Former Hawkeyes Nick Easley, Ross Reynolds sign priority free-agent deals

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Once the NFL draft ends, the flurry begins for undrafted free agents. And several draft-eligible Iowa Hawkeyes were snapped up quickly Saturday night.

And there may be no better story than Nick Easley’s.

A junior-college walk-on whose only college interest out of Newton High School was as a Division II punter was signing a priority free-agent deal with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. His brother, Matt, confirmed the deal to the Des Moines Register.

Nick Easley, left, racked up 52 catches for 494 yards in his senior year with the Hawkeyes, often proving to be a clutch option on third down.

And it’s quite a fit. The Bills didn’t choose a wide receiver among the eight players they drafted. Easley (5-foot-11, 203 pounds) should have an excellent chance to make the 53-man roster as a slot receiver.

Easley, who owns Iowa's program record in the pro-agility drill, at 3.77 seconds, exhibited fantastic route running, reliable hands and toughness while leading Iowa in catches in each of the past two seasons (with 103 total) after transferring as a walk-on from Iowa Western Community College.

A weight-room fanatic, Easley was the Outback Bowl MVP of Iowa’s 27-22 win against Mississippi State. He caught eight balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns against the nation’s No. 1 defense.

Interestingly, Easley’s Iowa debut came against Bills starting quarterback Josh Allen. He had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in that 24-3 win against Wyoming on Sept. 2, 2017. According to the Houston Chronicle, Easley is receiving a $13,000 signing bonus.

Other Hawkeyes who have latched onto NFL teams…

Offensive lineman Ross Reynolds (6-2½, 304) was signing with the San Francisco 49ers as a priority free agent, the Register confirmed. Reynolds was Iowa’s top-graded run blocker in the 2018 season and plays with a nasty streak.

He shined at Iowa’s pro day, uncorking 27 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press and leaping 35½ inches in the vertical jump. He'll join plenty of familiar Hawkeye faces in San Francisco, including quarterback C.J. Beathard, tight end George Kittle and cornerback Greg Mabin.

And how about this? Matt Nelson, a four-year defensive lineman at Iowa, is signing with the Detroit Lions as a developmental offensive lineman, the Register confirmed. He's certainly got the size (6-7, 296) and the athleticism, as a former Division I basketball prospect, to become a capable offensive lineman at the next level. The question is how much time he'll have to make the transition.

Nelson played two seasons as a defensive end and two as an oversized defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes. A gritty, selfless player, Nelson will be joining Iowa teammate T.J. Hockenson (the No. 8 overall pick in the draft) in Detroit.

Offensive lineman Keegan Render posted on Instagram that he was signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. Render (6-3, 305) brings position flexibility to the next level. He was a starter at guard in the 2017 season, then became Iowa's No. 1 center in 2018.

Four-year starting defensive end Parker Hesse will have tryouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit in the next two weeks, he told the Register. Among others landing tryouts were safety Jake Gervase (Oakland Raiders) and defensive tackle Sam Brincks (Green Bay Packers).