In what has the makings of being the most absurd NFL draft in history, held entirely online and dependent upon 32 front offices and the League Commissioner’s office all not botching the video chat aspect of it, Brian Kelly may have already removed much of the potential Notre Dame drama.
Various mock drafts might include safety Jalen Elliott or defensive end Jamir Jones as a seventh-round flyer, but the Irish head coach has drawn a clear delineation among Notre Dame’s NFL hopefuls. Six will be drafted; six likely will not be.
“Everyone talks about the six guys we will probably have drafted, but we have six other players that started for me that are really good football players that are going to end up in NFL camps,” Kelly said earlier this month. “It’s promoting (linebacker) Asmar Bilal and Jamir Jones and (running back) Tony Jones Jr., making sure that (receiver) Chris Finke and all these guys get really good opportunities, as well.
“We have 12 players who all I believe can play in the NFL.”
That quote came in a Zoom Q&A with Irish beat writers; a day later Kelly doubled-down while on Mike Tirico’s “Lunch Talk Live” on NBCSN. Delivering the six-and-six thinking once could have been construed as a generalizing verbal slip, but doing so twice indicates Kelly was on message.
“We probably have six guys, right now based on conversations I’ve had with coaches and GMs, that are probably going to be drafted,” he said. “And then we have another six guys that played prominent roles for us.”
While Kelly would have an idea of these chances in a normal year, his intel this time through the draft process is more thorough, as the NFL has needed to lean on college coaches more than ever, given the lack of in-person evaluations under stay-at-home orders. In what may become a standard moving forward, Notre Dame shared GPS data from practice sessions to illustrate players’ fitness, speed, etc.
RELATED READING: Some Notre Dame football workouts are more elective than others
“Some of the things are a little bit more in-depth than we’ve had in the past,” Kelly said. “We’re getting more information out to the scouts than we ever have in the past. We’re getting information to them like GPS numbers, what’s their work volume like.
“Things they could get when they were normally able to work them out and giving them a hard 20- to 30-minute workout. They’re asking for different information, a lot more science-based information they’re looking for.”
Maybe that thought simply had not occurred to either party in the past, but it is hard to envision a reason not to share it in the future. The data is more football-applicable than a generic 40-yard dash time, and the sample size of it is vastly greater, adding to its pertinence.
Not sure how to say I wish I was at the Blue-Gold Game today w/o the cliche of saying I wish was at the intrasquad scrimmage.
Instead, here's a touch of irony: Today has long been a day of social distancing in the #NotreDame press box. Last year no one sat within 30 feet of me.
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) April 18, 2020
Aside from the vague possibility of Elliott hearing his name late — and note that many argue it is better to be an undrafted free agent than a seventh-round pick, the former including some choice in a destination — the greatest drama will come from who the first Irish player picked is, and when.
This space is not one inclined to delve into draft projections. That stems partly from preserving sanity and partly from acknowledging the drawbacks of being so Notre Dame-focused throughout the year; projecting draft chances is as much about the other players in the draft as it is about the Irish players, if not more so.
That said, it is within the realm of feasibility that either defensive end Julian Okwara or tight end Cole Kmet hears his name late in the first round on Thursday. However, it is more likely each goes Friday night in either the second or third rounds, along with receiver Chase Claypool and perhaps defensive end Khalid Kareem.
And then the question will be where Elliott, Jones, Jones Jr., Finke, Bilal and cornerback Donte Vaughn sign as free agents.
Personally, I pick House No. 1, partly because the stakes of those two games made for a unique tension and partly because the 2005 game was the best at #NotreDame in at least 27 years, but mostly because it includes two trips to LA. https://t.co/cRQXnq7QRs
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) April 14, 2020
INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
— The Notre Dame dates that answer your one question
— Loss of spring impacts not only Notre Dame’s freshmen, but all freshmen
— No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, incoming freshman defensive tackle
— Longtime Notre Dame fan Coogan becomes newest Irish OL commit
— A green ‘Shirt’ a taste of normalcy for Notre Dame fans
— 30 Years of Notre Dame on NBC: Three overtimes, two No. 2s, one goal-line fumble
Kind of wish I could turn this "Pick 3" into a Twitter poll … pic.twitter.com/bKCxjqvIO2
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) April 20, 2020
JT Daniels is entering the transfer portal. Started at QB for USC in 2018 as a true freshman but injury cleared the way for Kedon Slovis to take the job last season https://t.co/PrqJUTP5wG
— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) April 16, 2020
— Former Notre Dame teammates James Onwualu, Romeo Okwara making it through isolation together
— Heisman Trophy best bets, long shots, value picks
— Bursting the bubble: Why sports aren’t coming back soon
— Chinese Basketball Association postpones restart until at least July
— Can this NBA season be saved? Sources say that optimism is growing
— Falwell focuses on critics as coronavirus cases near his university grow
— Matt Cashore (@mattcashore) April 19, 2020