The NFL Draft kicks off later tonight with the first round being broadcast in prime time for the first time ever. Here’s a preview of where some former Notre Dame players, including players not named Clausen and Tate, could end up.
Jimmy Clausen – 1st Round
There isn’t a more discussed player in the first round this year than Clausen. No one seems to really have a handle for where he is going and at this rate, he will probably land some place people aren’t really talking about right now. I don’t think the Bills are going to take him. Unless Cleveland is doing one hell of a job protecting their hand, it doesn’t look like the Browns will take him either.
With two picks in the first round, I still think the 49ers make a lot of sense for Clausen. Alex Smith looked solid at times down the stretch last year, but he also did a lot of his damage against some pretty weak defenses. The Niners have a strong defense in place, some talented young receivers led by Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, and strong running game.
Other than the 49ers, I think the Seahawks make sense as well. Clausen getting coached by Pete Carroll would certainly make for some interesting headlines too.
A dark horse in the race could be the Chiefs if Clausen tumbles ala Brady Quinn for a couple of reasons. The Chiefs are looking to trade down and have been linked to the Eagles as a trade partner. Philly owns the 24th pick in the first round right now. Should Clausen really tumble down the first draft, the Chiefs could be tempted to draft their new offensive coordinators prized pupil considering the struggles Matt Cassell had in his first season as their QB. Kansas City could be tempted to trade back into the first round should Clausen fall into the 20’s as well.
Another intriguing option for Clausen would be Pittsburgh. There seems to be a lot of smoke behind the Ben Rothlisberger trade rumors in the wake of his off-field troubles. If the Steelers are in the market for a quarterback, they could be in play for Clausen at #18.
Other options include Oakland at #8 – good luck predicting what Al Davis will do – and Jacksonville at #10, but they seem likely to wait and draft Tim Tebow. I don’t but the notion that Clausen could fall to the second round though. If he drops out of the teens, someone will trade up for him.
Golden Tate – Late 1st/ Early 2nd Second
There hasn’t been as much talk about Golden Tate as there has been Clausen, but his possible destinations are just as plentiful at this point. Depending on what the Steelers do at the quarterback position, they could be in play for Tate at #18. The Steelers worked Tate out recently and are in need of a big play receiver after trading Santonio Holmes leaving them with an aging, yet still very effective Hines Ward to lead their receiving corps.
Before trading for Anquan Boldin, the Ravens looked to be a team in the mix for a wide receiver, but after acquiring the disgruntled receiver from Arizona they are off the market . Arizona however, could be in the market for a receiver to go team with Larry Fitzgerald if they aren’t confident that Steve Breaston can be an effective second option in their offense.
The Jets were linked to Tate early on, but their acquisition of Santonio Holmes would figure to take them out of the market. Eric Hansen mentioned the other day in a chat for the South Bend Tirbune that he is hearing the Colts would love to take Tate if he is still there when they pick 31st.
If Tate makes it out of the first round, there are plenty of teams that could be looking for help at wide receiver in the second. Atlanta, Jacksonville, Denver (if they don’t take Dez Bryant in the first round), Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Carolina, and even New England could all be tempted to select Tate if he is available when they pick in the first round.
Sam Young – 5th/6th Round
After the big two, it’s anyone’s guess which Notre Dame player will be selected next. Young, despite his struggles with consistency, seems like a good bet because of his sheer size. You can’t teach the kind of size Young has and there is probably an offensive line coach or two out there who see the potential that Young has that wasn’t fully developed at Notre Dame.
Young could also benefit from the John Sullivan-effect. Sullivan had a disappointing end to his career at Notre Dame, was drafted late, and then ended up as the starting center all season long for the Vikings in just his second season.
Because of his size, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone reached up and grabbed Young in the late 5th round. Look for a team that misses out on one of the elite tackles in the draft to take a chance on Young – possibly Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Green Bay, Baltimore, Miami, or Arizona.
Kyle McCarthy – 5th/6th Round
McCarthy put on an impressive performance at the combine that should have eliminated some concerns about his speed, but as the best performer on a truly awful defense, he will have a tough time getting selected any higher than the 5th round.
Most projections have him going later, but when teams are assessing their draft boards and look at McCarthy’s combine performance, combined with the stats he compiled at Notre Dame over the past two seasons, someone will grab him before then.
Look for McCarthy to land with a team that misses out on one of the top safeties in the draft such as Philadelphia, Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, or New Orleans.
Whoever gets McCarthy could end up with a steal. In the right defense, he has the ability to step in and possibly make an impact early.
Eric Olsen – 6th/7th/Free Agent
There hasn’t been much buzz at all regarding Olsen leading up to the draft. Personally, I always thought that Olsen was the most consistent offensive lineman over the last few years for Notre Dame and would take a chance on him for his versatility alone. After playing three years at guard, he switched to center his senior season and performed well.
If he doesn’t get selected, he will be one of the first undrafted free agents off the board because of that versatility.
After Olsen, there probably isn’t any other Notre Dame player who has a great chance of getting drafted. Sergio Brown and James Aldridge will both probably get signed as undrafted free agents. Brown has some ridiculous athleticism, but is still very raw and needs work in coverage. Aldridge ran well at Notre Dame’s pro day and will find himself in someone’s training camp. For his sake, I’d love to see Aldrdige land in a place like Washington where he could work with Mike Shanahan – a coach who has a track record of taking late round/free agent running backs and turning them into pretty good NFL players.