Royston: The biggest winners of Iowa State’s Pro Day


Jacob Rice

Darren Wilson Jr. runs the 40-yard dash at pro day, Bergstrom Football Complex, Mar. 21, 2023.

With the NFL Draft quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at who the big winners of Iowa State’s Pro Day were.

Although some Cyclones entered Pro Day with already high draft stocks, some players used the day as a way of getting their names out and showing what they could bring to the next level. It would be easy to pick the obvious choices for the big winners of the day like Will McDonald IV and Xavier Hutchinson, but some lesser-known players got the chance to toss their hats in the ring.

Now I’m not an NFL Draft expert or a scout by any means, but from where I was standing at Pro Day, two players really stood out to me: MJ Anderson and Darren Wilson Jr.

They didn’t stand out to me because of how great their measurables were or how they were at the top of the pack. They stood out to me because of their potential.

Anderson was less of a wildcard than Wilson, as he competed in the NFL Combine not long before Pro Day. However, Anderson didn’t participate in every event, just recording a 33” vertical jump.

The biggest knock against Anderson is his lack of tape and game experience. Anderson only played one year at Iowa State, and he only played in 15 games at Minnesota.

However, one thing you can’t coach is size, and Anderson has that. He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 275 pounds. That’s NFL size right there.

Anderson’s frame combined with his natural power make him an interesting prospect just based on his potential. With that in mind, all he needed to do at Pro Day was show off his athleticism.

He did just that. Anderson looked powerful out of the gates and showed off his explosiveness on the broad jump. Although he wasn’t near McDonald’s numbers, he moved pretty well for a bigger guy.

Where Anderson really shined was the on-field drills. His main goal going into the event was to show off how quick he was, especially when it came to making cuts or changing directions.

Anderson’s ability to change directions and be versatile will be great assets for him going forward. The NFL asks a lot out of defensive ends, and being able to drop back into coverage when needed or come off the edge with speed and flexibility is crucial to the position.

Wilson was in a similar situation to Anderson, as his lack of tape may cause teams to keep their distance from him. Wilson had even less experience than Anderson, recording just three catches in the 2022 season.

Wilson took full advantage of his time in the spotlight, impressing at every turn. Wilson has good measurements, standing at 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds.

Wilson started his day destroying the bench press, as the speed at which the bar moved was on par with the linebackers at Pro Day. Wilson also looked quick on the field as he waited his turn for passing drills.

Although Wilson looked great athletically, the passing drills started off rocky. Wilson dropped multiple balls early, although he settled down later on.

Catching may be the most important skill for a receiver, but the early dropped balls don’t concern me much. Wilson came into the day as the ultimate wildcard.

NFL teams knew what to expect out of Wilson based on his limited game tape, so a drop or two wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

Wilson looked to have the natural skills that couldn’t be taught like size and speed. The catching issues are something that can be worked on and perfected later. I mean, Tony Gonzalez struggled with drops early in his NFL career, and although he was a tight end, he retired as one of the greatest to ever play at his position.

I’m not saying Wilson has the potential to be the greatest receiver of all time, but I think he could be a solid option for some teams. NFL teams are always looking for more receivers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson popped up on a team’s practice squad at some point.

Picking Anderson and Wilson as the big winners of Pro Day isn’t me saying they were the most dominant. I’m also not guaranteeing they will make it to the next level. I picked them as my winners because they had the most to prove.

Both players aren’t on the same level as others in their positions. Anderson is no Will McDonald. Wilson is no Xavier Hutchinson.

However, the lack of attention meant they had the most to gain from Pro Day. Showing off what they could do in front of a crowd of NFL scouts and coaches gave them much-needed exposure.

That being said, Anderson and Wilson impressed during their time at Pro Day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a team is curious enough about their potential to bite and take one of them later in the draft or after it’s over.