The NFL Draft starts Thursday. Here's where Iowa football players are projected to land.

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

After months of anticipation, the 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday evening (7 p.m. CT) on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network.

For NFL fans, it's a time of optimism as their teams' next star players are revealed. For college football fans, it's an exciting moment to see the next stage for notable program alumni. And from Thursday through Saturday, Iowa football fans will see several memorable players get their names called.

Iowa's five likely draft picks are (in alphabetical order) Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, Kaevon Merriweather, Riley Moss and Lukas Van Ness. The only solidified first-round pick is Van Ness; the other four names have fluctuated throughout draft boards, creating intrigue about where they'll ultimately land.

Here are the latest projections for each of Iowa's likely draft picks. The mock drafts used range from just round one (The Athletic), rounds 1-2 (Yahoo!, USA Today Draft wire) and full seven rounds (, Walter Football).

More:Peterson: It's been 50 years since Iowa State football had a first-round NFL Draft pick

Lukas Van Ness average draft position: 18 (first round)

Van Ness' elite athletic traits and pass-rush production in a deep defensive line rotation at Iowa are the catalysts behind why he'll be the 12th first-round pick in the Kirk Ferentz era. Only one mock draft has Van Ness as a top-15 pick (Walter Camp, 10th overall to the Philadelphia Eagles) while two mock drafts have him projected No. 22 to the Baltimore Ravens (Yahoo!, USA Today), who have several Hawkeyes on the roster already in Tyler Linderbaum, Geno Stone and Kristian Welch.

Jack Campbell average draft position: 52 (second round)

Kentucky running back JuTahn McClain (17) is stopped by Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) during the first quarter of the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

Campbell, the 2022 Butkus Award winner as college football's top linebacker, will hear his name called early during the draft, and mock drafts indicate it'll be in the second round on Friday night. Two mock drafts project Campbell to the New York Jets at No. 43 (Yahoo!, USA Today) while projects Campbell dropping to round 3.

More:A 2023 NFL Mock Draft using only Iowa high school football players

Sam LaPorta average draft position: 53 (second round)

Sam LaPorta is projected to continue Iowa's strong tight-end lineage this weekend as a day 2 selection. LaPorta has steadily risen up draft boards since his impressive NFL Combine performance, and mock drafts have him as a second-round selection.

There is room for volatility, however. Only and Walter Camp project LaPorta in round 2. He was left out of Yahoo! and USA Today's two-round mocks.

Riley Moss average draft position: 152 (fifth round)

Iowa defensive back Riley Moss (33) lines up against Northwestern wide receiver Donny Navarro III (80) during a Big Ten Conference football game Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

ESPN NFL Draft analysis Mel Kiper Jr. recently gave Riley Moss a second-round grade with versatility to play cornerback or safety in the NFL. However, the most recent 7-round mock drafts project Moss as a day 3 pick this weekend. projects Moss to the New York Giants, reuniting him with former teammate Dane Belton, in the fourth round (No. 128). Walter Camp projects him as the last pick of the fifth round (No. 177) to the Los Angeles Rams.

Kaevon Merriweather average draft position: undrafted

Both seven-round mocks left Merriweather off their lists. The senior safety had a standout final season, culminating in All-American and All-Big Ten honors. If undrafted, he would be a highly coveted free agent. Merriweather has displayed clean tackling ability and leadership while at Iowa and could be a late pick on Saturday.