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Q&A: ESPN's Rece Davis on 2022 NFL Draft prospects

On Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning, Davis said NFL teams are "far more concerned about what you can do rather than where you came from."

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The 2022 NFL Draft is Thursday, April 28 through Saturday, April 30. All three rounds can be seen on Local 5 (ABC) and ESPN.

Below is an interview transcript between Local 5 Sports Director Reina Garcia and Rece Davis of ESPN's "College GameDay."

Reina Garcia: We're going to break down the NFL Draft and do our best to predict what will happen specifically with the guys coming out of the Iowa schools ... that's Iowa State, Iowa, and Northern Iowa. So to kind of kick things off, we'll start with probably the most talked about one out of the bunch and that is Iowa State running back Breece Hall. He has been on the record saying he feels like he is the best running back in this draft. Do you see him being the first running back off the board?

Rece Davis: Potentially. I think that would be a good assessment. And certainly, he is right there. Either he or Kenneth Walker III from Michigan State as the best running back in this draft class. I don't think that there will be a running back taken in the first round. I could be wrong. But I expect Breece to go at some point on Friday night during the second or third rounds. And I think that a lot of that is not necessarily due to anything that Breece Hall lacks, it's just more a result of the direction of the game in the NFL. 

But the good news for Breece is that I think he's an every-down back in the NFL. He certainly has a tremendous backstory of being overlooked in recruiting and then winding up at Iowa State and having a sensational career there. And a number of running backs in the NFL have had long and productive careers and didn't necessarily go in the first round. So I think it's a bit of a trend right now. 

There were a couple of exceptions last year, one of them was a surprise. I think when Travis Etienne went in the first round last year, but Najee Harris went in the first round. Not sure if anybody will this year, but I expect Breece to come off the board fairly early on Friday night. And if it's better than that, and it's Thursday night, then good for him. And we'll all be happy for him.

RELATED: Where will they land? Tracking the in-state prospects ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft

Garcia: Another player that's getting a lot of buzz is Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa. Where do you see him going in this draft? 

Davis: Middle of the first round. And I actually think there's a spot that could make him go pretty high if Baltimore decides to fill a need at center. They just lost their center Bradley Bozeman in free agency. And Tyler is you know, really strong guy and a guy that you can almost count on being an anchor and a stalwart on your offensive line for years to come. So if Baltimore decides to go offensive line, it wouldn't surprise me if he went off the board as early as their spot at 14. But I do expect him to be off the board somewhere in the middle of the first round. And I think it'll be a very wise pick by whoever winds up with him.

Garcia: Sticking with the offensive line, another guy who's also getting a lot of interest is Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa. Now with him coming from a smaller program, do you think that kind of hampers his ability to go high in this draft?

Davis: You know, I really don't. I don't think it will hold him back at all simply because the NFL is a copycat league and they are far more concerned about what you can do rather than where you came from. And there's a long history and a fairly recent history of guys not only being drafted but doing well. From recent guys like Spencer Brown, who you guys know, Quinn Meinerz who came from Divison III and was drafted to even the great Larry Brown who came from Sonoma State and was one of the great offensive linemen in NFL history, you know, played forever and he was you know, an All-Pro 10 years. 

So I don't really think it hampers any player but particularly it doesn't have for a player on the line of scrimmage. So I think for offensive and defensive linemen if they had the size and the athletic ability and strength and a bit of mean streak ... I think that the NFL is far more concerned about what they do, as opposed to the level at which they played. Not to say that I mean, certainly it helps if you play at the highest level because they can assess you regularly against top-flight competition. I don't mean to say that, I just don't I don't think it keeps you from being drafted or really hurt your draft stock that much.

RELATED: The Ultimate NFL Mock Draft for 2022: who will your team pick?

Garcia: We know a very in-demand position is the quarterback position. Iowa State's Brock Purdy, you know, kind of seems like he's flown under the radar a little bit. We've heard the word "underrated" kind of be thrown around when people talk about him. 

Do you see the potential for him to maybe be picked up by someone in this draft? And if not, maybe he still finds a way to get invited to a camp with someone else?

Davis: Oh, I think he'll get a shot at least to get in to camp because there's always a market for, you know, smart, savvy quarterbacks who are good athletes, and Brock fits all of those characteristics. So I don't know exactly whether I would expect him to be drafted, if so probably be a Day 3 selection a little bit later on. But I also see the potential for Brock to have a really good NFL career because he's the kind of guy that is in demand, and you can never have too many intelligent, good athletes at quarterback. And Brock is both of those things. And with that position, being at such a premium with so many guys, you know, unfortunately going down with injuries. You know, see a lot of teams having to turn to guys who were either undrafted or picked up in the later rounds and they end up having to start games and they have to be prepared. 

We joke a lot of times about how carrying the clipboard is like the easiest, most lucrative job in sports. But it's also, all kidding aside, it's really a demanding job because those guys have to be ready. All you have to do to get yourself released in a heartbeat is not prepare and then they have to put you in the game, you're not ready. So you have to prepare every week as if you're going to play knowing full well that the likelihood is that you won't. And I think from what we've seen from Brock from the way he performed throughout his career at Iowa State that there's no question that when he gets his opportunity, he'll be prepared for it.

Credit: AP
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws a pass during the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl NCAA college football game against Clemson, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Garcia: Are there any guys coming from either three of those schools that we just talked about that you feel are maybe kind of sleeper picks if you will? That maybe not a lot of people are talking about but you could see them being drafted?

Davis: I think maybe a guy like Mike Rose, made a whole bunch of tackles that could really be a good special teams player, a good depth guy who could maybe evolve into even something more in the NFL as a guy to keep an eye on. A lot of times, running backs, you know, the NFL really churns up running backs, a tough position to play. You know, maybe Tyler Goodson gets a shot, you know, somebody like that. So I think there are several guys who might not be at the forefront of all of our thoughts as we go into the draft that could wind up getting an opportunity somewhere along the line.

Garcia: My last question is if you had to kind of briefly summarize how you think the draft will go for players coming out of Iowa, Iowa State or UNI, how would you describe that?

Davis: Well, I think that especially for Iowa it's going to be a good night, that pipeline of offensive linemen to the NFL will continue with another first-round pick. And I think that it'll be further testament to the development that Iowa State players have when you have guys like Breece Hall and Charlie Kolar and people like that hearing their names call at some point during the three days of the draft and getting their NFL opportunity. 

So I think all of those guys will, you know, will have had a chance. And it's a great culmination of a lifetime of work up to this point. And then it all starts over, you know, no matter whether you're drafted number one overall or you're mister irrelevant, you have to start from the bottom and start your professional path right then.

RELATED: These are the prospects invited to the 2022 NFL Draft

HIGHLIGHTS: Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar

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