May 1, 2013, 7:08 AM EDT
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.
FINAL AP POLL
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.
Sep 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Game week is finally here. After nearly nine months—spent wondering about transfers, speculating upon returns and predicting what’ll happen come September—we finally get to see a football game.
Sep 1, 2015, 2:23 PM EDT
With a strong recruiting surge, some roster shuffling and some good luck (and hard work) in the health department, Notre Dame’s linebacking corps was rebuilt remarkably quickly. A season after question marks were everywhere, the Irish have a linebacking group that is among the fastest and most athletic we’ve seen in a very long time.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:56 PM EDT
Brian Kelly released his first official depth chart on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at some of moves and surprises heading into the Texas game.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s wide receiving depth chart features talent at just about every level. Starting with All-American candidate and sophomore record-setter Will Fuller and working down to freshmen like Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders, top to bottom this is the most exciting set of playmakers the Irish have had at the position in, maybe—ever?
Aug 31, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT
Let’s get the rest of the mailbag finished off so we can concentrate on game week. (Feels really good to type that sentence.) Thanks again for some great questions.
Aug 30, 2015, 3:34 PM EDT
There are a ton of good questions to get to so this will roll out in multiple parts. Many thanks for the thoughtful work. (And some nice examples of brevity.)
Aug 29, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT
After a long line of starters with plenty of experience, Notre Dame’s tight ends all but start over in 2015. Scott Booker’s position group comes in with all sorts of intriguing traits. Unfortunately, none of those are experience.
Aug 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT
Brian Kelly was on the Dan Patrick Show this morning and the Irish head coach got his last weekend without a game started by chatting it up with the popular radio host. While Kelly didn’t make any headlines in the interview, he did conduct it from his desk with a Showtime crew hanging a boom mic over his head, part of life with a documentary film crew following him around.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
Just about everybody expects Harry Hiestand’s offensive line to be a dominant unit. But after months of preseason hype, they now need to prove they can do it.
Aug 27, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
Ishaq Williams’ college football career is over. Notre Dame’s exiled defensive end, who sat out last season as part of a two-semester suspension for his role in the “frozen five” academic dishonesty investigation, has lost his NCAA appeal for reinstatement. Brian Kelly shared the news on Thursday after practice
Aug 27, 2015, 8:25 PM EDT
The votes are in and Notre Dame’s football team will be captained by five players. Graduate students Matthias Farley, Nick Martin and Joe Schmidt will be joined by senior Sheldon Day and junior Jaylon Smith as the captains of the 2015 Irish.
Aug 27, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT
It appears that the Greg Bryant era at Notre Dame is over. The junior running back, who was declared academically ineligible to play for the Irish this fall, has enrolled at ASA Miami, a junior college with a new football program run by former Irish assistant Ernest Jones.
Aug 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
After two seasons of trying to find carries for a handful of emerging running backs, Notre Dame has the opposite problem: Trying to spread out a growing workload among a smaller, highly-differentiated position group.
Aug 26, 2015, 1:56 PM EDT
With the season right around the corner and preseason camp finished, it’s time to get our final preparations done before the games start counting and the journey begins. We spent the summer pumping out tens of thousands of words on Notre Dame’s evolving roster, so if you’re looking for 50 hours of easy reading, check out the Irish A-to-Z series.
Aug 26, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT
Have a final question before we have actual football to talk about? Today’s the day. Drop them below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.
Aug 25, 2015, 5:06 PM EDT
Notre Dame announced a number of enhancements to Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday. Most notable among them, a video board that’ll go atop the south end zone.
Aug 25, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Our final installment of the A-to-Z series is perhaps our most important one. Because Notre Dame’s fate is in the hands of quarterback Malik Zaire.
Aug 24, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT
With the injury to freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford, an unlikely candidate has emerged as the frontrunner for the No. 3 cornerback job: Devin Butler. The junior, who struggled mightily at times last season after he was forced into action, looked to have lost his grip on that spot this spring after strong work by sophomore Nick Watkins.
Aug 24, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT
No freshman will be tossed into the deep end quicker than kicker Justin Yoon. Essentially Notre Dame’s sole option to kick field goals in 2015, Brian Kelly and the Irish coaching staff are putting a ton of the shoulders of a true freshman, who’ll be asked to fix a three-point operation that went haywire down the stretch after the Irish’s all-time field goal leader Kyle Brindza lost his mojo.
Aug 23, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
When Brandon Wimbush enrolled in school this summer, he became the latest blue-chip quarterback to join the Notre Dame football program with the burden of great expectations. The New Jersey state player of the year, Wimbush would be wise to forget about the prep accolades, instead focusing his efforts on learning the playbook, with the third-string quarterback closer to the field than you’d ideally want.