Iowa’s 2023 NFL Draft prospects led by Sam LaPorta, Jack Campbell

After sending Tyler Linderbaum to the Ravens in Round 1, can the Iowa Hawkeyes sustain high expectations with their 2023 NFL Draft class?

Having a first-round selection and making it to the Big Ten Championship will be a high bar to clear for Iowa in 2022. But the Hawkeyes still have enough 2023 NFL Draft talent to make some noise — both on the field and in Kansas City next April. Here’s an early look at how the Iowa Hawkeyes’ 2023 NFL Draft class might shake out.

Iowa prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Aside from center Tyler Linderbaum, who went in Round 1 to the Baltimore Ravens, the Hawkeyes‘ 2022 NFL Draft group was fairly sparse. A few prospects earned chances as undrafted free agents, but the team’s 2023 NFL Draft class might offer more depth, even if it doesn’t have top-end talent.

Monte Pottebaum, FB

Fullbacks are people, too! And every NFL draft cycle, two or three fullbacks emerge as legitimate prospects. Monte Pottebaum might be that guy in the 2023 cycle. Now a senior, Pottebaum is an extremely dense 6’1″, 246-pound lead blocker. He brings the trademark “tough as nails” mentality that you expect from fullbacks, and he willingly lowers his shoulder to block in both phases. But quietly, Pottebaum is more than a blocker. He had some nice runs in 2021, showing good athleticism and physicality. With his complete skill set, he’s sure to draw eyes in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Nico Ragaini, WR

In such an uncertain passing offense, it may be hard for Nico Ragaini to gain much traction as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. That said, he’s the unquestioned leader of the WR room and should have targets coming his way. Ragaini can’t boast speed or explosiveness as his calling cards, and at 6’0″, 191 pounds, he only has average size. But Ragaini can win with methodical route running and space manipulation. That alone makes him a reliable target for whoever winds up at QB.

Sam LaPorta, TE

People tend to gravitate to Iowa tight ends purely because of the talent the school has generated at position in the past. Names like T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant come to mind instantly. Sam LaPorta shouldn’t be lumped into that conversation by default. Nevertheless, he is an exciting 2023 NFL Draft prospect who could carry the torch for Iowa TEs. At 6’4″, 249 pounds, he’s well-sized and athletic. He’s tough and flexible at the catch point, as well as a run-after-catch threat, and he brings the want-to as a blocker.

Mason Richman, OT

It’s fairly unlikely that Mason Richman will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore. But Richman was a full-time starter at left tackle as a redshirt freshman in 2021, and he showed plenty of promise. Richman earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors for his play in 2021 and locked down the left tackle job for the foreseeable future. Richman can still stand to add a bit more weight to his frame — he’s listed at 6’6″, 296 pounds. But he flashes phenomenal athleticism on film and great power capacity with his long frame. Richman has legitimate NFL potential.

Justin Britt, G

Justin Britt was a reserve offensive lineman up until 2021 when he started the first three games of the season at right guard. He didn’t maintain the starting role through the year, but now, with Kyler Schott out of the picture, Britt may have an opportunity to replace him at left guard. Britt’s tape as a starter had its ups and downs, but the Hawkeyes blocker could emerge as a dependable interior lineman if he can improve his strength and technique.

Noah Shannon, DT

Noah Shannon will be in prime position to end his Iowa career on a high note in 2022. His 2023 NFL Draft ceiling might not be incredibly high. There’s a chance he gets drafted with a good year, but at 6’0″, 289 pounds, he is notably undersized and lacks an elite first step. He also lacks high-end flexibility or change of direction. That said, Shannon does show decent lateral agility, and his hands are active. If he can channel more energy out of his initial stance, he could unlock some pass-rushing upside in 2022.

Logan Lee, DT

Logan Lee is in line to have a steady role on defense once again for the Hawkeyes. Although he’s listed at 6’5″, 277 pounds, he played almost exclusively on the interior in 2021. Lee is an unorthodox interior lineman whose NFL projection is unclear. He’s not the most explosive and sometimes lacks the required strength with his lighter frame. Nevertheless, he was reasonably productive in 2021, with five tackles for loss and three sacks. Another strong year could enable him to keep ascending.

Lukas Van Ness, EDGE

Don’t count on Lukas Van Ness declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft. But do count on him being one of Iowa’s highest-drafted prospects over the next few cycles. Van Ness was just a redshirt freshman last year and wasn’t even a starter. Yet, he logged 8 1/2 tackles for loss and seven sacks while earning Freshman All-American honors. He did all this as an interior defensive lineman at 6’5″, 264 pounds. Luckily, Van Ness got more reps on the edge this spring. But he can be a playmaker anywhere. He’s comfortably the most gifted defensive lineman on Iowa’s roster, with rare explosiveness for his size.

John Waggoner, EDGE

John Waggoner will be an interesting prospect to watch moving forward. He’s not ensured a selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he does have some intriguing tools. At 6’5″, 266 pounds, he’s not lacking in size by any means. With his play strength and wingspan, he can set the edge in run defense. Meanwhile, he also flashes surprising ankle flexion as a pass rusher at times. He’s not an elite athlete, which will dilute his ceiling a bit. But in light of Zach VanValkenburg’s departure, Waggoner has an opportunity to show his skills.

Joe Evans, EDGE

Every college team could use a Joe Evans. Standing at 6’2″, 248 pounds as an edge rusher, Evans likely doesn’t have a high ceiling as an NFL draft prospect. He’s not the most explosive even at his size, and his length is visibly below-average. That said, Evans is a high-motor rusher who always brings fantastic effort and enough initial burst. A former walk-on, he works for everything he gets. And last season, he got seven sacks as a pass-rushing catalyst. Evans should field a camp invite when he enters the draft pool.

Jack Campbell, LB

Productive linebackers tend to find their way into the NFL ranks. Early on in the 2023 NFL Draft, Jack Campbell feels like a player well on his way. Campbell was prolific for the Hawkeyes in 2021, accumulating 140 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions, and six pass deflections as a full-time starter. Listed at 6’5″, 243 pounds, Campbell is a massive tackling machine who also shows good awareness and closing speed in coverage. It’s hard to tell where his ceiling is, but he’s a safe bet to be drafted if he keeps putting up numbers.

Seth Benson, LB

Seth Benson doesn’t have the size that his teammates boast at linebacker. Nevertheless, Benson is a good football player and another 2023 NFL Draft prospect worth knowing. Benson was right on the heels of Campbell last season, producing 105 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, and three deflections. He’s athletic enough to move in coverage and even shade out into the slot against move TEs. But he’s also disciplined and physical in run defense, willing to engage blockers and splice through lanes. With most of his supporting cast coming back, Benson could reach new heights in 2022.

Jestin Jacobs, LB

Of the three Iowa linebacker prospects, Jestin Jacobs is the least productive so far. That said, he may have the highest ceiling of the bunch. Sporting an outrageously long 6’4″, 236-pound frame, Jacobs has visible upside on tape. He’s a great athlete who can move laterally in space but also close ground with long strides. He can be an eraser in coverage with his length and mobility. We saw glimpses of what he can do in 2021, but Jacobs feels like a player whose best is yet to come. He’ll need a great year to declare for the 2023 NFL Draft early. But with his supporting cast, he might have it.

Riley Moss, CB

In four seasons since joining the Iowa Hawkeyes, Riley Moss has amassed 10 interceptions and 15 pass deflections. He’s a playmaker through and through. It’s a big reason why he was considered a draftable prospect through the 2022 cycle. Now a 2023 NFL Draft prospect, his reputation should remain steady. There are some limitations with Moss. He’s a rather inconsistent tackler, and he doesn’t have great proportional length. Nevertheless, his closing speed and ball skills should earn him interest next April.

Jermari Harris, CB

A young, ascending cornerback who saved his best for last in 2021, Jermari Harris is absolutely a name to watch in the 2023 NFL Draft. Iowa consistently produces quality cornerback talent on the NFL draft circuit, and Harris looks like the next one up after Moss. He’ll have to serve a one-game suspension at the start of the season after an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) arrest. But Harris should still get a chance to make his mark on the Hawkeyes’ defense. At 6’1″, 185 pounds, he shows off excellent short-area burst, twitch, and fluidity, and he can also convert at the catch point.

Terry Roberts, CB

In the wake of Harris’ OWI arrest, Terry Roberts could claim and lock down a starting spot as a boundary cornerback. Roberts doesn’t quite have the size Harris has at 5’10”, 180 pounds, but he’s a reliable veteran who’s shown he can produce in game situations. He can maintain discipline and spacing in zone coverage, as well as tempo his feet in man coverage. Even if Roberts doesn’t flourish in his senior season, he could generate interest in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle as a priority free agent with his special-teams ability.

Kaevon Merriweather, S

Along with Moss, Kaevon Merriweather serves as one of the veterans of the Iowa secondary. Beyond that, he has some intriguing traits regarding his 2023 NFL Draft projection. Merriweather has great size at 6’0″, 211 pounds, and he also flashes great explosiveness when closing on plays. His combination of size and burst allows him to surge into the box and act as an enforcer, but he’s also a smart, heady defender in coverage who can make plays on the ball. He can be indecisive at times, but he has the tools to rise in 2022.

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