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Schwartz: Who’s The Best Ferentz-Produced NFL Player?

November 7, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

A friend and I got into this discussion the other day. We thought you’d enjoy it.

Who is the best NFL Hawkeye of the Ferentz era?

It’s a discussion I like to write about every few years, but we couldn’t reach a conclusion since each (minus one) of the top candidates had a noteworthy negative to go with their long list of positives. So let’s just lay out the candidates, their qualifications, and the nitpick that might hold them back from the top spot.

The candidates, listed in alphabetical order:

Dallas Clark, tight end

The case for Clark: One of Ferentz’s first superstars, Clark went on to star with the Indianapolis Colts, starting at tight end on their Super Bowl XLI-winning team. He earned first-team All-Pro in 2009 and finished his career with more than 5,600 yards receiving and 53 touchdowns – more than Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and Ozzie Newsome.

The case against Clark: It might not be fair, but Clark, like wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, has much of his credit absorbed by the reputation of their quarterback, Peyton Manning. Was Clark great because he was great, or because he got to play with Manning, one of the NFL’s greatest QBs? The most likely answer is a little of both.

Adrian Clayborn, defensive line

The case for Clayborn: Now in his ninth season, Clayborn last year earned a Super Bowl championship. He’s totaled 33.5 sacks (and counting) and scored a couple of touchdowns. He could make the regular defensive line rotation of any NFL team.

The case against Clayborn: He’s more of a good player than a great player, having already switched teams three times in his career.

Chad Greenway, linebacker

The case for Greenway: Greenway recorded more than 1,100 tackles over a remarkably durable 10-year career. He appeared in 156 of a possible 160 regular-season games, intercepted 11 passes and recorded 18 sacks. He also earned a giant contract in 2011.

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The case against Greenway: Over his 10 seasons, the Vikings appeared in just five playoff games, finishing 1-4. Greenway played fine, but his teams never made much of a postseason dent.

Micah Hyde, defensive back

The case for Hyde: Now in his seventh NFL season, Hyde already has 16 career interceptions and four special teams returns for touchdowns. He earned second-team All-Pro in 2017 and has been a crucial contributor to the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills.

The case against Hyde: He’s come up big a couple of times in the postseason, although he’s yet to advance to a Super Bowl.

Nate Kaeding, kicker

The case for Kaeding: Kaeding is the eighth most accurate kicker in NFL history, successfully converting 86.2 percent of his field-goal attempts. In 210 attempts, he missed just 29. Remarkable. He lasted nine seasons and was named first-team All-Pro, an NFL honor far more prestigious than making a Pro Bowl, in 2009, when he connected on 32-of-35 field goals and went 75 percent on field goals longer than 50 yards.

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The case against Kaeding: Playoffs. He means so much to Hawkeye fans and has worked wonders to modernize downtown Iowa City, so it’s difficult to acknowledge that Kaeding’s lifetime field-goal percentage in the playoffs was 53.3 percent (8-of-15).

Desmond King, defensive back

The case for King: In two-plus seasons King has intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles, recovered three, and scored a couple of touchdowns. He’s also returned two punts for touchdowns and in 2018 earned All-Pro status at two positions: first-team defensive back and second-team punt returner.

The case against King: It’s too soon. Let’s check back in 2027.

George Kittle, tight end

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The case for Kittle: Kittle, in his third season, has emerged as one of the three most productive tight ends in the NFL. He already has nearly 2,500 yards receiving to go with nine touchdowns, and his 13.7 yards-per-reception average shows how unguardable he is at times.

The case against Kittle: It’s too soon. Let’s check back in 2027.

Bob Sanders, safety

The case for Sanders: Sanders earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. He spearheaded the Indianapolis Colts’ defense when they won Super Bowl XLI. Just as they had in college, opposing NFL receivers identified Sanders’s location on the field, altered their routes and alligator-armed passes to avoid being hit by one of his crushing blows.

The case against Sanders: Injuries. So many injuries. In eight NFL seasons he played more than six games just twice. Out of the 128 regular-season games his teams played during his career, Sanders appeared in 50.

Marshall Yanda, offensive line

The case for Yanda: He won Super Bowl XLVII as a member of the Baltimore Ravens. He’s been first-team All-Pro multiple times and appeared in more than a half-dozen Pro Bowls. Yanda is in his 13th season and still going strong.

The case against Yanda: It’s difficult to make one. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify an offensive lineman’s value, but that’s a pretty lame argument. He might be the frontrunner on this list.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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