The 2021 NFL draft is right around the corner, and there are numerous Notre Dame football alumni looking to land a spot on an NFL roster. The best bet for the number of Irish players that will hear their names called in this year’s draft floats around seven or eight. Here is how ND has fared for number of players selected in previous NFL drafts under Brian Kelly:
- 2020: 6 Players Drafted
- 2019: 6 Players Drafted
- 2018: 4 Players Drafted
- 2017: 2 Players Drafted
- 2016: 7 Players Drafted
- 2015: 1 Players Drafted
- 2014: 8 Players Drafted
- 2013: 6 Players Drafted
- 2012: 4 Players Drafted
- 2011: 1 Player Drafted
If you remove the 2011 and 2012 drafts (Kelly’s first graduating classes and still largely Weis-built rosters), Coach Kelly has typically hovered around 6 players drafted per class. This would indicate that this year’s draft is expected to elevate that standard. Now, for reference, during that same timeframe from 2011-2020, Clemson had 55 players drafted, Ohio State had 69 players drafted, and Alabama had 85 players drafted. Using full, 7-round draft projections from CBS Sports, Sporting News, and Drafttek, I averaged out the expert picks to predict where this year’s Irish prospects will land in the draft:
Round 1 (CBS – #29, SN – #17, Drafttek – #24) – LB – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – Owusu-Koramoah is looking to become the first Notre Dame linebacker selected in the first round since Bob Crable in 1982 (although Jaylon Smith was a virtual lock prior to his devastating knee injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl). According to Pro Football Focus, Owusu-Koramoah played 195 snaps along the line, 433 in the box, and 680 in the slot during the past two seasons – he is the complete package.
Rounds 2-3 (CBS – #66, SN – #41, Drafttek – #42) – OL – Liam Eichenberg – It’s crazy to think that Eichenberg’s status as a lock for Rounds 2-3 is actually a step DOWN from previous ND left tackles! Eichenberg’s predecessors – Mike McGlinchey, Ronnie Stanley, and Zack Martin – were all high first round selections. Past history aside, Eichenberg is the ultimate competitor. He did not allow a sack since early in the 2018 season and only allowed a single QB hit this past year.
Rounds 3-4 (CBS – #94, SN – #85, Drafttek – #113) – TE – Tommy Tremble – Despite only 19 receptions for 218 yards and 0 TD’s this past season, it wasn’t hard to miss Tremble’s impact on Notre Dame’s offense. Tremble is an absolute bulldog who goes about each play with an offensive lineman’s mentality. It only takes watching a few clips of Tremble’s highlight tape to understand his value and what he will be able to bring to the table in an NFL offense.
Rounds 3-4 (CBS – #99, SN – #130, Drafttek – #120) – OL – Aaron Banks – Nearly receiving as many All-American nods as Liam Eichenberg, the 6’5”, 330-pound Banks has the ideal size for an NFL guard, and his impressive footwork earned him the nickname “Dancing Bear” from former offensive coordinator Chip Long.
Rounds 4-5 (CBS – #166, SN – #156, Drafttek – #135) – OL – Robert Hainsey – The 4-year Irish starter at RT and two-time captain had one of the quietest yet most successful college careers I can remember. Hainsey earned a role as the part-time starter on the 2017 Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line and never looked back. He has reportedly shown his flexibility on the practice field, taking time to work at tackle, guard, and center, thus displaying the kind of versatility that should certainly boost his stock with NFL scouts.
Rounds 5-6 (CBS – #36, SN – #126, Drafttek – N/A) – DE – Ade Ogundeji – I was surprised by the incredibly wide variance in draft stock for Ogundeji, who embodied the definition of a late bloomer for the Irish defense. The strong-side end arrived in South Bend as an overlooked 3-star prospect who did not earn a true starting role until his 5th year, where Ogundeji took full advantage of the opportunity to lead the Irish defense with 37 QB pressures to go along with a team-leading 6 sacks.
Rounds 5-6 (CBS – #172, SN – #186, Drafttek – #188) – DE – Daelin Hayes – The former 5-star prospect had an up-and-down Notre Dame career, but his leadership has shined throughout his entire time on campus. The former captain will certainly impress NFL scouts in the intangibles department, which should complement his on-field play as a rush end, in which he had 33 QB pressures and 3 sacks in 2020.
Rounds 6-7 (CBS – N/A, SN – #170, Drafttek – #156) – OL – Tommy Kraemer – Kraemer started for the Irish in each of the past four seasons. If he is selected in this year’s draft, it would mark the second time in program history (the other occurring in 2003) that four Irish offensive linemen were selected in the same draft.
Round 7-Undrafted (CBS – #184, SN -N/A, Drafttek – N/A) – WR – Ben Skowronek – CBS Sports is high on Skowronek, but he is more than likely a fringe 7th rounder/undrafted free agent. Although not quite on the same level as big-body WRs Chase Claypool or Miles Boykin before him, the Northwestern grad transfer stepped up in big moments this year to lead the Irish with 5 receiving TDs, and NFL teams might be intrigued by his blocking ability on the perimeter.