Drafted or not, NFL chance awaits several ex-Hawkeyes

Chad Leistikow

For every recent former Hawkeye football player with hopes of landing with an NFL team soon, the hard work is done — yet the most important work lies ahead.

"The most important thing, really, is what all of them do when they end up with their assigned teams," Iowa 17th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. "Whether they're first-rounders or free agents, it really doesn't matter; it's really what they do once they get there."

Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff (6-foot-5, 319 pounds) will be a first-rounder, according to every projection on Planet Earth. Beyond that, where the former Hawkeyes go becomes a mystery — but isn't that always the case when it comes to the NFL Draft?

Former Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman, top, has bulked up to play fullback in the NFL.

Defensive tackle Carl Davis (6-5, 320) is the only sure-fire Iowa player not named Scherff to get picked in the three-day, seven-round draft, which begins Thursday in Chicago. If Davis doesn't go in Thursday's first round, the consensus among pundits is he'll likely be among the 64 players chosen Friday during the second and third rounds.

Matt Bowen, a former Hawkeye who provides NFL Draft analysis for Bleacher Report and other Chicago media outlets, thinks Davis' position size and flexibility will get his name called by Friday.

"He could play defensive end in a 3-4 front. He could play defensive tackle in a 4-3 front," Bowen said. "And he even played some nose guard at the Senior Bowl because he is so big."

Projections have two more Hawkeyes as late-round picks and, no surprise, those guys lie in the trenches.

Offensive lineman Andrew Donnal (6-6, 313) could go in the sixth round, experts say. Donnal played right tackle for Iowa last season, and scouts like his technique and tenacity.

Louis Trinca-Pasat (6-1, 290) is a undersized as a defensive tackle, but he's projected as a sixth- or seventh-rounder with his strengths being a high motor and excellent balance.

"Louis has got to fight that size thing a little bit but I think he'll do just fine," Ferentz said. "In Andrew's case, there aren't a lot of offensive tackles. I'll never forget (basketball great) Bill Russell on the radio talking about how hard it is to find a (basketball) center. There aren't a lot of 7-foot centers walking around. And it's kind of like that in the NFL, finding guys who are good tackle prospects."

Other outgoing Hawkeye seniors that could land in an NFL camp — if not late in the draft, then as an undrafted free agent — include linebacker Quinton Alston (6-1, 237), lineman Tommy Gaul (6-3, 288), tight end Ray Hamilton (6-4, 262), safety John Lowdermilk (6-1, 210) and fullback Mark Weisman (5-11, 242).

Yes, fullback. Though Weisman was Iowa's featured running back for nearly three seasons in rushing for 2,602 yards and 32 touchdowns, he's bulked up and projects as an NFL blocking back.

Weisman said his phone lit up after he ran 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Iowa's pro day. "Definitely a good day," he said.

Weisman said the mentality is the same for any player drafted late or undrafted.

"You're at the back of the bus, and you've got to work your way to the front," he said. "It's going to be a tough battle, but it's an opportunity. ... You've got to play special teams. That's how you make a team — play special teams."

Understanding the need to hit the reset button in camp can lead to bigger rewards down the line. Former Hawkeye lineman Bryan Bulaga recently signed for five years, $33.75 million (through 2019) with the Green Bay Packers.

"You've got to get that big contract. And that's where I want to be," Davis said. "Five years from now, I'll be in that position that people are talking about Carl Davis and getting ready to negotiate that second contract and making the big bucks."

The Register's Rick Brown contributed to this report.