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Best Iowa Hawkeyes NFL First Round Draft Picks Ever

Best Iowa Hawkeyes NFL First Round Draft Picks Ever

6th May, 2024 @ 02:40 pm

While the Iowa Hawkeyes football program has had a certain level of success, winning five national titles, eleven BIG10 titles, and appearing in thirty-nine Bowl Games. When you mention the Iowa Hawkeyes in NCAA football chatter, one does not immediately think of “championship” or “powerhouse”. 

Regardless of their team success, the Hawkeyes have produced numerous NFL Draft picks, including 26 first-round selections since 1936. Last season, defensive end Lukas Van Ness was grabbed by the Green Bay Packers with the thirteenth pick while linebacker Jack Campbell was selected eighteenth by the Detroit Lions. 

Of the 26 players selected in the first round, one has been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while a total of 10 have been given Pro Bowl honors. 

Alex Karras - Detroit Lions, 1958

One of just three Iowa Hawkeye players to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, defensive tackle Alex Karras turned a toxic relationship with then Iowa coach Forest Evashevski and a troubled collegiate career into becoming the 10th pick by the Detroit Lions. 

Over the course of his dozen NFL seasons, Karras dominated his position, earning nine All-Pro team selections (three First Team, six Second Team) as well as four Pro Bowl appearances. 

John Niland - Dallas Cowboys, 1966

Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, and raised in Amityville, New York, John Niland would eventually make his way to Iowa to play for the Hawkeyes in 1962. This wouldn’t be the last time that Niland experienced moving as he started his time with the Hawkeyes as a fullback, then moved to play offensive tackle, and then finished his collegiate career as a guard. 

Selected fifth by the Cowboys, Niland was also tagged by the Oakland Raiders in the 1966 AFL Draft. A six-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time First Team All-Pro, Niland helped the Cowboys defeat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. 

John Alt - Kansas City Chiefs, 1984

A two time Pro Bowl selection and a Second Team All-Pro, offensive tackle John Alt was selected by the Chiefs with the 21st pick in the 1984 NFL Draft. It would take Alt until his fifth year with the Chiefs to crack the starting rotation on a regular basis. Known for his incredible strength and blocking ability, Alt played a key role in the Chiefs' offense during the 1990s. 

Dallas Clark - Indianapolis Colts, 2003

With the 24th pick, the Colts added tight end Dallas Clark to their roster. Clark started ten games for the Colts during his rookie campaign before a broken leg ended his season. As a perfect addition to the team, helping protect star quarterback Payton Manning, while at the same time giving him another target on the field, Clark helped the team to two Super Bowl appearances, winning a ring in Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. 

A first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honoree in 2009, spent nine seasons with the Colts before playing one year with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens. 

Bryan Bulaga - Green Bay Packers, 2010

Forgoing his final season with the Iowa Hawkeyes, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga would be selected by the Packers with the twenty-third pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after helping the Hawkeyes win the Orange Bowl. 

After coming off of the bench for the first three games of the season, Beluga entered the starting lineup for the remainder of the season, including all four of the Packers playoff victories, on route to capturing Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bulaga would spend nine years in Green Bay before finishing his career with the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Brandon Scherff - Washington Commanders, 2015

Born and raised in Denison, Iowa, the 6’5”, 315lb guard did not have to look far for his college experience, staying home to play for the Hawkeyes. Although he had the opportunity to enter the NFL Draft following an impressive junior season, Schreff decided to stay on campus for his final year. 

Selected by Washington Commanders with the fifth pick in the 2015 Draft. In five of his seven seasons in Washington, Scherff earned a spot on the Pro Bowl team and in 2020 would be named a First Team All-Pro. As a free agent in 2022, Scherff inked a 3-year / $49.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars

Tristan Wirfs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

The Bucs added a mountain of a man when they selected 6’5”, 320lb offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs with the thirteenth pick in 2020. The Mount Vernon, product of the Iowa football spread, bypassed his senior season with the Hawkeyes. 

In just his first season in the NFL, Wirfs played every game on the Buccaneers' schedule including each of their four playoff games, collecting a Super Bowl LV ring. In the three seasons following, Wirfs has been twice named an All-Pro and made three Pro Bowl teams. 

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