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Notre Dame Football

Things We Learned After the NFL Draft

April 28, 2024
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It was a good weekend for Notre Dame at the NFL Draft. A much better weekend than the last couple of years, that’s for sure.

The Irish had seven players drafted after only having five selected in the two previous drafts. It feels like a move in the right direction when it comes to developing NFL talent rather than a one-off.

From 2019-2021, Notre Dame averaged 6.7 selections before dipping back down the last two years. Seven, tied for ninth most selected with USC, feels more like where the bar should be set in an average year than something to aspire to.

With the way Marcus Freeman’s current staff has recruited and developed so far, there’s a good chance we’ll see seven end up closer to the floor rather than the ceiling.

- It’s not a coincidence that the top-six teams in the final College Football Playoff rankings had the most top-100 selections this year.

Notre Dame finished with three in the top-100 (Joe Alt, Blake Fisher, and Marist Liufau) and the simple way to look at it is that each of these teams had at least two more draft-eligible difference makers than Notre Dame did. Five of the top-six teams had at least three more.

We’ll see how many top-100 picks Notre Dame will produce next spring, but Ben Morrison, Riley Leonard, Xavier Watts, and Mitchell Evans feel like strong candidates. If they can get one or two defensive linemen out of Howard Cross, Rylie Mills, or RJ Oben to play their way into being day two picks, then it will likely equal to the Irish being a legitimate contender this fall.

- I posted some screenshots on Twitter of things I wrote about Alt, Fisher, Liufau, Audric Estime, and JD Bertrand as recruits, which is a fun way to look back at how they were viewed when they signed with Notre Dame.

Alt

Fisher

Liufau

Bertrand

Estime

I added a screenshot of something I wrote about Javontae Jean-Baptiste when he committed as a transfer as well.

With just about all of these guys, the main theme was how they were developed at Notre Dame. Cam Hart might be the epitome of that with him being recruited as a receiver and spending four years working with Mike Mickens at cornerback. As I pointed out in this piece before the Senior Bowl, Hart had impressive raw tools to work with. Mickens helped mold him into an NFL draft pick.

- On a related note, Liufau, Bertrand, Hart, and JJB were all drafted after participating at the Senior Bowl. That’s always been a great showcase for players and it’s also been a great predictor of who is going to get drafted. 

Sam Hartman was the only former Notre Dame player who took part there and didn’t get drafted. Five of the seven quarterbacks who were there ended up getting drafted. 

- With Alt and Fisher being selected in round one and two respectively, that makes nine O-linemen drafted on day one or day two of the draft since 2016.

Iowa has had two over that same time frame. Michigan and Wisconsin have had four each. Georgia has had six. Ohio State has had eight. Alabama has had nine.

In the last nine years, only Ohio State and Alabama are in the same league as Notre Dame when it comes to developing top NFL prospects.

- Four of the seven Irish players drafted were on defense. Three of them were from the 2019 recruiting class and they join Kyle Hamilton as another member of that class already in the NFL.

Howard Cross should join them next spring and Jack Kiser could end up joining them as well.

There is no doubt that these players have benefited from playing in Al Golden’s defense and ESPN’s Dan Orlovksy highlighted the things Golden’s defense did that limited Caleb Williams to the worst game of his career.

A ton of scouts, coaches, and general managers watched film of that game to see why Williams struggled and that definitely helps defenders for the Irish.

Notre Dame is running NFL concepts on defense and players are learning things that will translate to the next level. Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer mentioned that Liufau knowing what everyone’s job was on the defense was what sold Zimmer on Liufau as a player.

The scheme they play should absolutely be a selling point for defenders, both recruits and transfers, looking to play at the next level.

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