The NFL Draft is finally here with the first round kicking off tomorrow night on ESPN. Ever since Brian Kelly took over as head coach, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been turning talented players into professionals.
There are 14 players who could potentially be drafted over the next four days. Nine of them have a very good chance of actually making the NFL and we could see as many as three taken in the first round.
Offensive tackle Zach Martin will likely be the first former Golden Domer we’ll hear Thursday night. Martin is rated as one of the best offensive line prospects in this year’s draft. Some analysts think he would translate well to guard and that versatility on the line could give him an edge.
Martin played left tackle in college and was a four year starter. He is equally great in terms of run or pass blocking. His awareness is outstanding and he is rarely, if ever, caught off guard or out of place. If ever there was a player who is NFL ready, its Martin.
It looks like he will fall into the teens in the draft. Analysts have him going anywhere from 15-17 to the likes of the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers badly need offensive line help and he would be a very good fit in a system that clearly wants to run the ball more often. He is also a good enough against pass rushers to give Ben Roethlisberger all the extra time that he generally needs.
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt is likely to be the next player from Notre Dame to come off the board. Tuitt is a great talent and a well above average pass rusher as well as run stopper. He could also be moved to defensive tackle due to his 6-5 height and 304-pound size. Honestly, he is much better suited to DT and would be an effective inside pass rusher.
Tuitt will likely be selected near the end of the first round. Two teams he has been linked to are the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots need help along the line and especially in the pass rush department. The Seahawks need to reload along a defensive line that dominated Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. Tuitt would give them a versatile player who would make an impact right away.
Some analysts call him a top 15 pick, but due to his lack of consistency and concerns about his motor his stock has taken a hit. Tuitt was also determined to have a fracture in his foot at the NFL Scouting Combine. It looks like he played the entire 2013 season on it and that may have affected his performance on the field.
Defensive tackle Louis Nix III could also find his way into the first round, but is generally considered a high second rounder. A lot of his stock depends on what you think of his knee injury. He originally hurt it before the BCS Championship attempt in 2012-13 but continued to play. It bothered him in 2013 and he elected to have surgery late in the year.
His knee should be fully healed by now and he’ll be 100-percent come the start of the 2014 NFL season. That also doesn’t change the fact that he is a monster against the run. He’s the kind of player that demands a double team in the middle.
A team wouldn’t be reaching all that far if they decided to take him in the first round. His endurance is sometimes an issue, but if used on obvious rushing downs he will have a huge impact.
We’ll take a look at some of the other Notre Dame players who will hear their name over the weekend on Friday. Make sure to check in for draft updates over the next four days.