Oct 3, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald IV (9) celebrates a sack during their football game at Jack Trice Stadium. Iowa State would go on to defeat Oklahoma 37-30. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports
Another NFL Draft is behind us, and another year has been tacked onto Iowa State’s streak of drafts without a pick in the first round.
That run has now reached 48 years since the Houston Oilers took George Amundson with the 14th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, but the odds of the streak stretching even further next spring seem to be as low as they have been in quite some time.
Numerous Cyclones appear in way-too-early mock drafts for the 2022 NFL Draft, scheduled to be held in Las Vegas in late April 2022. Obviously, a lot could (and probably will) change between now and then, but it is still worth noting how much more buzz Iowa State players are getting in this area.
I mean, it makes sense to see Cyclones garnering more of this type of attention when you consider their success in 2020 plus the program’s expected success in the upcoming 2021 season with roughly 20 returning starters and star players at nearly every position.
Here’s a look at where some outlets have pegged the Cyclones just less than a year before they could potentially have their name called in Vegas, plus a few extra names I’m guessing will pick up steam as the season rolls around.
Breece Hall, Running Back (Junior)
As it stands today, the junior tailback from Wichita looks to be the guy most likely to end Iowa State’s run without a first-round pick.
Fresh off finishing sixth in Heisman Trophy voting and leading the nation in rushing as a sophomore in 2020, Hall is widely considered the best running back in the 2022 draft class.
That fact has Hall listed in numerous first-round mocks, including going with the No. 26 pick according to NBC Sports and No. 29 according to Bleacher Report. He’s also listed as The Sporting News‘ No. 30 overall player in the class and No. 1 running back.
Those projections fit with where the first running back was taken in this past weekend’s draft, a distinction which belonged to Najee Harris, who was taken No. 24 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mike Rose, Linebacker (Senior)
It might surprise some people to know the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year was pegged as the No. 26 pick in NBC Sports’ way-too-early mock draft (yes, one pick ahead of Hall), but it is hard to argue against the fact Rose has produced at a level worthy of hearing his name called next April.
The Ohio native has already recorded 251 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, seven passes defended and six interceptions during his first three years in Ames and has shown high-level versatility while doing it, considering he played his freshman season at the mike linebacker position before moving to sam linebacker as a sophomore.
To make NBC’s projection even better, they have the Cleveland Browns slated as the team taking Rose late in the first round. That would be an absolute dream scenario on multiple levels.
Charlie Kolar, Tight End (Redshirt senior)
Kolar’s name does not appear in any first-round mock drafts I have found at this point, but he is slated as the No. 41 player in The Sporting News’ ranking of the class’s top-50 players.
The Norman, Okla. native would have been a safe bet to get picked in this year’s draft if he’d elected to leave school, but he’ll return in 2021 as one of the best tight ends in college football — again. Kolar caught 44 passes for 591 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020 and was a finalist for the Mackey Award given to the nation’s best tight end.
Kolar has to be one of the odds on favorites for that award this season, and the idea of him sneaking his way up draft boards and into the first round by next April seems possible.
Brock Purdy, Quarterback (Senior)
Like Kolar, Purdy’s name isn’t appearing in any first-round mocks at this point, but he is listed as the No. 10 quarterback in the class by College Football News.
There was considerably more buzz about Purdy’s professional future at this time a year ago, but an up-and-down junior season seems to have caused some media types to hop off the Purdy hype train.
No matter, he’ll return in 2021 with more pass-catching weapons at his disposal than ever before, his entire starting offensive line back and the best running back in college football alongside him in the backfield.
Purdy’s physical attributes might make him a long shot ever to climb all the way into the first round, but his intangibles and record-breaking production make it feel like a near-lock he’ll hear his name called during the three-day event in 2022.
Will McDonald, Defensive End (Redshirt junior)
This one is so interesting that I just wanted to save it for last to think about it more.
Not only is McDonald listed in RJ Young’s first-round mock draft for Fox Sports, but Young has the Cyclones’ single-season sack king going No. 8 overall, which would make McDonald the highest-picked player in the program’s history.
McDonald’s talent is tantalizing, and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound pass-rushing specialist’s profile is only going to rise in the coming months. It will be fascinating to see what he can do rushing the quarterback without JaQuan Bailey opposite of him on the defensive front.
There are concerns about weight with McDonald, but there is no doubt that kid isn’t anywhere near playing the best football he’ll ever play. That should be a scary idea for every offense he faces, both collegiately and professionally.
McDonald’s name doesn’t show up on any other draft boards or in any other mock drafts — at all. I don’t expect that to last, though. Young is merely the first national media member to note the sky-high prospects for McDonald’s future on the gridiron.
A couple others to watch…
These guys aren’t listed on any mock drafts right now, but I’m guessing they’ll start being talked about more in the coming months once the season starts and more scouts can get eyeballs on them.
I’m not saying these are guys who will be first-rounders, but they’re all guys I wouldn’t be shocked to see picked next April.
*** Xavier Hutchinson (Senior)
*** Colin Newell (Redshirt senior)
*** Anthony Johnson (Senior)
*** Enyi Uwazurike (Super redshirt senior)
*** Chase Allen (Super redshirt senior)
*** O’Rien Vance (Redshirt senior)
*** Greg Eisworth (Super redshirt senior)
*** Isheem Young (Redshirt sophomore)
Okay, I could have missed some guys, but those are all the ones that came to mind right away, and, holy crap, there are 13 guys on this list. Will all of them get picked? Probably not, considering Alabama and Ohio State led the nation with 10 selections in this year’s draft.
Still, I mean… is it really that crazy to think 10 of these guys could get picked? Shoot, even if only eight of them did, it would have to be up there as one of the biggest year-to-year increases in picks ever, right?
Iowa State has had only four players drafted since I started covering the program in 2013. Having only four players drafted next year would seem like a massive disappointment.