Iowa football had five players drafted this year. Tristan Wirfs was drafted around his expected position, Nathan Stanley snuck in late in the 7th round and Michael Ojemudia was the third Hawk off the board going in the third round. But some Hawkeyes weren’t as lucky to be drafted as high.
Every year this happens and every year it infuriates me beyond belief. Every single year it seems like there is at least one Hawkeye who produces for three seasons, underperforms slightly at the combine, and then slides down draft boards. It happened to Desmond King, who found himself as high as the late first round in pre-combine Mock Drafts before eventually falling all the way to the 5th round.
It happened again this year, twice. AJ Epenesa fell all the way out of the first round before eventually being selected late in the second round, selected by the Buffalo Bulls as the 54th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
AJ didn’t have a good combine and it cost him millions of dollars, but is it necessarily the worst thing? No. The Bills made the playoffs this year, they have a solid defensive unit, a good coaching staff, and a young quarterback.
Granted before the Combine, Epensa was projected in middle-late first round which would have landed him on a team that was in the playoffs last year anyway, but Buffalo is a great fit for him.
Geno Stone fell more than anyone saw coming, falling all the way to the 7th round and being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens 217th overall. This one is tough, Stone suffered a similar fate to Iowa defensive backs in the past where the combine and “tight hips” or some other made up flaw drops Iowa defensive backs. Hopefully, Stone will follow a similar track to Desmond King and go on to be a productive player in the NFL.
More from Hawkeyes in the NFL
- Iowa Football: Josey Jewell selected for Big Ten All-Decade Team
- Hawks in the NFL: George Kittle’s contract will break records
- Iowa Football: AJ Epenesa sliding as 2020 NFL Draft looms
- Iowa football: Hawks rookies try to make lasting impression in week 4
- Iowa football: Where to find each Hawkeye rookie in preseason week one
The bright side is this is another great fit. Stone gets the pleasure of learning from one of the best safeties in NFL history for a couple of years before Earl Thomas moves on, and above all else, the Ravens are going to be good. With the best record in the NFL last year, the Ravens have been a successful franchise for a long time and have a history of successfully developing draft picks. And if Stone gets a chance, I’m sure he’ll make the most of it.
The Ravens and Bills will be very happy with their value as AJ Epensa is a first-round talent and Geno Stone is certainly going to provide more than the average 7th round draft pick.
Stone and Epenesa sliding in the draft may cost them money in the short run but going to a successful franchise, getting a chance to develop in good systems on good teams will create better opportunities later on. In the end, both Epenesa and Stone will get their chance to make plays in the NFL, and if they make the most of those opportunities their draft position will just be a footnote.