterans on the Jets roster including Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, and Robby Anderson, it’ll be interesting to see how VandeBerg fits into the puzzle if he can earn a spot.

RELATED: Chicago Bears draft James Daniels

James Butler, Running Back — New York Jets, Washington Redskins

Butler got robbed of a lot of time at Iowa after suffering an arm injury against North Texas, forcing the graduate transfer to miss four games. But he has quite the resume at Nevada. At Iowa, when No. 6 Ohio State came to town, Butler had one of his best games of the season, rushing for 74 yards on just 10 carries, including a 53-yard scamper. Like Wadley, Butler has the ability to make defenders miss, and he has the chance to show it to two NFL teams in tryouts.

Ike Boettger, Tackle — Buffalo Bills

Boettger was projected to be selected in the sixth or seventh round by NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. Now, Boettger has to make the Bills roster the hard way. His 6-6, 310-pound frame plays is good for an NFL prospect, but Boettger needs to stay healthy to have an impact on the field. He missed seven games in 2015 and 11 in 2017.

Ben Niemann, Linebacker – Kansas City Chiefs

Niemann was a mainstay in Iowa’s impressive linebacker corps, and for good reason; he’s versatile in run support and slot coverage. The addition of former Hawkeye Anthony Hitchens crowds open space for linebackers, but Kansas City has to be impressed with the versatility Niemann displayed.

Boone Myers, Guard — Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts

Myers was in the same camp as Boettger this past season, playing in a limited role and starting two games on the offensive line before a high-ankle sprain cut his season short. Both the Ravens and Colts addressed needs in the trenches during the draft. Baltimore selected Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown, Wagner tackle Greg Senat, and Alabama center Bradley Boseman. Indianapolis went all-in, taking Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson sixth overall and Auburn guard Braden Smith No. 37 overall.




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