Top Iowa defender named sleeper pick in 2025 NFL Draft

ESPN draft experts like what they see from one of the Iowa Hawkeyes' best defensive pieces.
Minnesota v Iowa
Minnesota v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

The Iowa Hawkeyes appear set to return a strong defense to the field in 2024, however, there doesn't seem to be much draft buzz around the talent making up the unit.

However, one prominent piece to the Iowa defense isn't getting completely looked over. An ESPN article detailing some potential sleeper picks in next year's draft highlighted Hawkeye defensive back Sebastian Castro.

Castro figures to be the leader of the defensive backfield with the departure of Cooper DeJean.

"He's not Cooper [DeJean] to me, but he's a really good player overall," an AFC scouting director told ESPN. "He's quick, really good ability to tackle in the open field, and he's never out of position."

Of course, there's little reason to compare Castro to DeJean. Castro is a hybrid slot/safety type, named the CASH position in Iowa's defense, whereas DeJean was a true outside corner (though his role could change in the NFL).

Last year Castro secured three interceptions in addition to eight tackles for loss including a sack. He was third on the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in pass breakups. His stats speak volumes of his productivity in one of the country's best defenses. He also didn't allow a touchdown in coverage, instead scoring one of his own on a pick-six.

So why is Castro getting overlooked in the first place?

For starters, at 5-foot-11, he's on the smaller side even if his tackling packs a punch. For whatever reason, many NFL scouts overthink measurables and this will be a knock against him next year.

A bigger mark against him is his age. Castro is a redshirt senior who will turn 24 during the season. Understandably, players who will turn 25 in their rookie season don't often go in the first round of the NFL Draft, or the second for that matter. Hypothetically, if Castro is a second round pick, he'd turn 30 after one season of his potential second contract.

Because Castro quickly announced his intention to return to Iowa in 2024, there aren't many scouting reports on him. However, NFL Draft Buzz's profile of Castro suggests he struggles in zone coverage despite his strengths in man coverage and his overall ball skills.

Still, while it's early, NFL Draft Buzz has a late-second round grade on Castro as the fifth-best safety and 11th-best defensive back in the class.

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