NFL Combine Recap: Cyclones shine in Indianapolis


Jacob Rice

ISU linebacker Will McDonald IV watches the Baylor defense before the snap at the ISU vs. Baylor football game. Sept. 24, 2022.

While the college football season may be over, the NFL Draft season is starting to heat up.

Four Iowa State football players got their chances to make an impression on NFL teams during the NFL Combine. Will McDonald IV, Xavier Hutchinson, Anthony Johnson and MJ Anderson traveled to Indianapolis on Thursday to run through combine drills in hopes of improving their draft stock.

Will McDonald IV

The player that gained the most attention by far was McDonald. After terrorizing Big 12 quarterbacks for years, McDonald got a chance to show NFL teams what he could bring to the next level.

McDonald left a mark during his time at Iowa State, finishing his time co-leading the Big 12 in career sacks.

McDonald’s draft stock was already on the rise by combine day, as his showing in the Senior Bowl turned heads. His hype was getting so large that he was being predicted to go in the first round in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Many analysts had McDonald as a late first-round pick, although Mel Kiper, a longtime ESPN Draft analyst, predicted him to crack the top-10.

With expectations at an all-time high, it was going to be difficult for McDonald to live up to them. When the time came, he didn’t just meet expectations but exceeded them.

McDonald entered the combine with a fever as high as 104 degrees, but that didn’t slow him down. He showed off his explosiveness and elite athleticism by setting marks of 36” in the vertical jump and 11’ in the broad jump.

McDonald’s broad jump tied him for first in his position and was the third-best jump by a defensive end since 2009. Along with his elite measurements, standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 239 pounds, McDonald looked every part of an NFL defensive end.

McDonald didn’t compete in the 40-yard dash or the bench press mainly due to his high fever, but he showed out in the pass-rushing drills.

He may not be the biggest defensive end, as NFL teams have knocked his lean waist and legs, but he has some of the best hands of any defensive end entering the draft, and he is explosive. The raw athleticism that McDonald put on display should help him significantly come draft time.

Xavier Hutchinson

Similar to McDonald, Hutchinson had a lot to prove at the combine. Hutchinson had the college stats to be in the conversation with other top wide receiver prospects, but he was knocked for the number of targets he saw during his time at Iowa State.

Hutchinson was a crucial piece of Iowa State’s offense in the 2022 season, as quarterback Hunter Dekkers looked Hutchinson’s way on nearly every play. It was no surprise that Hutchinson led the Big 12 in receptions while being the most dominant scorer on the Cyclones.

The combine ended up being cruel to Hutchinson, as he left the weekend with the lowest prospect grade of any Iowa State player. The combine tends to test raw athleticism over anything else, which isn’t Hutchinson’s strong suit.

Hutchinson ranked in the middle of the pack in most metrics, running the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, setting a 36” vertical jump and a 9’8” broad jump. His three-cone drill was his best drill, where he ranked fifth with a time of 6.91 seconds.

The part of Hutchinson’s game that made him a great player wasn’t his speed or size; it was his consistency. Hutchinson has great hands, which he was able to put on display at the combine.

Hutchinson looked the part as he ran through his catching drills. He stands at 6-foot-2, so he made up for his lack of speed with his jump-ball abilities.

Hutchinson only started to bloom in recent years, and NFL teams may look to take a chance on his potential.

Anthony Johnson

Johnson was one of the most intriguing safety prospects in the combine. Johnson played most of his snaps at Iowa State as a corner before switching to safety in his final season.

Johnson was a long-time starter for the Cyclones, amassing 54 career starts and being a captain in the defensive back room. Johnson switched to safety to get more attention from NFL teams, as he added more skills to his diverse toolkit.

The biggest knock against Johnson going into the combine was his production at the collegiate level. Johnson was a starting cornerback for years but didn’t get his first interception until halfway through his final season.

There were also some questions about whether Johnson had enough playtime in his new role as a safety to completely understand the position to the level that NFL teams desired.

In short, Johnson wowed.

Not only did Johnson show great skills during route-running drills and safety drills, he showed how athletic he could be. He ranked top 10 in every event he took part in, falling in or near the top 5 of most events, including his 37.5” vertical jump and 10’5” broad jump. Johnson also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds.

His efforts at the combine surely caused his draft stock to rise. Johnson came out with a prospect grade nearing that of Mcdonald’s.

MJ Anderson

Anderson was by far the quietest Iowa State player at the combine, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Anderson opted only to do the vertical jump, where he set a mark of 33”, and defensive end drills. There weren’t many metrics that Anderson needed to set, as he let his size speak for itself.

Anderson measured in at 6-foot-2, close to 6-foot-3, and 269 pounds. His height and weight give him the size needed to excel at the next level.

Analysts described Anderson as giving “old-school vibes,” as not many defensive ends opt for the four-point stance that he has. Anderson has great power on the edge thanks to his stance which could help him rush through NFL offensive linemen.

The area that Anderson lacks is his experience on the field. There isn’t much tape on him during his short time at Minnesota and Iowa State.

However, Anderson’s lack of experience may spark intrigue in some teams. Anderson has the rawness that could give him a lot of potential at the next level. The question will be if any NFL team wants to gamble on a player like Anderson.