Colts pick Austin Blythe, Hawkeyes avoid NFL Draft shutout

Chad Leistikow
Iowa senior center Austin Blythe battles in the trenches in the Hawkeyes' 31-17 win over Iowa State on Sept. 12.

Saturday’s finishing rounds of the NFL Draft might have said more about the Iowa football team’s 2016 prospects than its 2015 success.

Center Austin Blythe’s seventh-round selection Saturday by the Indianapolis Colts with the 248th out of 253 overall picks helped the Hawkeyes avoid their first NFL Draft shutout since 1977.

Iowa’s best offensive and defensive players — second-team all-Big Ten quarterback C.J. Beathard and Jim Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Desmond King — return from the 2015 team that reached the program’s first Rose Bowl in 25 years.

Though they didn't end up blowing away NFL scouts as someone like Brandon Scherff (No. 5 overall pick) did in the 2015 draft, it was high-motor, high-character guys like Blythe who drove the engine for a gritty club that won a school-record 12 games. And there were a slew of such Hawkeyes who didn't see their name called in Saturday's Rounds 4 through 7.

“They churn out nothing but solid technicians in Kirk Ferentz’s offensive line,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said after Blythe's selection. “… I don’t care what round, he’ll play in the league a bunch of years.”

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Blythe, a Rimington Award finalist, started 49 games at Iowa — including the last 45 of his career. He was the sixth center chosen this week, and if Mayock’s prediction comes true he’ll someday be snapping balls to Andrew Luck.

The wait was a long one for those within and following the Hawkeye program, which didn't have anyone taken in the first six rounds for the first time since 1992. Before the Colts, a franchise that helped make former Hawkeyes Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders famous, took the 6-foot-2, 291-pound Blythe:

--Forty-six Big Ten Conference players were chosen, including 12 from Ohio State and at least one from every conference team except Iowa.

--One basketball player (Baylor's Rico Gathers) was picked by the Dallas Cowboys.

--Players from 96 universities (including one in Canada) and a native German were taken.

--Former Hawkeye quarterback Jake Rudock was picked in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions.

--One long snapper, two punters and three fullbacks were drafted.

With Blythe headed to Indianapolis, that left several other Hawkeye seniors to travel the undrafted free agent route. Tight end Henry Krieger Coble (headed to the Denver Broncos), safety Jordan Lomax (Los Angeles Rams), defensive end Drew Ott, receiver Tevaun Smith (also the Colts) and offensive lineman Jordan Walsh (Atlanta Falcons) were thought to have a chance to be drafted. Kicker Marshall Koehn (Miami Dolphins) and running back Jordan Canzeri (tryouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints) also have continued their careers.