When the 2012 NFL Draft commences tonight, Iowa State will be in a somewhat rare position. If Kelechi Osemele is drafted in the 2nd round as most analysts predict, he'll be Iowa State's highest draft pick since Keith Sims was chosen 39th overall in 1990. Additionally, if both Osemele and Leonard Johnson are drafted this year, it will only be the 17th time in Iowa State's history that the Cyclones have had multiple players drafted in the same year.
So Iowa State's draft history is less than stellar. But hopefully the current staff's coaching and recruiting will turn that around soon. Paul Rhoads has put an emphasis on finding raw players with Big XII-level talent and size, but without Big XII-level technique, trying to coach them up into BCS players. It's still early in Rhoads' career, but it seems like this strategy is working. And since those results won't be apparent until a few years from now, so let's take a look at Iowa State's 2012 draft prospects.
Kelechi Osemele: Iowa State's anchor at left tackle is projected as a guard in the NFL, but is getting looks from a lot of teams due to his versatility. His size, technique and experience are all positives, and he should provide a run-oriented team with a quality starter on the offensive line. The Nigerian Nightmare (sorry, Christian Okoye) is almost universally picked to go in the back half of the second round, which is a bit of a slide after some analysts were projecting Osemele to be drafted in the first round before the 2011 season.
- NFL Draft Scout: 7th best offensive tackle, Projected 2nd round, 55th pick to Falcons
- ESPN: Mel Kiper projects Osemele to the 2nd round, 55th pick to Falcons
- CBS Sports: 7th best offensive tackle, Projected 2nd round to Ravens or Jets
- Drafttek: Projected 2nd round, 55th pick to Falcons
- SB Nation: Projected 2nd round, 54th pick to Lions
Leonard Johnson: The most physical cornerback Iowa State has had in a long time should be a good value for a team in the later rounds of the draft. Could be an impact player on special teams or provide depth at cornerback for a team that plays predominantly zone defense. Due to a lackluster performance at the combine, Johnson has seen his stock drop over the past few weeks, and consequently most analysts have him picked anywhere between the third and fifth rounds.
- NFL Draft Scout: 16th best cornerback, Projected 4th round, 128th pick to Vikings
- CBS Sports: 17th best cornerback, Projected 5th round, 136th pick to Colts
- Drafttek: Projected 3rd round, 107th pick to Chiefs
- FF Toolbox: Projected 5th round to Cowboys, Buccaneers or Patriots
Hayworth Hicks: Projected as a center if he makes it to the next level, Hicks started 24 games at right guard for Iowa State. Like Osemele, Hicks was a good run blocker at Iowa State but struggled at times in the passing game. And like Osemele, Hicks was also good for at least one false start per game. With an NFL-ready frame but without NFL-ready technique, Hicks is most likely a free agency pickup that could work his way up to a roster spot.
- NFL Draft Scout: 52nd best offensive guard, Projected undrafted
Darius Reynolds: Iowa State's leading receiver in 2011 had a streaky season, starting the year averaging over 100 yards per game, but only finishing the season with 695 total yards. Hampered by injuries throughout his career, Reynolds was never able to put together the consistent, breakthrough season that his talent level promised. So while Reynolds was notorious for disappearing for long stretches of time during games and over seasons, Reynolds is still a gifted athlete and receiver. Arizona, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota and New England have all shown interest.
- NFL Draft Scout: 63rd best wide receiver, Projected undrafted
Ter'ran Benton: While a quality safety in the pass-happy Big XII for the past two years, Benton is unlikely to be drafted. Although Benton was good against the run throughout his career and is a solid tackler, his coverage skills aren't elite. Most likely a free-agency pickup or camp body who can contribute on special teams.
- NFL Draft Scout: 63rd best strong safety, Projected undrafted
So good luck to Osemele and Johnson this weekend, as they stand to make more money in a few days than most people will see in a lifetime. And good luck to the rest of the seniors as they try to work their way to an NFL roster. All have been excellent players for the last few years, and will be missed next year.