As Daviyon Nixon’s wait continued Saturday before ultimately being selected in the NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings saw multiple ways that Iowa State’s Kene Nwangwu and Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette could help their teams.
The possibility to help the Vikings’ return game led Minnesota to select the Cyclones running back in the fourth round and take the Hawkeyes receiver one round later.
Nixon, the Big Ten defensive player of the year who at one point was regarded as a potential first-round selection, also was taken in the fifth round as NFL teams wrapped up three days of selections with the final four rounds of the 2021 draft.
“I’m not sure why things went the way they did,” said Nixon, selected by Carolina.
Nwangwu, the back-up to All-American Breece Hall, gained 339 yards while averaging 5.6 yards per carry in addition to setting an ISU record with a kick return average of 26.8 yards.
It was his work on returns that caught the eye of the Vikings, general manager Rick Spielman said in a post-draft interview with the team’s website.
“He was never the lead dog, always running behind some good running backs at Iowa State, but when he got his opportunity you could see his speed, his burst,” Spielman said.
Minnesota then chose Smith-Marsette with the 13th pick of the fifth round, the highest draft position for a Hawkeye receiver since Tim Dwight was taken by the Falcons in the fourth round of the 1998 draft.
Spielman said the Vikings watched a lot of 2019 tape of Smith-Marsette working with quarterback Nate Stanley, who Minnesota took in the seventh round of the 2020 draft.
Nixon’s wait ended one pick after Minnesota took Smith-Marsette, chosen by the Panthers with the 14th pick of the fifth round and the 158th overall pick in the draft class. He spent Friday and Saturday in his hometown of Kenosha, Wis., watching with family and friends.
The call from Carolina caught him by surprise.
“It came as a total shock,” Nixon said in a video conference with Panthers beat reporters.
Linebacker Nick Niemann gave Iowa at least four NFL draft picks for the fourth time in five years, selected by the Chargers with the first pick of the sixth round.
Northern Iowa tight end Briley Moore, who played last season for Kansas State, signed with the Titans.