Last year, the Iowa football team set a program record for NFL draft early entrants with four. Could they reach that number again this year?
For obvious reasons, I would love to see guys like AJ Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs stick around for all four years of eligibility with the Iowa football program, but I am realistic. Guys leave. Wouldn’t you if you had the NFL and millions of dollars calling your name in a world where college football players can’t benefit from their likeness (for now at least)?
So, which guys have performed well enough to give themselves a shot at the NFL early?
The first two names that must be discussed are AJ Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs. I follow the draft pretty closely devouring any material I can find on the internet and in podcast form, and let me tell you, I haven’t seen a single site this late in the year project either of these guys to fall past pick 15. When you are almost guaranteed to be drafted in the top-15 and even the top-10, you go.
That means we are likely looking at the last 5-6 games of these two outstanding player’s Iowa football careers.
Likely joining them is Alaric Jackson. After dealing with a knee injury, the fourth-year junior will certainly test the waters and my guess is he will be heading to the NFL as he will likely receive a second or third round grade. He’s got the size and tools to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. He’s still a bit raw, but NFL teams will be intrigued to take an offensive lineman with great potential who was coached up by the Iowa football program.
The only other guy I can even remotely see declaring for the NFL Draft would be Geno Stone, but it would take a rise similar to that of Amani Hooker, who’s draft stock skyrocketed late in the season as teams realized how versatile the former Hawkeye safety was.
Fortunately, even if draft scouts aren’t super aware of him now, as they turn the tape on to watch AJ Epenesa, they are almost guaranteed to see Stone stand out on film. Stone is the one question mark as he is a guy who could benefit immensely from the Iowa football team having a chance in the Big Ten Championship game and/or a New Years Six Bowl.
Outside of these four, I would be absolutely shocked to see any other Iowa football players declare early. There is just nobody with a stock even close to high enough to warrant a day two pick.