Iowa football: Anthony Nelson becomes latest Hawkeyes junior to declare for NFL draft

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Iowa defensive end Anthony Nelson, right, had 2.5 tackles for loss in the Outback Bowl against Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State.

Anthony Nelson has decided that four years at Iowa is enough. The durable and dominant defensive end is headed to the NFL.

Nelson’s intentions were revealed Monday afternoon on Twitter.

Nelson’s redshirt junior season was his best yet at Iowa, giving the Waukee native a difficult decision about whether to enter this year's NFL draft. Nelson excelled as a run defender and as a disruptive pass rusher, logging a career-high 9½ sacks for the 9-4 Hawkeyes.

He's been a three-year contributor for the Hawkeyes and likely felt like he had little else to prove. With 24 career sacks in his 6-foot-7, 271-pound frame, Nelson has been a consistent force in the Big Ten Conference.

Nelson's departure means Iowa's entire starting defensive line of 2018 is moving on. Sam Brincks, Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson were all fifth-year seniors. However, the Hawkeyes enjoyed having two starter-level backups in first-team all-Big Ten sophomore A.J. Epenesa and red-shirt sophomore Chauncey Golston.

Nelson's declaration sets a new record for early entries to the NFL draft from Iowa. Last year, James Daniels and Josh Jackson left after their junior seasons to establish a new high at two. Now, Nelson has joined defensive back Amani Hooker and tight end Noah Fant in leaving school early for a shot at the NFL.

And, of course, a fourth one remains out there. T.J. Hockenson, the redshirt sophomore tight end who won the Mackey Award as college football's top tight end, had not made his intentions known as of Monday afternoon. Hockenson has been projected by some as a first-round pick if he leaves school.