With the NFL Draft just days away, it’s become increasingly clear that just one Notre Dame prospect – David Bruton – has a chance to be a high draft choice. A few former Irish draft hopefuls have a chance to be selected, but only Bruton has a chance to be selected on the first day. What’s not clear, however, is exactly when Bruton is most likely to be selected or where he may fit in on the NFL level.
If the NFL Draft were like the NBA Draft where potential and raw talent trumps production and experience, Bruton would be a sure fire first round selection. Instead, Notre Dame’s starting free safety the past two years heads into draft weekend not quite sure when his name will be called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Bruton possess freakish athletic ability and brings plenty of experience with him to the NFL after starting each game the past two seasons for the Irish at free safety playing along side both Tom Zbikowski in 2007 and Kyle McCarthy in 2008. During that two year span, Bruton showed flashes of brilliance, but at the same time showed some weaknesses in his game that will need to be corrected before he reaches his full potential.
“He has been knocked by many as not a great coverage guys and the complaint is that he lacks elite change of direction and fluidity in his hips,” Steve Martin of Consensus Draft Services told UHND.com this week. “What is holding him back is his lack of range and hands made of stone,” Draft Countdown’s Scott Wright told us as well.
Bruton’s hands were one of his biggest weaknesses as a member of the Fighting Irish. While he intercepted seven passes over the past two seasons, that total could have been significantly higher if he was more consistent catching the football. Bruton found himself in the right place more often than not, but had trouble coming down with interceptions that he should have been able to come down with.
Despite some of the weaknesses which have him rated anywhere from a late second to fifth round pick, Bruton used a strong showing at the NFL Combine in February to really improve his stock. Bruton ran a 4.46 40 yard dash and recorded a 41.5 inch vertical jump at the Scouting Combine to really improve his stock. “He has recently been climbing draft boards due to strong workouts, most notably at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine,” KFFL’s Cory J. Bonini told UHND.
While Bruton started the last two seasons as a free safety, the Draft scouts we spoke with had some varying opinions as to where Bruton would end up playing full time in the NFL. Ryan McCrystal from Draft Ace told us he saw him as a free safety, “Physically, he looks like he could play strong safety, but his speed, athleticism and instincts make him more valuable at free safety.” Martin though felt that Bruton could be better suited playing strong safety along side a rangy free safety. Bonini went so far as to suggest that Bruton could even end up at linebacker at the next level. “He has great size for a safety, and could be shifted to strongside linebacker. Some team may try to make him into a SAM, like Thomas Davis in Carolina.”
Where Bruton will be selected solicited a wide range of opinions as well. The most optimistic projection for Bruton’s sake was a late second round pick with the worst case scenario being a 5th round selection. That is a pretty wide range which could make for a rather nerve-racking weekend for Bruton. Personally, I think that at least one team will see his raw talent and athleticism available in the third round and not want to risk him being gone by the time they are up on the clock again.
One thing the draft experts we talked to all agreed on was that Bruton would be able to make an immediate impact on special teams. Bruton did just that at Notre Dame as well. He made his mark with the Irish early in his career as a special teams maven before stepping into a starting role in 2007. Bruton excelled as a gunner on kick coverage units during his first two seasons with the Irish and should be able to use his explosive speed to work his way onto the field very early in his career on coverage units for whoever drafts him.
With the tools Bruton brings to the table, he also has a chance to become a pretty good safety on the NFL level in the right system. Bruton is a playmaker and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. If he finds himself in a defense which allows him to roam around and make plays he could end up having a very nice career.
Other Notre Dame Draft Hopefulls
Outside of Bruton, the draft prospects for the other Notre Dame draft hopefulls does not look too optimisitc. Terrail Lambert had an outstanding Pro Day at Notre Dame in March and could find himself as a late selection. Lambert showed elite speed at the Irish Pro Day workout and probably has the best chance of being draft among the other Irish draft eligible players.
Two time captain Maurice Crum Crum also has a chance to be a late round selection. He has reportedly met with a few teams recently and could be a late round pick or at worst an undrafted free agent.
One prospect who would be somewhat intriguing is Michael Turkovich. Turkovich’s junior year film looks pretty bad, but his senior year film shows a vast improvement despite playing a new position after his switch from guard to tackle. He handled the switch very well in 2008 and played pretty well at a position that is highly coveted in the NFL.
For Notre Dame’s sake, hopefully this will be the last draft which features this platry a number of Irish prospects. If Bruton ends up being the only Notre Dame player selected, it will be the first time since 2000 that Notre Dame produces just one pick. Jackson was a 7th round selection that year.
On the surface, next year already looks more promising for the Irish. Sam Young has apparently been getting the attention of NFL agents already and fellow classmates Eric Olsen, Sergio Brown, Raeshon McNeil, and Darrin Walls (who does have a 5th year of eligibility) should all have excellent chances of being drafted next April with solid senior years. The 2011 Draft, however, is when Notre Dame could really make it’s mark with juniors to be Jimmy Clausen, Brian Smith, Golden Tate, Armando Allen, Ian Williams, etc all looking like NFL players already.