IOWA CITY, Iowa — Three Iowa players who expected to hear their names called Friday night sit at the top of the many NFL draft boards entering Saturday’s final four rounds.
Cornerback Desmond King, defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and tight end George Kittle were projected to go as high as the second round. They slipped through the second and third rounds on Friday. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was picked late in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers. He was just the second Iowa quarterback selected in the NFL draft since 1992 and the highest since Chuck Long was a first-round pick in 1986.
Pro Football Focus ranks King — a two-time All-American — as the sixth-best player available, and rates Kittle as the eighth best. It listed Johnson among the top 30 players available entering the fourth round. ESPN’s Todd McShay ranked King sixth and Johnson 15th. NFL.com scouting guru Gil Brandt listed King sixth, Johnson 18th and Kittle 24th.
King started a school-record 51 games at Iowa and played in two others. He intercepted 14 passes to tie for fourth in program history. King tied a school record with 8 interceptions in 2015 and also tied the Iowa mark by returning 3 interceptions for touchdowns in his career. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 as the nation’s best defensive back and was a consensus first-team All-American. King earned various first-team and second-team All-American recognition in 2016.
Kittle caught 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns during his Iowa career. He started 17 games and played in 49. He earned a $10,000 bonus at the NFL combine after running the fastest 40-yard dash time in his position group while wearing adidas shoes. Kittle ran the 40 in 4.52 seconds, ranking third among tight ends, and tied for 13th-best all-time at the position. He finished third in the broad jump at 11 feet and was sixth in the vertical jump at 35 inches.
Johnson started 27 games in his final two seasons at Iowa and was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2016.
Other Iowa players who could get selected include tackle Cole Croston and running back LeShun Daniels.