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The junior defensive end outlines the challenge of facing Nick Fitzgerald and what Phil Parker might have planned. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

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Iowa’s tight ends are generating all the buzz heading into this week’s NFL Scouting Combine.

T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant may each be chosen in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.

But there are a pair of former Hawkeye defensive players who are en route to Indianapolis looking to sell themselves as long-term answers to NFL teams. Safety Amani Hooker and defensive end Anthony Nelson project as mid-round draft choices.

Here are the latest scouting reports on them:

Anthony Nelson

How he's viewed:Nelson, at 6-foot-7, 271 pounds, had 24 sacks in his three Hawkeye seasons. He’ll be among a large group of highly regarded defensive linemen who begin on-field drills Sunday morning.

“The effort is outstanding,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Nelson, who reminds him of San Diego Chargers’ second-year player Isaac Rochell.

Both are “5-technique” defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme, meaning they line up wide.

“He can widen and bull-(rush),” Jeremiah said of Nelson. “He doesn’t have that elite burst. Plays up on his toes a little bit.”

Jeremiah projects Nelson as a fourth-round pick.

Josh Liskiewitz, who scouts the Big Ten Conference for Pro Football Focus, concurs — although he thinks Nelson could work his way into the third-round discussion with a strong showing at the Combine.

“He’s one of my favorites. I love Anthony Nelson,” Liskiewitz said. “I think he’s such a good, versatile player. You put him in the right system, I think he’s going to be a very good player.

“I think he’s going to be one of those guys that gets taken somewhere late Day 2 (third round), maybe even early Day 3 (fourth round) and outproduces at least half of the guys that got taken in front of him at his position.”

Liskiewitz compares Nelson to Trey Flowers of the New England Patriots, a player the team may soon be looking to replace.

“He’s a big guy. He can play all over that line,” Liskiewitz said of Nelson. “That’s what those teams like New England and Detroit want. They’ll duplicate their edge speed with linebackers and blitz schemes. They want the big guys up front, that, yes, we’ve got to stop the run, but can come at you from a number of angles. That way they help that blitz package scheme with stunts. The ability to do that, which Anthony can do, is why I see him as the perfect Day 2 pick for either of those teams.”

What he needs to show: “It’s going to be about speed with him. I don’t think anyone’s going to view him as a super athletic guy,” Liskiewitz said. “But certainly you don’t want him running 5.0 (in the 40-yard dash). If he’s anywhere under 4.8, that’s really going to turn some heads, I think. A good ‘10’ split would help, too, if he shows more burst than he did on film at Iowa.”

As for strength, Liskiewitz said Nelson would be best served by getting into the mid-20s in his bench press repetitions. Anything below 15 would cause some concern.

Amani Hooker

How he's viewed: Hooker followed a promising sophomore year with a superb junior one, being named the best defensive back in the Big Ten after racking up 65 tackles and four interceptions. Midway through the season, he moved from safety to a new hybrid linebacker position closer to the line of scrimmage.

That’s what caught Jeremiah’s eye.

“He plays down low. He plays over the slot,” Jeremiah said. “He’s at his best when you kind of let him float, and he can just use his instincts and make plays. I wrote down in my notes that he almost looks bored when he's playing as the high safety.”

Jeremiah sees Hooker as a special-teams player and a third or fourth safety on an NFL roster to begin with.

“I don’t know if you want him running him around with slot receivers,” Jeremiah said. "But a lot of teams will play with that big nickel and kind of let him flow underneath and be a force player. That's where he's most comfortable."

Hooker, listed at 6-foot, 210 pounds, is a hard-hitter who can hang with tight ends in coverage, Liskiewitz said. He sees Hooker as a good mid-round prospect who can eventually develop into an NFL starter.

What he needs to show: Again, speed will be the issue when Hooker does his workouts Monday morning. If Hooker can run a 40 faster than 4.6 seconds, he’ll improve his stock immensely. The weight is already ideal for a safety.

“If he can run anywhere in the 4.5s with that size and show relative fluidity when he’s running 3-cone and that kind of stuff, I think he does have a chance to move up into that Day 2 discussion,” Liskiewitz said. “You get those teams in the back end of the second round and they might be like, ‘He’s got the height-weight. He’s got the speed. He may not be super elite in any of this, but we like his pedigree, where he’s from, what he’s done.’”

It helps that Hooker plays a position in demand.

“The reality is corners and safeties, that ultimately is, beyond quarterbacks, the most important position group on the field now,” Liskiewitz said. “You can’t get enough of those.”

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