Cyclones ready to make a splash at NFL Draft


Jacob Rice

Xavier Hutchinson runs routes, catching balls from Hunter Dekkers at pro day, Bergstrom Football Complex, Mar. 21, 2023.

The NFL Draft is right around the corner, and a handful of Iowa State players are hoping to get their phone call letting them know that they are moving on to the next level.

The 2023 NFL Draft is set to begin Thursday and go through Saturday. The draft will take place in Kansas City, Missouri.

There are a good amount of Iowa State players that declared for the NFL Draft, with a few standouts already catching the eyes of NFL teams.

Iowa State saw four players get drafted in 2022, which is the most in a single draft for the Cyclones since 1977. Iowa State lit up the fourth round of the draft, as Eyioma Uwazurike and Charlie Kolar were picked up by the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens, respectively.

Long-time starting quarterback Brock Purdy also snuck into the draft, taken with the last overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers. Although Purdy was the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the draft, he shocked the football world by taking the 49ers deep into the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.

The Cyclones also saw Breece Hall nearly crack the first round, as he was picked 36th overall by the New York Jets. If Hall had fallen in the first round, it would have broken a 50-year drought for the Cyclones.

Now it looks to be Will McDonald IV who might end the drought. McDonald is expected to be the first Cyclone off the board and has a good chance of going in the first round.

McDonald cemented himself as one of the best edge rushers in Iowa State history and Big 12 history. He finished his collegiate career tied for the most sacks in Big 12 history with 34.

McDonald was First Team All-Big 12 in his final three years at Iowa State, earning All-American honors in 2021 after leading the Big 12 for the second straight season. He also broke the Iowa State single-season sack record with 11.5.

McDonald did not just wow on film and on the stat sheet, but he showed out at the NFL Combine and Iowa State’s Pro Day. No matter where McDonald falls in the draft, the team that takes him will be getting an athletic freak.

The other three Cyclones that showed out at the NFL Combine, improving their chances in the draft, were Xavier Hutchinson, Anthony Johnson Jr and MJ Anderson.

Similar to McDonald, Hutchinson found consistent success at Iowa State. Hutchinson was Hunter Dekkers’ go-to receiver in 2022, hauling in a record 107 receptions for 1,171 yards and six touchdowns.

Hutchinson also set the career reception record at Iowa State, overtaking Allen Lazard, who is currently playing in the NFL. With the success Hutchinson saw in the Big 12, he had enough tape to catch the eyes of NFL teams before the combine and Iowa State’s Pro Day.

However, Hutchinson did put on a show during Pro Day, not dropping a single pass all day. His performance was impressive enough to catch the eye of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Johnson also had an impressive Pro Day, getting some reps in with Tomlin as well. Johnson has a lot of tape on his game, as he broke the Big 12 record in career starts with 54.

Johnson also saw success after his move from cornerback to safety, ending his senior campaign with his first two interceptions. He wanted to move to safety to improve his skill set and versatility because that’s what NFL teams are looking for, and the move looked to be a good decision.

Although Johnson is not projected to be a top pick, he could sneak into the late rounds if a team wants to take a chance.

The last Iowa State player that attended the NFL Combine who has the chance to hear his name in the later rounds is Anderson. Although Anderson doesn’t have as much tape as other Iowa State players, his pure athleticism and size could make him an interesting prospect to take a chance on.

Anderson is competing with a deep defensive end group, but it is a position that teams will look to stack up on.

The NFL Draft will start Thursday with the first round. The second and third rounds will be Friday, with the final four rounds finishing up Saturday.

The draft will be streamed live on NFL Network, ABC and ESPN. The first round will start at 7 p.m. Thursday. Friday’s stream will be at 6 p.m., and Saturday’s will be at 11 a.m.