There were a few certainties heading into draft weekend. Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness would be drafted in the first round — with linebacker Jack Campbell and tight end Sam LaPorta not far behind. But the results were better than anybody could’ve imagined: Three Hawkeyes were selected in the first 34 picks.
How about four Hawkeyes in top 100? Cornerback Riley Moss heard his name called at 83 — and for just the second time in the Kirk Ferentz era, the Hawkeyes had four Day 1-2 picks.
But you know how we do these things. We don’t use report cards — we use the Hawkologist’s pain index. While there’s not a whole lot of pain to dish out, let’s make a prognosis for all of the Hawkeyes and their future partners:
Fit is everything after all. Heck, Tom Brady and Gisele ultimately weren’t a match. Great people are one thing — great matches are another. And yeah, most of these would parallel towards the arranged marriage category, as players have little control over where they’re picked (unless your name is Eli or John).
Alright, enough bad dating analogies — let’s dive into this thing.
Lukas Van Ness, 13th overall, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers selected Van Ness with the 13th overall pick. The Packers elected to bolster a pass rush that had just 34 sacks last year (27th) overall. Not to mention their best rusher Rashan Gary is recovering from a torn ACL, and 30-year-old Preston Smith is the only consistent and healthy player at that position. But in a stacked class of defensive lineman (11 that were drafted in the first round), Van Ness was the fourth off the board of the bunch.
The Packers love their Hawkeyes — Van Ness was the 22nd selection, the most of any NFL team (and the seventh in the Ferentz era). The selection is eerily similar — and yes I predicted it — to the Packers’ selection of Rashan Gary back in 2019. The Packers invested $11.4 million into Clay Matthews, and $10.75 million into Nick Perry in 2018 — all for a combined five sacks in 25 games. Yikes.
Insert the Smith bros. of Preston and Za’Darius — and give their raw rookie pass rusher some time to grow. Gary played just 244 snaps his rookie year. Van Ness will play more, but when Gary comes back, Van Ness will get to ease into the NFL.
Pain Assessment: No pain
Jack Campbell, 18th overall, Detroit Lions
It wasn’t a reach.
It’s been reported that NFL teams were interested in Campbell in the back end of the first round. Damn your objective NFL draft analysis — Jack Campbell is going to change life on defense in Detroit. Instant leadership, instant opportunity — instant difference.
If Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell could create a player to coach, it would be Jack. Good luck Jack, and get ready for Oklahoma drills at four in the morning. The only pain in this pick is the pain that opposing backs are about to feel in the hole.
Pain assessment: No pain
Sam LaPorta, 34th overall, Detroit Lions
Oddly enough, the Lions traded away T.J. Hockenson at the 2022 trade deadline … just to draft another Hawkeye tight end six months later. Maybe time is a flat circle, but LaPorta fits squarely into this offense. He’ll be the Day 1 starter on a team that has 600 career yards combined from the rest of their room.
And Sam will have opportunities. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is the only surefire player who can win matchups. I think LaPorta fits this team, but there were better fits, in my opinion.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff is consistent, but not great. I would’ve liked Sam to go somewhere with an established group of pass-catchers. The Bengals and the Chiefs had late first-round picks, but elected to go defense. Those teams have better quarterbacks and use the tight end more.
But, Detroit’s on the upswing. Sam could’ve done a lot worse.
Pain assessment: Mild pain
Riley Moss, 83rd overall, Denver Broncos
Riley Moss is a cornerback — for now. But he’s got a good shot of winning the starting job at No. 2 cornerback — fourth-round sophomore Damarri Mathis is the incumbent for now. But new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes versatility, and he’ll have options with Moss.
Moss is 6-foot-1, a factor in the run game and can be successful in both a zone and man scheme. At worst, he plays sparingly in 2023. At best, he’s an everyday starter on a team that finished 12th in pass defense in 2022. And if it means anything, the Broncos had limited draft capital this year and chose Moss anyways. You know what, I like it.
Pain assessment: Mild pain
Kaevon Merriweather, UDFA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kaevon was never going to be a Day 2 pick, but it appeared there would be a good chance he’d hear his name called in the final four rounds. He was invited to the combine, tested OK at the combine and he was a freaking All-American.
But, 259 names were called in Kansas City and Kaevon Merriweather wasn’t one of them. He should feel disappointed; he deserved to be drafted. However, this may be a blessing in disguise. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a call, and Merriweather has a home.
They’ve only got three safeties on the roster — two undrafted. Merriweather got to choose his destination with an extra chip on his shoulder. It really sucks he didn’t hear his name called, but he’s getting his shot.
Pain assessment: Moderate pain
Monte Pottebaum, UDFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
Did anybody get a better deal than Monte the mullet? He gets to play for his childhood team — one that utilizes a fullback. I mean, for an undrafted guy does it get any better?
Pain assessment: No pain
Seth Benson, UDFA Denver Broncos
Benson lands with the Broncos, who already have Josey Jewell, Alex Singleton and Drew Sanders. He’s got an uphill battle, but in a 3-4 scheme he’ll at least have a chance to compete for a roster spot. Seth was a longshot to be drafted, but he’s a capable linebacker who could be kept around on a practice squad.
Pain assessment: Severe pain
All things considered: It was a successful 2023 draft class for these Hawkeyes. I know not many people listened to me — but it’s a great time to be Hawkeye proud.
Four teams had three picks in the top 34: Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and your Iowa Hawkeyes.