Blazevich: Mock Draft 2.0


Owen Aanestad

Xavier Hutchinson talks with media during pro day, Bergstrom Football Complex, Mar. 21, 2023.

With the NFL Draft on April 27 steadily approaching, the time for testing and measurements is over.

Iowa State’s NFL prospects have completed all of their interviews, displayed their physical attributes in the combine and the team’s pro day and produced multiple years of game film.

The Cyclones are sending off another group of talented seniors, putting Iowa State in position to have another successful draft after producing four picks in 2022. In preparation for another eventful draft, here are my picks for Iowa State’s aspiring pros.

Will McDonald IV: Late first-round pick

McDonald is shaping up to be Iowa State’s best chance to produce a first-round draft pick in 50 years.

Star running back Breece Hall was the Cyclones’ standout prospect last season, but he was selected in the second round despite being the first running back taken off the board. NFL teams were defense-oriented in 2022, which may help McDonald if the trend continues in this upcoming draft.

McDonald’s physical attributes and athleticism are unquestionably spectacular, paired with car-jumping videos are eye-popping test results for the veteran edge rusher.

He posted a 36-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump – which ranks third among defensive ends at the Combine since 2009. His smooth footwork during drills and continued performance at Iowa State’s pro day caught the eye of NFL scouts.

McDonald is everything an NFL team could want in an edge rusher: he’s fast, he has long arms, his footwork is immaculate and his measurables nearly jump off the charts. Plus, he has a solid five years of game film where he terrorized Big 12 quarterbacks.

If McDonald is left untouched by the end of the first round, he will be a steal for whoever eventually grabs him.

Xavier Hutchinson: Fifth-round pick

Hutchinson is one of the most talented wide receivers Iowa State has produced since Allen Lazard in 2018. The veteran has been a staple of Iowa State’s wide receiver room and he has been lined up on the perimeter in the program’s biggest moments.

Even with all his talent, however, there is a good chance that Hutchinson is taken toward the back end of the draft.

Hutchinson was invited to the combine, but his numbers didn’t jump off the page by any means. His 4.53 40-yard dash and 36-inch vertical resulted in a No. 39 athleticism ranking among wide receivers according to

But it was never elite speed or a soaring vertical that made Hutchinson Iowa State’s reception leader. It has been the ability to run clean routes and catch passes that have separated him from the pack.

Hutchinson was able to demonstrate his talent at Iowa State’s pro day, where he managed to catch every pass that came his way. He caught the attention of NFL scouts in Ames, including Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who was up close and personal during Hutchinson’s time on the field.

Although Hutchinson may be selected on the third day of the draft, he has a high ceiling that can be reached during his time on an NFL roster. He may follow a similar career path to Lazard, who went from an undrafted free agent to becoming a mainstay NFL starter, having recently signed a 4-year, $44 million deal with the New York Jets.

Undrafted players to watch: Anthony Johnson and O’Rien Vance

Johnson and Vance were both key pieces of Iowa State’s outstanding 2022 defense. Even so, it’s likely that neither player will hear their name called during the NFL Draft.

Both players were veterans on a young Iowa State team last season, and they have been consistent defensive threats during their time with the Cyclones. Johnson in particular has been a lockdown corner for the majority of his career, having recently made the move to safety for the 2022 season.

Vance has been a playmaker for the Cyclones, but his time on the field has been inconsistent due to injury. With each player evoking a sense of uncertainty, it’s possible that neither are picked up in the draft.

Still, both players are capable of working their way onto an NFL roster.

Johnson made the move to safety in part because it increased his stock as an NFL prospect. He is also a player that can compete with anyone in his position group, regardless of his absent pre-draft attention.

Vance, on the other hand, has been working to make his body training camp-ready. He has cut 20 pounds in an effort to make himself more mobile and to fit the modern mold of an NFL linebacker.

With each player threatening to secure a spot on an NFL roster, it is possible both get picked up despite missing out on the draft.