Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Iowa tackle Cole Croston added 90 pounds, started 18 games and now seeks NFL employment

By Scott Dochterman

April 5, 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cole Croston arrived at Iowa five years ago as a lanky, 225-pound walk-on legacy.

It took time for Cole Croston to earn snaps at offensive tackle, but once he did, he made the most of it. Croston shifted into the starting lineup because of injuries and he opened 10 games in 2015. Last year, he was limited to just eight starts because of a leg injury but was named third-team all-Big Ten.

With 18 career starts at an offensive line factory such as Iowa, it appears Croston will have his NFL opportunity. But, like his journey from lightweight walk-on to 315-pound starter, Croston will have to fight uphill on his way to the NFL.

“I got here and I was 225 pounds and it was like I was a million miles down the road,” Croston said. “Being able to gain 90 pounds, being 315 now, at that point the goal was to become a starter, and I was able to do that. Then from there to work up, have a pro day. I was hoping to get invited to the combine; it didn’t work out. I was able to perform at the pro day where tons of scouts are out there watching. It’s just been a dream come true.”

Croston’s pro-day numbers suggest he has pro potential if he can add strength. Even at his weight, he jumped 32.5 vertically, which would have topped all offensive linemen at last month’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis. His 3-cone drill time of 7.38 seconds would have ranked third. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.21 seconds, which was in the top 15. His 17 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench was near the bottom, but Croston quipped, “I’ve got long arms, a long ways to go."

NFL scouts rank Croston in the borderland between late-round prospect and priority free agent. Lance Zierlein of wrote, “Has good frame and above average length. Plays with desired hand strength. Can snatch the frame of defender and sustain his block with hand strength and body control. … Zone block specialist. Comes out of stance and gets into lateral movement quickly.”

As for Croston’s weaknesses, Zierlein wrote, “Has no butt and anchor is wishy-washy. Spins wheels as drive blocker. Falls off of blocks when he becomes too dependent on leaning to create drive.”

Dan Shonka, national scout and general manager for Ourlads Scouting Services, ranks Croston as his 23rd available tackle.

Croston’s five seasons in Iowa’s pro-style, zone-blocking scheme should benefit him. He also is willing to slide inside at guard or even center. His path to playing time could be similar to former Iowa tackles Riley Reiff and Andrew Donnal, who initially saw snaps as blocking tight ends.

Croston could join his father, Dave, as an NFL draft pick. Dave Croston, a first-team all-Big Ten tackle in 1986, was a third-round selection of the Green Bay Packers in 1987.

Mostly, Cole Croston just looks for a shot with an NFL club. He already has graduated and continues to train in Iowa City. Teams have shown interest in him, and he’ll likely make visits in the next few weeks.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Croston said. “If it doesn’t work out, I have a finance degree from the University of Iowa, which is a great degree. If it doesn’t work out for football, I should get a job somewhere.

“When draft day comes around either it happens, or it doesn’t and you get picked up. That’s the goal: an opportunity.”

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