IOWA CITY – The cancellation of the NFL Combine has placed additional emphasis on individual Pro Days ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Monday, Iowa footballers will showcase their talents through a series of drills and limited medical screenings for NFL scouts.
The format is unusual. The NFL ensures it will work with the schools to keep drills and tests consistent throughout the pro days, and will provide video footage of training to teams. The interviews and psychological tests that normally take place on the combine are conducted virtually.
But there is a lack of social element in not having those face-to-face meetings of front office workers and coaches talking about strategy at the combine.
This year, the NFL released its combine invite list despite the event being canceled and it featured five Hawkeyes: Daviyon Nixon, Alaric Jackson, Brandon Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Chauncey Golston.
Pro Day is also an opportunity for players like Nick Niemann, Shaun Beyer, Mekhi Sargent, Cole Banwart and Jack Heflin to increase their draft stock.
So far, 75 Iowa players have been selected in the NFL Draft during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure as head coach, starting with the 2000 class. Most Iowa players selected in a single drawing were seven in 2007. Three other classes (2000, 2006) , 2010) contain six selections.
Here is an overview of some of the players who are training on Monday.
DL Daviyon Nixon
Nixon’s breakout year included first-team All-America consensus honors. He led the Big Ten with a total of 45 tackles, including 13 for loss. He also bagged fourth in the Big Ten (5.5). He was awarded the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, while also being a finalist for the Outland Trophy.
Nixon played at Iowa Western Community College before joining the Hawkeyes in 2018. He played in 13 games in the 2019 season, starting one of them and collecting 29 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and three sacks. He was voted the Team’s Most Valuable Player this year along with Tyler Linderbaum.
With a weak class on the defensive line, both Pro Football Network and The Draft Network have Nixon in their latest mock draft lists in the second round.
DL Chauncey Golston
Golston has been a staple of the Iowa defense for four years. This year was his best year, earning the First Team All-America award and being named a finalist for the Nagurski-Woodson Prize and one of 24 semi-finalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
He started all eight games and collected 24 solo tackles and 21 assists, including 8.5 for loss and 5.5 sack. He also got one interception, one forced fumble, one pass broken, and three presses.
In 2018, he led the Big Ten with three fumble recovery attempts, which was No. 3 in the nation.
OT Alaric Jackson
The four-year starter on the left received first and second team All-America honors from various outlets. Jackson was at the helm of an Iowa offense averaging 31.8 points and 368.6 yards per game. Jackson was named on the Outland trophy watch list and received an award for coaches from Iowa.
Pro Football Network projects that he will be selected in the fourth or fifth round as someone who could potentially make the switch to a guard position.
WR Brandon Smith
Smith saw action on the field early on, being one of 10 true freshmen to play in 2017. He overshadowed 1,000 career receiving yards in Iowa’s victory over Illinois this year, registering 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns on 91 total receptions.
His best season was 2019 when he caught 37 passes for 239 yards in nine games. At the recent House of Athlete combo event for 2021 design outlook, Smith impressed scouts with his 44-inch vertical jump, which was in the 99th percentile for all wide receivers, and according to Trevor Sikkema, NFL writer for The Draft Network .
WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Smith-Marsette received the All-Big Ten honorable mention as a returns specialist and wide receiver for the 2020 season.
In the 2019 Holiday Bowl, he became the second Hawkeye in history to score touchdowns by receiving, rushing and a kick-off return. His 28.7 yards per return ranks second all time in the Big Ten. He finished his career with 1,520 yards off kickoff returns, 1,615 receiving yards and 274 rushing yards.
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Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has Smith-Marsette at the start in the third round, in view of his 722-yard junior season. Its 16.4 meters per reception speaks to its potential as a deep threat, but its value as a kick returner is what could set it apart in a deep, wide receiver class.
TE Shaun Beyer
Despite not receiving an invitation to a combination, Beyer was noted by Pro Football Focus as one of the top rated tight end in the nation in December.
Beyer originally came to Iowa as a wide receiver, but switched to a tight ending after the 2016 season. He missed the end of the 2018/19 season due to injury, but returned to play two full seasons.
This year, Beyer hit 11 receptions, including at least seven of the eight games, for 158 yards and one touchdown. He received an appreciation for coaches this year.
Notes: (319) 398-8387; [email protected]
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