2007 Draft Should Have Notre Dame Flair

(UHND.com) — This past weekend Notre Dame has three players draft, a paltry number in the past, but sadly, this was on par for recent Irish teams and was actually an improvement over last year when just two Golden Domers were picked. The 2007 Draft however should much more of an Irish flair with a multitude of potential first day picks alone.

Twelve NFL Drafts have come and past since Notre Dame produced more than one first round pick. The 1994 Draft saw three Irish players go in the first round — Bryant Young, Jeff Burris, and Aaron Taylor. Since that draft, Notre Dame has produced just three first rounders total or the equivalent to the number of defensive linemen that NC State had selected in the first round on Saturday alone!

Next year the Irish have a chance to reverse their draft day fortunes a bit with the potential for multiple first round picks and several more first day picks.

All in all, Notre Dame should have around 16 players draft eligible (depending on 5th year guys). On offense Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight, Marcus Freeman, Ryan Harris, Brian Mattes, Bob Morton, and Dan Santucci all run out of eligibility. Additionally, John Sullivan, John Carlson, Chase Anastacio, and Travis Thomas will be eligible for 5th years. Sullivan could leave early, but I think Thomas, Anastacio, and Carlson come back for 5th years.

On the defensive side of the ball, Victor Abiamiri, Derek Landri, Chris Frome, Mike Richardson, and Chinedum N’Dukwe exhaust their eligibility. While Nick Borsetti, Mitchell Thomas, Joe Brockington, Ambrose Wooden, Tom Zbikowski, Dwight Stephenson, and Trevor Laws have a 5th year remaining. Zbikowski will almost certainly leave for the NFL after this season and Laws and Wooden could as well. The others should be back if they are invited for 5th years.

Now let’s take a look at who has potential for what rounds…

Potential First Rounders
As of now, Quinn and Samardzija are on Mel Kiper’s top 10 seniors for 2007. Both should be first round picks if they replicate what they did this past season. Quinn is the front runner as of now for the 1st overall pick and will be unless he regresses or gets injured this year. It’s been over 30 years since Walt Patulski was picked first overall by the Buffalo Bills first overall in the 1972 draft and Quinn could end that streak for the Irish next year.

Other than Quinn and Samardzija, the Irish have several other players who could work their way into first round if they continue to develop. Tom Zbikowski, the sometimes maligned safety, has enough talent to crack the first round if he learns to defend the pass better this off-season. This may surprise some people, but with his speed, size, and toughness, Zbikowski could become a first round talent. It’s more likely he will be a late second to third round pick based on the coverage skills he displayed this past year, but with another year under Bill Lewis, its possible he could move up draft boards.

Victor Abiamiri is another player that could move into the first round. Mario Williams proved that all a defensive end needs to do is have a great half a senior season to be a first rounder. Abiamiri has all the measruables to be a first round pick. If he becomes a dominant pass rusher this year and posts somewhere between 12 and 13 sacks, he could move into the first round.

Rhema McKnight was the best receiver the Irish had from 2003-2004 before he suffered that nasty injury against Michigan. One of the knocks on Stovall was he only had one productive season, the same cannot be said for McKnight who was one of the few bright spots on some down right terrible Notre Dame offenses. McKnight is also a more complete receiver than Stovall and if he can duplicate what Stovall did last year, he will find himself drafted in the late first round or early second round.

The only other player with first round potential right now is Ryan Harris. While he might be small for an NFL offensive lineman, he’s got enough talent to be a first round pick and is listed towards the late first round to second round area on some very early draft lists. Harris will be a four year starter after this year and two years in Weis system will give him an edge over some other linemen.

Second and Third Rounders
Should Ambrose Wooden come out after this year, I think he’s got the potential to be a second or third round pick. Maybe I’m a bit biased towards Wooden because he is one of my favorite players, but in 2001 Brock Williams was a third round pick after leaving with a 5th year of eligibility left and Wooden has more talent on potential than Williams did.

Other than Wooden, Trevor Laws and John Sullivan could also work their way into the second/third round area with a big senior year. Both have a lot of talent and are expected to do big things this year. With a little more depth behind him, I think we’ll see a much improved Laws this year. Sullivan will be a three year starter and is a very talented center.

Fourth and Fifth Rounders
This is where it really gets tricky since a lot can happen in a year and the end of the draft is hard to project weeks leading up to it, let a lone a year, but here goes. Bob Morton and Dan Santucci could be 4th or 5th rounders after a second season under John Latina’s coaching and in Weis’ offense. Both have adequate size and will benefit greatly from another year in Weis’ system. Dan Stevenson was just drafted in the 6th round of the draft, but if he had another year under Weis, he could have been drafted in this range as well.

Marcus Freeman has made a lot of improvement this off-season in the weight room and could get drafted in this range if he can impress scouts much like Jerome Collins did last year. Freeman should leave college with much more production than Collins did as he will be a major contributor at the tight end position this year. The NFL places a premium on tight ends who can catch and block and Freeman has a lot of athletic ability at the position. Collins went in the 5th round last year so its not unreasonable to think Freeman could go in this range.

Sixth and Seventh Rounders
Chinedum N’Dukwe could go higher if he improves his coverage skills. His size will intrigue some teams and could get him drafted higher than his talent may warrant. He was a ball hawk last year, and if Bill Lewis can teach him to defend the play action and improve his deep coverage, he could go higher than this. As is, N’Dukwe should get drafted in this range for his athletic ability alone.

Derek Landri’s will prevent him from getting drafted any higher than this, but he should get drafted for his tenacity alone. Landri hasn’t exactly lived up to the lofty hype he came to Notre Dame with, but he should get drafted and have a shot at pursuing and NFL career.

Undrafted Free Agents
Guys like Mike Richardson, Chris Frome, and Brian Mattes will really need to show something this year to get drafted. Richardson has improved his coverage skills a great deal, but probably lacks the speed for a team to use a draft pick on him. Frome showed some promise but is coming off major knee surgery and has just 6 career starts. Mattes, even if he wins the starting right tackle job this year, will only have 1 season as a starter under his belt.

For now all of this is pure speculation, but the thought of Notre Dame potentially having 10 or more draft picks in next year’s draft is a pretty exciting thought. Of course the Irish could have less and feel free to throw any of this back at me next year, but until the season starts, its fun to speculate.

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