No one knows how this NFL Draft is going to shake out.
Joe Burrow and Chase Young will probably go No. 1 and No. 2 overall. It’s clear as mud after that.
The lack of in-person meetings or workouts at team and college facilities because of the coronavirus has altered the annual process to which so many of us are accustomed.
Throw in the fact all 255 picks are going to be conducted in a virtual manner, and things might get really weird this weekend.
Or maybe it’s the most mundane NFL Draft in history because there’s no routine. The NFL is built on routine.
The uncertainties make it a little more challenging to project where the five Hawkeyes will be selected.
The pick ranges for each prospect, outside of guaranteed Top-15 pick Tristan Wirfs, are as large as I’ve seen in my four drafts here at Hawkeye Headquarters.
Let’s get to it.
Tristan Wirfs – No. 4 to New York Giants
One of my bold predictions on Wednesday was that Wirfs will be the first offensive tackle selected.
He was either No. 2 or No. 3 at the position before the NFL Combine. We know what happened in Indy.
The Giants are the first team on the board that needs to bolster their offensive line. They’ve drafted Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley the last two drafts. Someone needs to block for them.
While I do believe general manager Dave Gettleman wants to trade back a few spots in the first round, I’m not sure if he’ll get many offers. That makes “mama’s boy” Wirfs the pick, making him the third Iowa lineman selected in the top 5 during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure.
A.J. Epenesa – No. 35 to Detroit
Epenesa was projected to be a Top-20 pick throughout last season. Now I don’t think he’ll go in the first round.
I know people say “trust the tape.”
I know his production at Iowa was there.
I know he’s a great kid.
But I also know there are certain athletic standards you need to be considered a first-round pick at his position. Epenesa didn’t achieve those at the NFL Combine.
His numbers were nearly identical to those of former Hawkeye Anthony Nelson last year. Nelson was picked in the fourth round in a much deeper pool of defensive linemen. Is Epenesa’s tape that much better?
Epenesa won’t have to wait very long to be picked on Friday, however. I don’t see him dropping below the 40th pick. Detroit and Matt Patricia would be thrilled if he’s available at No. 35.
He’s the selection for the Lions in Round 2.
Michael Ojemudia – No. 119 to Atlanta
Unlike Epenesa, Ojemudia displayed better-than-expected athleticism in Indianapolis.
His sub-4.5 40-yard dash, along with solid performances in the vertical and broad jumps cemented his status as a pro prospect.
He’s not going to attract a ton of interest from defenses predicated on man-to-man coverage, but I’d figure multiple zone-based teams have him pegged for early on Day 3.
Atlanta is a zone team. The Falcons also need a ton of help in their defensive backfield, especially with Tom Brady now in the NFC South.
I like Atlanta to grab Ojemudia with the 119th pick.
Geno Stone – No. 193 to Indianapolis
Stone is another guy who plays faster than his athletic profile. Put on the Michigan game and you’ll be impressed.
Hooker was also the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. He was a fourth-round pick in 2019.
Based on that, I don’t expect to hear Stone’s name until the fifth or sixth round. He’ll have to earn his keep on special teams.
Iowa’s had a defensive back taken in three-straight drafts. The common thread between Desmond King, Josh Jackson and Amani Hooker, is that they all dropped relative to the consensus in seven-round mock drafts.
I think Stone suffers the same fate in 2020. I have the Indianapolis Colts taking Stone in Round 6.
Nate Stanley – No. 223 to Jacksonville
If this were 10 years ago, I’d say Stanley is a guaranteed NFL Draft pick.
Times have changed. The prototypical quarterbacks of the past (tall, pocket passer, big arm) are being replaced by mobile playmakers.
That being said, Stanley still has a lot of things in his favor.
He’s a winner. He’s well-liked by his teammates and coaches. He scored a fricken’ 40 on the Wonderlic test.
I’m sure Stanley has been impressive in virtual meetings. He’s trying to improve his accuracy to become a more consistent passer.
I think a team who needs another arm will take Stanley in the seventh round. I’ll go with Jacksonville, which only has Gardner Minshew and Josh Dobbs on the roster entering the NFL Draft.
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