Both Clausen and Tate go undrafted in the first round

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And so fall the Irish…

After months of speculation and endless debate between Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, Jimmy Clausen plummeted out of the first round of the NFL Draft. So too did his Biletnikoff Award-winning teammate Golden Tate, making two of the most prolific offensive players in college football, and two of Notre Dame’s best offensive weapons in a decade dropping out of the first 32 picks at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

For Clausen, the slip must have been agonizing. A candidate to go to St. Louis with the very first pick of the draft, he was looking at a potential $50 million guaranteed contract. Now the earliest Clausen looks to be selected is with the 34th pick. To compare, last year’s 34th pick, safety Patrick Chung, received a signing bonus of $2 million.

The slip of Clausen wasn’t completely out of the blue. Once Clause slid beyond the San Francisco 49ers at the 17th pick, there wasn’t a team with a glaring need at quarterback. Still, you’ve got to wonder what Clausen didn’t do to be considered worthy of a first round pick.

While many believed Clausen’s background in Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense would be an asset, it turned out to be a hindrance. Like Brady Quinn before him, NFL teams have downgraded a Notre Dame quarterback with a working knowledge of an advanced system and instead chosen to pick a player perceived to have a higher upside. In Quinn’s case, that quarterback was LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, who wowed teams with his size and raw tools, even though he played in a rudimentary offense. For Clausen, it was Bradford, who spent most of his senior season in a sling, and took most his snaps before then from the shotgun in a spread attack. Add in the perceived “character issues” that were touted for four straight months by talking heads like Todd McShay, and Clausen sits unpicked.

Tate’s drop into round two was a bit less surprising, but had similarities to Clausen’s. Even though Tate was recognized as the best wide receiver in college football, and showed a versatility and electricity with the ball in his hands like few others, two wide receivers with questionable production, but perceived upside went before him. Neither Demaryius Thomas, a lanky wide receiver from Georgia Tech with only 46 catches in Paul Johnson’s option offense, nor Dez Bryant, the mercurial Oklahoma State wide receiver that was suspended for the final nine games of the 2009 season for lying to the NCAA, produced close to the results of Tate, but both found themselves taken in the first 24 picks, question marks be damned.

When Clausen and Tate sat next to the recently fired Weis to announce their decision to forgo their final year of eligibilty, it was unlikely either saw even a possibility that they’d be unpicked at the end of the first round four and a half months later. Now they’ll likely be two of the best values of the second round, playing with a contract worth millions less than they originally hoped for. For two Notre Dame students that gave up a final year on the field and in the classroom, it was a costly final class in economics. 

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.