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The Iowa Hawkeyes are expected to return to the field with a strong defense in 2024, but there don’t seem to be any major rumors in the draft about the talent that will make up the unit.

However, one key player on Iowa’s defense isn’t completely overlooked. In an ESPN article listing some potential surprise prospects for next year’s draft, Hawkeyes defensive back Sebastian Castro is highlighted.

After the departure of Cooper DeJean, Castro is expected to become the leader of the defensive backfield.

“To me, he’s not Cooper (DeJean), but overall he’s a really good player,” an AFC scouting director told ESPN. “He’s fast, has really good tackling skills in the open field and is always in bad position.”

Of course, there’s little reason to compare Castro to DeJean. Castro is a hybrid slot/safety guy and is referred to as the CASH position in Iowa’s defense, while DeJean was a true outside corner (though his role could change in the NFL).

Last year, Castro secured three interceptions and eight tackles for loss, including a sack. He was third on the team in tackles and tied for the team leader in pass breakups. His stats speak volumes about his productivity in one of the best defenses in the country. He also did not allow a touchdown in coverage, instead scoring one himself with a pick-six.

So why is Castro overlooked at all?

First of all, he’s on the small side at 6’1″, although he can pack a punch when tackling. For some reason, many NFL scouts overestimate his metrics, and that will be his downfall next year.

A bigger disadvantage is his age. Castro is a redshirt senior who will turn 24 during the season. Understandably, players who turn 25 in their rookie season aren’t often selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, or even the second. If Castro is hypothetically selected in the second round, he would turn 30 after one season of his potential second contract.

Since Castro quickly announced his intention to return to Iowa in 2024, there aren’t many scouting reports on him. However, Castro’s profile on NFL Draft Buzz suggests that despite his strengths in man coverage and overall on-ball skills, he struggles in zone coverage.

Although it’s still early, NFL Draft Buzz ranks Castro as the fifth-best safety and 11th-best defensive back in his class in the late second round.

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