May 10, 2014, 1:03 AM EDT
Notre Dame had four former players taken on the NFL Draft’s second day, with Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas, Louis Nix and Chris Watt all selected. At the end of the third round, only LSU joined Notre Dame with five players selected.
The first player off the board for Notre Dame in round two was Stephon Tuitt, selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 46th pick. Tuitt, who entered the draft after his true junior season slipped down the board, falling well outside of the first round after a subpar final season in South Bend.
“If you look at him from the 2013 season and you compare him to the 2012 season, you will see a different guy,” Steelers defensive line and assistant head coach John Mitchell said. “We got a good football player tonight. If this guy had been healthy coming into his junior year, he probably would have been in the top-ten guys drafted. We feel like we got a steal in the second round with our pick.”
Surprisingly, Troy Niklas came off the board just a half dozen picks later. Taken by the Arizona Cardinals, Niklas will join Michael Floyd catching passes in Arizona, taken 52nd by the Cardinal. Niklas is the 12th tight end in Notre Dame history to be taken in the drafts first two rounds. He joins Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano as recent tight ends selected early.
Interestingly, Arizona tracked Niklas carefully. They also proved Brian Kelly’s point that the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder has only just scratched the surface.
“Probably had he gone back, he would have been a top 10 pick with that skill set,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “He was more than – in the interview – he was more than ready in his mind and mine also.”
The biggest shock of the evening was the fall of Louis Nix. After looking like a first round pick, Nix slid all the way to the 83rd pick, going to the Houston Texans, where he’ll join Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt on the defensive line. Nix will play for new head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, whose 3-4 system should be perfect for Nix.
Joining this trio in the first three rounds was veteran guard Chris Watt. Surprising some by coming off the board so early, Watt was selected by the San Diego Chargers, who see his versatility and ability to compete as a three year starter as a major plus.
“He’s tough and he’s smart and he’s played some solid, excellent football for three years in a major program, so we’re happy to get him,” Chargers general manger Tom Telesco said.
The draft concludes tomorrow with the final four rounds, where several Notre Dame prospects are in the mix to be selected.