Daniels, who enters this week's NFL Draft as one of the top-rated interior offensive linemen, discusses the Hawkeyes' coaching after pro day. Hawk Central
First round vs. second round?
Other than a few numbers in a bank account, it rarely matters when an NFL franchise drafts an Iowa Hawkeye.
So, get ready, Iowans: You'll probably be seeing a lot of center James Daniels and cornerback Josh Jackson on Sundays over the next eight to 10 years.
With Daniels going to the Chicago Bears and Jackson to the Green Bay Packers in the front half of Friday night’s second round of the NFL draft, two bitter NFC North rivals secured long-term solutions by selecting Hawkeyes.
That longevity point was something 20th-year Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz accentuated in a conversation with me earlier this week.
Look at the track records of the Hawkeyes’ highly picked guys, he said.
And, save a few players, the coach was spot on.
First-rounder Dallas Clark in 2003: Became the most prolific tight end in Indianapolis Colts history, one that includes John Mackey.
First-rounder Robert Gallery in 2004: A 103-game starter over eight years, only labeled a bust by some because he played for a dysfunctional franchise, the Oakland Raiders.
Second-rounder Bob Sanders in 2004: Just an AP NFL defensive player of the year ... and Super Bowl champion (along with Clark) with the Colts.
Second-rounder Jonathan Babineaux in 2005: A sterling 12-year career, all with the Atlanta Falcons, that spanned 185 games and ended in the 2017 Super Bowl.
First-rounder Chad Greenway in 2006: A career-long Minnesota Viking, not to mention an exemplary citizen up north, who made more than 1,100 tackles in 11 quality years.
Third-rounder Marshal Yanda in 2007: Still one of the best offensive guards in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
The list goes on.
Kirk Ferentz is entering his 20th year on the I-Club circuit as Iowa's head coach. He talks about the importance of first-round NFL Draft picks. Hawk Central
High picks Bryan Bulaga, Adrian Clayborn, Riley Reiff, Christian Kirksey and Brandon Scherff are well on their way to lengthy NFL careers, too. (And that list doesn’t include a 2012 fourth-rounder named Mike Daniels, now a teammate of Jackson’s in Green Bay, who is one of the NFL’s most dominant defensive linemen, or all-pro defensive back Micah Hyde with the Buffalo Bills.)
“The way we do things, I think, gives our guys a chance A), to be attractive to the NFL,” Ferentz said, before moving onto Point B, when we spoke Tuesday. “And then, more importantly, one of the reasons they’re attractive, most of our guys have gone on and had good careers. They show up to work. And they understand you have to work and compete.”
No doubt, Daniels and Jackson will do just that with their new employers.
Both are high-character guys with oodles of talent. Both treasure the opportunities they have, as was evident when Daniels broke down to tears upon receiving the call from the Bears on Friday night.
Sure, Daniels and Jackson slipped on the draft board compared to what some so-called experts thought. But really, the only “slipping” was from possible late first-rounders to actual early/mid-second rounders — Daniels went No. 39 overall, Jackson No. 45.
Let’s start with Daniels.
In becoming the first Hawkeye chosen by the Bears in 28 years, he will be a Day One starter in Chicago and one of the best centers in the NFL, according to ESPN’s Todd McShay — who happened to be the sideline reporter when Daniels and the Hawkeyes mauled Ohio State, 55-24, on Nov. 4.
“I think he’s the best center in this draft class,” McShay said during ESPN's draft broadcast. “I’ve watched him on tape. He’s a guy who fires off really quick, agile. He runs well, and he’s a nasty finisher.”
McShay subscribes to the Iowa/NFL connection theory, especially when it comes to Ferentz’s bread and butter — the offensive line.
“He is an Iowa offensive lineman,” McShay said. “These guys, even when they don’t live up to what they’re supposed to (like) Robert Gallery, they’re still long-time contributors and really good football players.”
And if you’re a Bears fan, you might be wondering: Why has it been 28 years between Hawkeyes?
Dunno. But maybe there’s a reason the streak finally broke.
Ferentz happens to be tight with Chicago’s new offensive line coach — respected line guru Harry Hiestand, who in turn undoubtedly respects Ferentz’s own o-line acumen.
No doubt Ferentz shared his thoughts on Daniels. After Daniels declared early for the draft in January, Ferentz said this: “I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a more talented center prospect, and that includes my time in the NFL" (while he coached under Bill Belichick).
As for Jackson, he heads to a franchise that trusts the Hawkeyes that come their way. Bulaga, Daniels and Hyde are some of the Iowa players who have recently worn the green and gold at Lambeau Field.
The primary reason Jackson fell from the first round was his 40-yard dash time — 4.56 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, which he improved to 4.52 on Iowa’s pro day. Not terrible, not great.
That didn’t bother McShay (who saw Jackson pick off three passes against Ohio State). And NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared Jackson to Richard Sherman, a four-time Pro Bowler who was chosen in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.
Sherman came from a Stanford program which has a similar reputation as Iowa’s for cranking out NFL-ready players.
That’s what Daniels and Jackson are.
And you’ll be seeing them soon.
This year’s Sunday Night Football opener in the NFL?
Bears vs. Packers.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.