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Five Iowa Players Shining As Rookies In The NFL


This news story was published on November 18, 2019.
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Once again during the NFL Draft back in April, Iowa were represented with a number of graduates from college programmes in the state, many of which went in the first round. Here is a look at how five of the leading players from Iowa are performing in their first year in the league.

T.J Hockenson (Detroit Lions)

Tight end T.J Hockenson was the highest drafted player from Iowa in the 2019 NFL Draft as the Iowa Hawkeye graduate was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions who saw the Chariton-born player as their number one target in the whole draft. The 2018 Ozzie Newsome Award winner made a dream debut in the NFL as he finished the game against the Arizona Cardinals with 131 receiving yards from his 6 receptions and he had a touchdown. Those numbers were a record for a rookie TE in the league.

The former Hawkeyes star has been unable to match that debut since, however, he is an integral part in the Lions offense as a receiver and a blocker. The Lions are struggling to make the playoffs once again this year as they were 3-5-1 after week 10 of the 2019 NFL season so Hockenson’s season is likely to finish at the end of December.

Amani Hooker (Tennessee Titans)

After their ninth game of the season, safety Amani Hooker, who was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft (116th overall), had played 76% of the defensive snaps for the Tennessee Titans, who have surely been very happy with his contribution in his debut campaign. Hooker was the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in 2018, after which he chose to give up on his senior year at the University of Iowa.

During his college career, he had 125 tackles, six interceptions, one sack and a touchdown. With the injury of cornerback Malcom Butler in the Titans’ secondary, Tennessee are going to rely on the 21-year-old at the Nissan Stadium even more in the second half of the regular season, especially if they are to win their division where, as on 15th November, they are +600 with Betway in their AFC South betting.

Noah Fant (Denver Broncos)

Noah Fant was another TE who was chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Hawkeyes player went 20th overall, the second TE behind Hockenson. After nine games into the season, Fant has had two touchdowns, 23 receptions and 300 receiving yards so he has adapted to life in the NFL really well. His first touchdown in the league came in week four in his side’s 26-24 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had to wait until week nine for his second TD but it was the worth wait as it was a spectacular 75-yard touchdown in the Broncos’ 24-19 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

David Montgomery (Chicago Bears)

David Montgomery had big shoes to fill when he started his debut season in the NFL with the Chicago Bears as the NFC North team selected the running back in the third round with the view to sign him to replace Jordan Howard who left to join the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears’ offense really has not fired this year, however, the first-year RB has been one of the few bright sparks in the team. The Iowa State player has five touchdowns and 466 rushing yards after week 10 of the season. He is seeing a lot more of the ball now for the Bears so expect to see him go close to reaching the 1000 yards mark at the end of the regular season.

Anthony Nelson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose linebacker Anthony Nelson in the fourth round of the draft, 107th overall and that is proving to be a wise selection as the 22-year-old has shown signs of quality this year. The former Hawkeyes player has recorded seven tackles and a forced fumble so far, the latter coming against Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. Nelson was nominated as a Lott IMPACT trophy candidate in 2018 and if he continues to develop, he could be a big player for head coach Bruce Ariens on the defensive side of the ball for years to come.

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