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Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame’s draftees, undrafted free agents and depth charts; Links to read

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The draft is just the beginning. While four former Notre Dame players heard their names during the NFL draft between Thursday and Sunday, three more reached undrafted free agent deals in the draft’s immediate aftermath.

Obviously, the drafted players have the best chances at not only roster spots but playing time in the fall.

QUENTON NELSON: No. 6 overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts. Nelson’s contract, per spotrac.com, will be worth $23.9 million over four years including a $15.5 signing bonus. He will start at left guard, completing the demotion of four-year veteran Jack Mewhort who is on a one-year deal after injuries held him back the last two years.

MIKE McGLINCHEY: No. 9 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The contract at McGlinchey’s draft position will be worth $18.3 million over four years with $11.4 million of that coming in a signing bonus. McGlinchey will start at right tackle this fall, moving back to his original Irish position since the 49ers already have 11-year veteran Joe Staley at left tackle.

DURHAM SMYTHE: No. 123 overall, in the fourth round, to the Miami Dolphins. $3.05 million over four years with a $639,920 signing bonus. The Dolphins also drafted a tight end in the second round in Mike Gesicki from Penn State.

Both Smythe and Gesicki should feel good about their playing chances in Miami, the former a run-blocker primarily and the latter a vertical threat. With Julius Thomas (62 catches in 14 games last year for 388 yards and three touchdowns) now with the Detroit Lions, the Dolphins have only two notable tight ends on the roster, and neither exactly shined in 2017. AJ Derby split his time between the Denver Broncos and Miami, finishing the year with 21 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games while MarQueis Gray made only one 10-yard catch in 16 games.

EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN: No. 207 overall, in the sixth round, to the Green Bay Packers. $2.5 million over four years with a $118,411 signing bonus. The Packers also drafted J’Mon Moore of Missouri and Marquez Valdes-Scantling of South Florida at No. 133 and No. 174 overall, respectively.

Green Bay shed receiving contributors Jordy Nelson and Jeff Janis this offseason, shallowing the pool of trusted targets for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, the Packers turn to Geronimo Allison and a bevy of question marks. Thus, the draft focus on receivers.

Valdes-Scantling is a bona fide speed threat, perhaps giving him an edge in the chase for playing time, but St. Brown could certainly end up a contributor in 2018 if focused.

Despite a junior season which included a brief Heisman campaign, former Irish running back Josh Adams went undrafted in the weekend’s NFL draft and needed to sign a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

JOSH ADAMS: Signed a free agent contract with his homestate Philadelphia Eagles. Working his way into the Eagles’ backfield will mean Adams proves himself comparable to Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. Even though Philadelphia will likely use a running back committee with Ajayi leading the way, cracking the rotation will be a tough ask for Adams.

Ajayi has only one year remaining on his contract, coming of a 14-game season with 208 carries for 873 yards and one touchdown.
Clement appeared in all 16 games of his rookie year, taking 74 rushes for 321 yards and four touchdowns.
Smallwood, though inactive for the Super Bowl, saw action in eight games of his second season, gaining 174 yards and scoring one touchdown on 47 rushes.

The only reason there is any uncertainty among Eagles running backs is LeGarrette Blount signed with the Detroit Lions.

NYLES MORGAN: Signed with the Chicago Bears, where it will be difficult to find playing time since Chicago drafted Georgia’s Roquan Smith with the No. 8 overall pick. Smith will likely line up alongside six-year veteran Danny Trevathan. Furthermore, the Bears spent the No. 115 and No. 181 overall picks on linebackers, Joel Iyiegbuniwe of Western Kentucky and Kylie Fits of Utah, respectively.

Morgan should focus on health and possible special teams contributions.

ANDREW TRUMBETTI: Will join Morgan with the Bears, who have established starting defensive ends in Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard. Trumbetti might just hope for a practice squad spot for now.

GREER MARTINI: Still on the market, as of this posting, as is former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire, if anyone is curious.


BLUE-GOLD GAME COVERAGE:
Wimbush’s mechanics, Notre Dame’s receivers shine in Blue-Gold Game
Things We Learned: Wimbush’s and Claypool’s proven potential raises Notre Dame’s ceiling
Leftovers: Notre Dame’s offensive ceiling is tantalizing, though also unlikely

INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
Former Notre Dame defensive lineman, Kona Schwenke, dies at 25
Notre Dame gains commitments of four-star defensive end and three-star offensive tackle
Notre Dame adds another 2019 commitment out of Georgia
Avery Davis’ move bumps Notre Dame’s RB depth from dire to versatile
Nick Watkins announces transfer from Notre Dame
Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey hear names in NFL draft’s first 10 picks
Durham Smythe joins line of Notre Dame tight ends drafted into NFL
Packers select Equanimeous St. Brown in sixth round

OUTSIDE READING:
Remembering Notre Dame’s ‘gentle giant’
Notre Dame teammates pay tribute to Kona Schwenke’s generosity and heart
Kahuku grad, former Notre Dame defensive lineman Schwenke dies at 25
Jay Hayes and other transfers show how Kirby Smart is always in the market to get Georgia better ($)
Howard Cross III found everything he was looking for at Notre Dame
2019 OL Andrew Kristofic commits to Notre Dame
The ‘Blind Side’ era is over at the NFL draft
Unexpected NCAA shift makes Shea Patterson eligible, but he can’t save Michigan’s offense alone
Wisconsin QB announces intent to transfer
State of the Program: Clemson football ($)

Packers select Equanimeous St. Brown in sixth round

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An inconsistent career at Notre Dame notwithstanding, former Irish receiver Equanimeous St. Brown heard his name called in the sixth round of the NFL draft on Saturday. The Green Bay Packers selected St. Brown with the 207th overall pick.

St. Brown left Notre Dame with a year of eligibility remaining, heeding his father’s advice to turn professional, a decision undoubtedly somewhat influenced by suspect Irish quarterback play last season. He finished his Notre Dame career with 92 catches for 1,484 yards and 13 touchdowns, highlighted by a breakout sophomore season of 58 receptions for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games, all of which led the Irish in 2016.

The argument for St. Brown’s return for a senior season hinged on his production returning to levels comparable, if not exceeding, his sophomore year. While some of the 2017 drop-off was attributable to St. Brown, much of it tied to the passing game overall. Thus, such an argument depended heavily on the improvement of others, a risky move to make when considering one’s own future.

St. Brown’s 4.48-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine was the 12th-fastest at the event.

With the Packers, St. Brown will have an outside chance at immediate playing time with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers targeting him. Green Bay cut veteran Jordy Nelson this offseason, now relying on two-year veteran Geronimo Allison as its third receiver. St. Brown may not surpass Allison, but he should have a clear chance at becoming Rodgers’ fourth target along with the two receivers drafted ahead of him, J’Mon Moore from Missouri (fourth round; No. 133 overall) and Marquez Valdez-Scantling from South Florida (fifth round; No. 174).

St. Brown’s career at Notre Dame:
2015: 7 games, one reception, eight yards, season shortened by a shoulder injury.
2016: 12 games, 58 receptions, 961 yards, nine touchdowns.
2017: 13 games, 33 receptions, 515 yards, four touchdowns.

Durham Smythe joins line of Notre Dame tight ends drafted into NFL

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Thanks largely to a strong combine performance and draft prep raising his draft stock, former Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe was drafted No. 123 overall Saturday by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round.

Smythe’s Irish career never quite popped, peaking with 15 catches for 244 yards and one touchdown last season after pulling in nine passes for 112 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Despite those aerial ups-and-downs, Smythe was always a dependable run blocker. He returned for a fifth year with Notre Dame partly due to the arrival of offensive coordinator Chip Long from Memphis, knowing Long had a past of utilizing tight ends productively in his offensive scheme.

That decision made Smythe the fifth tight end drafted during Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure, joining Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack.

The Dolphins also selected a tight end with their second-round pick, taking Mike Gesicki from Penn State. Standing at 6-foot-6, Gesicki’s frame is similar to Smythe’s, 6-foot-5 ½, himself. However, Gesicki established himself as a receiving threat the last two years with the Nittany Lions, totaling 105 catches for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons.

By no means does that indicate Smythe should face trouble making Miami’s roster. The Dolphins’ depth chart has not established tight ends currently, meaning both Smythe and Gesicki could make an impact in 2018.

Smythe’s career at Notre Dame:
2014: 13 games, one reception for seven yards.
2015: 3 games, three receptions for 18 yards and one touchdown before shoulder and knee injuries ended his season.
2016: 12 games, nine catches for 112 yards and four touchdowns.
2017: 13 games, 15 catches for 244 yards and one touchdown.

Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey hear names in NFL draft’s first 10 picks

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Notre Dame’s generational left-side offensive line pairing of Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey set once-in-a-generation NFL draft marks in the first round Thursday evening. It had been 27 years since the top-two offensive linemen drafted came from the same school. Nelson became the highest guard drafted since 1985 when the Indianapolis Colts took him at No. 6, and McGlinchey, a tackle, went three picks later to the San Francisco 49ers.

Four Irish offensive linemen have now been selected in the first round of the NFL draft in the last five years, with Nelson and McGlinchey joining Zack Martin (No. 16 in 2014 to the Dallas Cowboys) and Ronnie Stanley (No. 6 in 2016 to the Baltimore Ravens).

After trading back from the No. 3 slot, the Colts focused their hopes on Nelson, defensive end Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State and running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State, per general manager Chris Ballard. The latter two were gone by the Colts’ pick, making the decision a simple one.

“My first impression was that this is the best offensive lineman I’ve seen coming out in the draft in a while and just thinking about the first time talking to [Ballard] about this,” Colts coach Frank Reich said in a conference call. “Our mutual consensus was that this is where we’ve got to go. We want to build the fronts, and that’s what wins. We want to be dynamic in our skill positions in the pass game and in the coverage, but in the long run, you’ve got to be good up front to sustain and to get where you want to get to.”

Nelson started 36 games for Notre Dame, including all 13 of 2017 on his way to earning unanimous All-American honors. His was the only pro day which Ballard attended, although that was admittedly largely due to the proximity. Nonetheless, Nelson’s display in South Bend in March caught Ballard’s eye.

“I could feel when I watched Adrian Peterson come out. I’ll never forget standing on the sideline and him running by me,” Ballard said. “… Same thing with Dez Bryant. When Dez Bryant was at Oklahoma State, I’ll never forget a kid running by me, and I could feel it. You can feel Quenton Nelson the same way.”

Quenton Nelson celebrates hearing his name called sixth in the 2018 NFL draft on Thursday. (UND.com)

Obviously, Nelson’s professional career will begin not far from where he spent his collegiate days. For that, he is grateful.

“I’m jacked up,” Nelson said. “My parents bought a house in Indiana when I committed to Notre Dame, and they don’t have to move. They’re going to go to every Notre Dame game on Saturday, and then be at my NFL games on Sundays. They’re jacked up.”

Nelson getting drafted before McGlinchey is a sign of the changing times in football. The past two decades or so have been spent worrying about quarterbacks’ blind sides, creating a strong need for tackles and left tackles in particular. As offenses have taken to spread schemes relying on shotgun snaps, that importance has diminished. At the same time, defensive tackles have become equal pass-rush threats as defensive ends, increasing the need for dominant interior offensive line play.

“I would say three-tech [defensive tackles] are getting more athletic each and every year,” Nelson said. “They’re being very disruptive in the run game and the pass game with pressures and sacks, so the value for offensive guards has gone up.”

Nonetheless, McGlinchey clearly did not fall far behind Nelson. The two-time Irish captain and consensus All-American started 39 games over the last four seasons, of which 25 in the last two years were at left tackle. With Stanley starting at left tackle in 2014 and 2015, McGlinchey worked at right tackle, where he will return for the 49ers due to the presence of 11-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley, according to 49ers general manager John Lynch.

“I feel I mastered both sides and I’m ready to go at either one,” McGlinchey told Bay Area media over a conference call from his draft watch party back in Pennsylvania.

Lynch said McGlinchey was the organization’s top prospect from the ninth slot.

“He’s got a special presence to him,” Lynch said. “He’s real, he’s authentic, and he’s a badass. We like that.”

Including Stanley’s and Martin’s time at left tackle, 101 of head coach Brian Kelly’s 103 games at Notre Dame have included a first-round draft pick at left tackle. The two exceptions came in Kelly’s debut year, in 2010, when right tackle Taylor Dever suffered a hamstring injury. Martin moved to right tackle and Matt Romine started in his place at left tackle.

Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame’s offense searches for reloaded skill positions

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When returning 10 starters on defense, much of the springtime conversation will focus on offensive skill positions. Notre Dame needs to replace two starting receivers, Heisman-candidate running back Josh Adams and primary tight end Durham Smythe.

Who fills those voids will not be determined this spring, but the conversation has at least begun.

In a “strengthening” running back situation, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the position will be most dictated by rising senior running back Dexter Williams’ development.

“It starts with Dexter and his ability to maintain himself in a position where he can be on the field for all three downs,” Kelly said Thursday. “That’s pass protection, play-action fakes, all the little detail things that go along with playing the position.

“It’s something that he’s been below the line on. He’s shown this spring he understands how important that is and he’s above the line on those things.”

If Williams does not grasp all those aspects of the offense, the ones not focused on taking a handoff and finding a hole, then rising junior Tony Jones’ role will only increase.

“Tony’s been really, really steady in everything he’s done,” Kelly said. “He’s healthy, very coachable, and so we like that combination right now.”

Tony Jones’ all-around game has him well-positioned for an influx of playing time this fall. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The options at running back are limited. In addition to Williams and Jones, only early-enrolled freshman Jahmir Smith and receiver-turned-running back/receiver Jafar Armstrong are around to take carries.

The possibilities at receiver are far more numerous, albeit just as uncertain. All indications point to rising senior Miles Boykin establishing himself as a primary option, and rising junior Chase Claypool continues to recover from shoulder surgery. After those two, questions abound.

“We’re going to find that we’ve got seven-to-eight guys that we can work with,” Kelly said. “We’ll find out what the best rotation is there. We’re going to be solid there. … We have to find something at the receiver position that gives us good balance.”

Rising senior Chris Finke, rising sophomore Michael Young and rising junior Javon McKinley lead the way of that mingling handful. Clearly, there could be depth at receiver, especially if the summer yields further development. Such depth already exists at tight end, the only quality at that position Kelly espoused, which makes sense given how many tight ends are recovering from injury.

RELATED READING: Familiar praise of Notre Dame’s tight ends rings anew

Not all 10 returning defensive starters will start.
On paper, Notre Dame needs to find only a linebacker to complete its starting defense — a rover, in particular, with fifth-year Drue Tranquill moving to Buck linebacker, leaving the hybrid role available for a newcomer. In reality, the Irish need to find a safety or two, and that has not happened yet this spring.

“Defensively, we still need to emerge at the safety position,” Kelly said.

That need prompted Kelly and defensive coordinator Clark Lea to move early-enrolled freshman Houston Griffith from cornerback to safety last week. Griffith offers “contact skills,” tackling and an “ability to play the ball in the air,” the same traits Kelly often touts when discussing a new candidate at safety.

“All in all, halfway through we’ve learned a lot more about our football team,” Kelly said. “We’ll continue to do that on the back half.”

Mock Draft Season
There is a reason the phrase begins with a four-letter word. It is inane, fruitless, futile. The exercise never ends and has essentially no payoff. Nonetheless, with the NFL Draft only three-plus weeks away, spending 45 seconds on the seasonal speculation makes some sense.

Notre Dame will likely produce two first-round picks this cycle in offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. Various mock drafts project Nelson to go in the top 10, perhaps just outside of it, while McGlinchey looks to be a top-20 pick, as well. Picking in those ranges is as much about a team’s roster needs as anything else, especially when selecting an offensive lineman.

A brief sampling:
Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo: Nelson at No. 11 to the Miami Dolphins; McGlinchey at No. 12 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
RotoWorld’s Josh Norris: Nelson at No. 8 to the Chicago Bears; McGlinchey at No. 17 to the San Diego Chargers.
The Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer: Nelson at No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Bucs; McGlinchey at No. 17 to the Chargers.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
Notre Dame’s need for ‘consistency’ in the ‘second year’ of these schemes
Familiar praise of Notre Dame’s tight ends rings anew
Wimbush and Notre Dame’s on-field development aided by not heeding off-field talk
Rees recognizes Book’s challenge from both sides of the Notre Dame QB competition
Notre Dame’s offensive line shifts while Wimbush improves accuracy, consistency

OUTSIDE READING:
Notre Dame clinches title with last-second win
Why the Irish? Why now?
Walk-on players contribute to team’s success in quiet fashion
Jeff Samardzija shares recipe for double duty with Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet