In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
IOWA STATE CYCLONES
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 4
2012 NFL Draft picks: 1 – OT Kelechi Osemele (2nd round, 60th overall)
The Cyclones have had moderate success since Paul Rhoads took over as head coach three years ago in Ames, but those wins haven't exactly translated to NFL Draft picks. Over the last five seasons, Iowa State has the lowest total of players selected in the conference with just four Cyclones drafted over that stretch. Iowa State had just one draft pick this past April when tackle Kelechi Osemele was taken in the second round, the highest drafted Cyclone since 1990.
Similar to recent seasons, Iowa State is poised for another 5-7 win season with a few borderline prospects worthy of NFL consideration. Last year it was Osemele and CB Leonard Johnson and this season it's a pair of senior linebackers who will receive looks by pro scouts, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. Neither are viewed as early round draft picks, but they have combined for over 500 career tackles and will make strong cases for the next level.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OLB Jake Knott (6-3, 240)
Since he became a starter at weakside linebacker as a sophomore, Knott (pictured above) has been the heart and soul of the Cyclones' defense, averaging 10 tackles per game as a starter. An Iowa-native, he didn't receive many scholarship offers as a recruit, but attended high school an hour's drive away from Iowa State's campus and committed to the Cyclones the moment he was offered. Knott practiced as a fullback and linebacker as a true freshman, seeing most of his time on special teams with 23 tackles. He became a starter in 2010 as a sophomore and emerged as the star of the defense, recording a team-best 130 tackles with 6.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, four forced fumbles and four interceptions. Knott earned First Team All-Big 12 honors as a junior last season, finishing second on the team with 115 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions. He is a smart, assignment-sound football player who uses his eyes effectively to break down the action and react quickly. Knott lacks elite quick-twitch athleticism, but he rarely takes false steps and takes advantage of his heady awareness to put himself in position to make plays. Entering the 2012 season, Knott projects as a mid-to-later round draft pick, but Knott is the type of player who constantly exceeds expectations.
2. ILB A.J. Klein (6-2, 245)
Paired with Knott, middle linebacker Klein makes up one of the top linebacker tandems in the nation. After leading the team in tackles last season, he earned several pre-season honors this summer prior to his senior season in 2012. Klein was a three-star recruit out of Wisconsin, but didn't receive an offer from the Badgers and accepted a scholarship from the Cyclones. After limited playing time as a freshman in 2009, he became a starter in 2010 and registered 111 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), earning All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. Klein had his best season in 2011 as a junior, leading the team with 116 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and another pick returned for a score (giving him a school-record three career interception returns for touchdowns). For his production last season, he earned All-Conference honors and was named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, along with Oklahoma's Frank Alexander. Klein is an intense competitor and while that emotional attitude has caused him to butt heads with the coaching staff in the past, he has matured into a team leader. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, showing top football awareness with a glass-eating diet, but lacks the elite athleticism for the next level. Just like Knott, Klein projects more as a later round draft pick, but he isn't the type of player one should bet against.
3. FS Jacques Washington (6-1, 215)*
A former high school running back, Washington became a starter at free safety last season for Iowa State and finished third on the team in tackles with 90, just behind Knott and Klein. At just 185-pounds as a prep player, he was recruited as a cornerback and moved to the defensive side of the ball for the Cyclones, redshirting in 2009. Washington played in nine games in 2010 as a redshirt freshman back-up, totaling 12 tackles. He moved to safety last season as a sophomore, averaging 7.0 tackles per game and recording his first interception. Washington also tied with senior cornerback Leonard Johnson for the team-lead in passes broken-up with eight. He has done a nice job adding bulk and strength to his frame, adding 30-pounds since arriving in Ames. Known as the class clown of the defense, Washington is all-business on the field and plays with an aggressive demeanor, attacking the ballcarrier with a violent mentality. He needs to continue to develop his anticipation in coverage, but he is an underclassmen defensive back worth watching in 2012.
4. WR Josh Lenz (6-0, 195)
The Cyclones lose their leading receiver from a year ago, but Lenz does return to Ames for 2012 and is expected to be the team's top target as a senior. He set career-bests last season and recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game. Lenz was a multi-sport athlete out of high school and made an instant impact over his first two seasons at Iowa State with a combined 34 catches for 356 yards and two scores. He became a full-time starter as a junior last season, finishing second on the team with 39 receptions for 510 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lenz also contributes on special teams, averaging 23.1 yards on kickoffs and 6.7 yards on punt returns (including a score). He lacks explosive ability and is more of a one-speed runner, but he is balanced and tough, breaking tackles and making things happen after the catch. Although he doesn't stand out in any one area and is more of an undrafted free agent prospect, he is one of the more reliable receivers in the conference.
5. TE Kurt Hammerschmidt (6-6, 270)
Despite only 18 career catches, Hammerschmidt has a lot of NFL qualities that will earn him some looks by pro teams. He will be a second-year starter in 2012 and should also start on any “All-Name” teams in college football. Hammerschmidt was a lightly-recruited two-star player out of the St. Louis area and redshirted in his first season in Ames. After seeing very limited playing time as a freshman and sophomore (six catches), he became a starter last season as a junior, finishing with a career-best 13 catches for 126 yards. Hammerschmidt has packed nearly 40-pounds onto his frame since high school and has the natural size and measureables that stands out. He is expected to take on more of an offensive role as a senior, both receiving and blocking. Hammerschmidt has only one career touchdown and is still very unpolished in many aspects of his game, but he could make a move up draft boards with a productive 2012 season.
QB Steele Jantz (6-3, 225)
RB James White (5-8, 185)*
WR Aaron Horne (5-8, 180)
OT Carter Bykowski (6-8, 305)
OT Brayden Burris (6-6, 300)
DT Jake McDonough (6-5, 290)
CB Jeremy Reeves (5-7, 165)
For more 2012 college football draft previews click here.
Photo credit: Getty Images