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NFL Draft shows Irish talent on the rise

May 1, 2013, 7:08 AM EDT

Tyler Eifert, Marvin Lewis AP

While draft day might have been disappointing for some graduating Notre Dame players, it’s far from that when you’re looking at the overall health of the football program. The six Irish players drafted last week is another data-point that shows the talent on the roster, and the health of the program, is on the rise. After years of underachieving or overassessing the talent on the roster, the Irish had a performance on draft day befitting a twelve-win football team.

In the past, top recruiting classes inked by Irish coaching staffs rarely turned into NFL Draft picks. But over the past two years, the Irish are churning out draft picks — and high ones as well — at the level of an elite college program.

Outside of SEC programs Alabama, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina, only Florida State and Oklahoma have had more draft picks over the past two seasons. The Irish’s three first round draft picks — Michael Floyd, Harrison Smith and Tyler Eifert — were only bested by Alabama, who stands alone at the top of the personnel pyramid with seven first rounders the past two seasons.

To take a closer look at where the Irish stood this year, let’s look at the draft selections of the top fifteen programs in the final AP poll. We’ll look at both number of players selected and top 100 draft picks.

1. Alabama: 9 picks (5 top 100)
2. Oregon: 5 picks (3 top 100)
3. Ohio State: 3 picks (1 top 100)
4. Notre Dame: 6 picks (2 top 100)
5. Georgia: 8 picks (4 top 100)
6. Texas A&M: 5 (3 top 100)
7. Stanford: 3 (1 top 100)
8. South Carolina: 7 (1 top 100)
9. Florida: 8 (4 top 100)
10. Florida State 11 (5 top 100)
11. Clemson: 4 (1 top 100)
12. Kansas State: 3
13. Louisville: 0
14. LSU: 9 (6 top 100)
15. Oklahoma: 6 (1 top 100)

Credit should be given to not just Brian Kelly, but Charlie Weis. The ten players drafted over the past two seasons were recruited by Weis and developed by Kelly. After too many underwhelming results coming from celebrated recruiting class, we finally saw the merging of top-shelf recruiting and excellent player development.

Even better news for the Irish is what looks to be the future. As we finally exit the multi-month march that has become draft season, some “experts” have started to look forward and take their stabs at way-too-early prospects for the 2014 draft. And they are usually filled with Irish players.

One name most ID as a sure-fire first round pick is Louis Nix. As the microscope gets closer and closer, Nix will need to answer questions about his conditioning and combine measureables, but game tape and production, not to mention scarcity at his position, make Lou all but likely to leave behind his fifth year at enter next year’s draft after graduating and hear his named called in the first round.

While he won’t be ready to graduate, Stephon Tuitt also will have a decision to make. Most eyes are on South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney as the draft’s most dangerous defensive end, but some teams might actually prefer the skillset Tuitt possesses. At 6-foot-6 and over 300 pounds, Tuitt is a prototype 3-4 defensive end, possessing pass rush skills but also the bulk and versatility to play anywhere along a defensive front. Tuitt is on the record (and just as importantly, so is his mother) that he’s staying four years and graduating, but any decision will likely be made after next season.

With Nix and Tuitt ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 defensive tackle and end respectively, here’s a quick look at CBS Sports’ positional rankings for the NFL Draft, which will likely change completely by this time next year:

Zack Martin – #4 OT
TJ Jones – #4 WR
Bennett Jackson – #5 CB
Chris Watt – #9 OG
Prince Shembo – #11 OLB
Dan Fox – #13 ILB

Players like Danny Spond and Carlo Calabrese could likely work their way into the draftable conversation as well, and a guy like Chris Watt looks underrated at first glance.

Of course, all of this is a long way from happening, and speculation like is more often ends up laughable than prescient. (Remember when Brian Smith was the No. 2 outside linebacker on Mel Kiper’s board? Or Matt Barkley being the lock for the No. 1 pick in August?)

But it also serves notice that the Irish football program is much closer to an elite program than many people think.


  1. irish2011 - May 1, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    Hey Keith can you provide a list of any ND players getting signed as an undrafted player?

    • dickasman - May 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM

      Golic-steelers, cave- somebody, that is all my coke damaged brain can remember for now

    • widdlinc - May 7, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Golic Jr. Steelers, Cave Cleavland, Wood Houston, Goodman Cincinnati.

  2. dickasman - May 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    Guys, i just wanted to be the first hetero male inside the irisher to come outta closet n say that i am straight and i apologoze. What is that piece of paper sticking outta his right pants pocket? I wonder if the bengals front office slut is already working in full gear passing out phone numbers trying to get him to sign a cheap contract?

    • bernhtp - May 1, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      Dick, I hate to say it, but there is almost nothing straight about you. I’m not saying it’s bad, but everyone on the board will agree that it’s just not straight.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - May 1, 2013 at 12:19 PM

        Don’t take that the wrong way…..that’s why we like you.

      • dickasman - May 1, 2013 at 2:52 PM

        Bern you got me, I’m totally gay on here sometimes, my writings not the best.

  3. fnc111 - May 1, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I think Shembo will be the guy vaulting up draft boards a year from now. He will be a pleasure to watch this year. But, no way TJ Jones is going to be the #4 WR taken. He is at best a 7th rounder.

    • stedward - May 1, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      I like how you reel everyone in with the first statement people will like, then drop the unpopular opinion hammer at the end.

      • dmac4real - May 1, 2013 at 8:02 PM

        Im with him…

        No way TJ Jones is the #4 receiver. Hes a 6-7 round guy in my eyes.

    • shaunodame - May 2, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      I strongly agree with you fnc, on both assessments. I like TJ Jones a lot in our system, with how we use him and all, but I can’t see him having huge potential & NFL type talent. I would not be mad at all if he proved me wrong though, especially with all of these catches up for grabs this year after Eifert’s departure. His counterpart DaVaris Daniels looks to be the more likely NFL prototype

  4. 1historian - May 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Dick – I’ve said this before but here I go again – when you TRY to be funny, you’re NOT

    And you’re trying

    • dickasman - May 1, 2013 at 2:53 PM



    • dickasman - May 1, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Are you saying that you’re gay then?

  5. bernhtp - May 1, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    I expect Tuitt to return and graduate despite having a likely first-round draft position. He is an athletic monster that keeps on getting better. He can finish as the greatest Irish DE since Ross Browner.

    I agree with Keith that there is small probability that we can get Nix back for a fifth. If we are really close to an NC this season, there might be a tiny chance of talking him into returning, but he’ll have graduated and his family needs/wants the big payday.

  6. notthatconfused - May 1, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Cierre Wood- Texans
    Mike Golic, Jr- Steelers
    Braxton Cave- Browns
    John Goodman- Bengals
    Jordan Cowart- Redskins
    Robby Toma- Ravens
    Dayne Crist- Chiefs
    Ben Turk-Texans

    All undrafted free agents.

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - May 1, 2013 at 4:36 PM

      This list relates to the post i made on an earlier article about the umass RB being taken late. How many of these guys were invited as a favor and how many were invited because they can contribute in some way to an organization (special teams, practice squad, etc.)?

      Also, among that list, how many of those guys have their degree? Everybody except Cierre?

      • bernhtp - May 1, 2013 at 9:13 PM

        Cierre should be a few hours from graduation, at worst, if he proceeded at the normal rate. He is a senior and went to summer school for three years.

    • nudeman - May 1, 2013 at 7:19 PM

      On Crist, perhaps mistaken here but I think he was just invited to a tryout camp, not signed. Can anyone verify that?

      That is an amazingly precipitous fall for someone who was so highly regarded coming out of HS. Worse case of Ron Powlus disease (where the patient gets a little worse every year until he is flat out unwatchable) than Ron himself exhibited.

      • bernhtp - May 1, 2013 at 9:11 PM

        He got an invitation to mini-camp.

      • kansasirish - May 2, 2013 at 12:30 AM

        I watched the local the local channel tonight and there was no mention of Christ with the other KU players trying out for KC….it’s sad his career ends like this.

        There is nothing to dislike about Dayne and his family and he was a true ND man his entire life and I know I speak for the entire fan base that we wish him the best of luck and have no doubt he will be successful in his future endeavors.

        God Bless and good luck!!

  7. papadec - May 1, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Hey Joisey – ND picked up commit # 9 from your neighborhood (anywhere in NJ). Quenton Nelson, OL, from Red Bank.

  8. 25kgold - May 1, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    Louis Nix tweeted a “possible” helmet choice for this years Shamrock Classic (courtesy another source) :

    • papadec - May 2, 2013 at 1:00 AM

      emmmmmmm, I don’t know. I can appreciate the Irish Chocolate, but I prefer the Golden Dome.

  9. harvupdyke - May 3, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Wow 6 picks & 2 in the top 100. Combined with a 42-14 thrashing in the title game, Rudy really is closer to an elite program than I thought.

    Can’t wait to see what y’all do with that Big Least & service academy laden schedule this fall.

    Roll dam tide.

  10. harvupdyke - May 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    In fact I’d be interested to see if you can get by Michigan this year.

    I know Coach Saban & Alabama can.

    Roll dam tide.

  11. larrydavid7000 - May 4, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    NOT.!!!!!!! ROLL TIDE.!!!!!!!!

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