Looking Ahead to Notre Dame’s 2017 NFL Draft Prospects

Mike McGlinchey - Notre Dame OT
Photo: Mark J. Rebilas // USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to the NFL Draft, Notre Dame football has been on a hot streak.  Two years ago head coach Brian Kelly had eight player players drafted, good enough to tie Alabama for the second most of any college football program.  And most recently Notre Dame and Ohio State totaled 19 NFL Draft selections from their Fiesta Bowl match-up.  With the 2016 draft in the books, it’s time for a way too early preview of next year’s NFL Draft prospects.

Mike McGlinchey, T

Brian Kelly has completely turned around Notre Dame’s drought of not producing NFL players, and his chef-d’oeuvre is at offensive line.  Not only have Kelly’s last two left tackles been drafted, but both have been first round picks.  And McGlinchey seems well prepared to keep the momentum going.

McGlinchey has some commonalities with recent No. 6 overall draft selection, Ronnie Stanley.  Both have lengthy frames and both began their careers at right tackle before making the switch to left.  But they also differ in some key areas.  McGlinchey possesses the nasty demeanor NFL teams were concerned Stanley may lack, and unlike Stanley, the odds of McGlinchey, who has eligibility through the 2017 season, staying an additional year are slim.  The fallout from Jaylon Smith’s injury will likely lead to a rash of early defections for Notre Dame in the coming years, and with a strong 2016 campaign, McGlinchey will be poised to continue Notre Dame’s dominant offensive line run in the NFL.

Isaac Rochell, DE

Notre Dame lost two starting defensive linemen from 2015 and will look for big things from senior Isaac Rochell this fall.   With the departure of Sheldon Day to the NFL and the graduation of Romeo Okwara, Rochell leads the pack for most tackles for loss for returning players (7.5) and was second only to Day in the number of quarterback pressures in 2015.  And with Jarron Jones recovering from last year’s knee injury, defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will be counting on Rochell to fill the leadership role vacated by Day.

Rochell has the ability to be a star player, as evidenced by what he did to Andrus Peat, a first round NFL pick of the New Orleans Saints, when he was at Stanford in 2014.  A strong showing in 2016 and a bright future may await him at the next level.

Jarron Jones, DT

Jarron Jones should be an interesting NFL prospect for 2017.  Notre Dame’s starting nose guard struggled his first two seasons in South Bend, which led some to speculate whether the lower level of competition in his native New York may have negatively impacted his development.  But Jones had a breakthrough junior season in 2014 and tied Sheldon Day for the most tackles by a defensive lineman, offering hope 2015 would be the year he established himself as a star.  That hope, however, was derailed before the season even began when Jones suffered an MCL tear during summer camp.

Now nearly at full health, the expectations for 2015 have followed him into 2016.

“It’s Notre Dame – all you need is one good fall,” Brian Kelly said after announcing Jones’ injury to the media last summer.  “I just remind him of that.  If he has a really good fall here, he’ll get plenty of suitors.”

Cole Luke, CB

Cole Luke may not have the blazing speed of the Kansas City Chiefs’ recent third round pick and former Notre Dame standout, KeiVarae Russell, but he’s an experienced and talented cornerback in his own right.  Highly coveted in high school and boasting elite scholarship offers, Luke saw his first extended game action while filling in for Russell, who missed the 2014 season due to academic misconduct.

Luke was charged with covering Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, a draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who was making a name for himself his rookie year before suffering a season-ending injury.  Luke limited Montgomery to 12 yards receiving while racking up two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and four tackles.

Luke is entering his third season as a starter for the Notre Dame defense and will be looked upon as the senior statesmen at cornerback.  Another strong season for Luke and the NFL will surely await in 2017.

Honorable Mentions

DeShone Kizer, QB

Is it crazy to include a player who hasn’t even been named the starter and who has eligibility through the 2018 season?  Perhaps, but it’s not as a big of a stretch as you may think.

Although far too early to call, Kizer has an early edge on Malik Zaire for the quarterback competition, and his experience – Kizer has already started 11 games for Notre Dame – isn’t as problematic as it may appear considering Carson Wentz, this year’s No. 2 overall selection, had only started 23 games at the FCS level.  Add in the fact Kizer’s 2,600 passing yards in 2015 was No. 9 all-time at Notre Dame and he possesses the size, arm strength and mobility all NFL coaches covet, and a jump to the NFL doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Max Redfield, S

Max Redfield is a bubble prospect for 2017 at this point.  A former 5-star prospect rated as the No. 3 overall safety for the Class of 2013, Redfield has the physical tools of an elite safety but has failed to show it on the field, and is currently battling early enrollee true freshman Devin Studstill for the starting free safety position.  Battling a freshman for your own starting spot isn’t the best way to impress NFL scouts.

Unless something drastic occurs in 2016 Redfield is likely destined to be a late round gamble for an NFL team willing to give him a chance due to his physical ability.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor.  He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him.  Scott can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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  1. Well said Michael, well said Mike.

    We seem to develop 4 star OL recruits into first round NFL picks. Need to do that in the rest of the team.

    It is not just schemes; we are not developing our talent to the highest level. We need to either find more Hiestand- type coaches who can develop 4 star recruits into NFL talent, or recruit better athletes, to get over into true elite status. We are close, but we are not there.

  2. I’d disagree that mediocrity is accepted, or that the ND program is mediocre, but I do agree ND needs to win those games they “could have won” to join the elite.
    As for the schedule, it looks challenging. ND can’t lose more than two games this 2016 season to win 10. Hope springs eternal every Spring at ND, and for many good reasons but . . .
    What could go wrong this time around? Tune in – be it more key injuries or a void of leadership or more absurd player penalties/suspensions that I suspect would be considered minor at Clemson et.al.
    Re: eligibility- NDs playing field is not level to the few elite programs.
    Facing 3 ‘neutral sites’, with 3 true road games starting with Charley Strong’s Longhorns – their already hyped turnaround game of the Texas program the first Sunday in Sept. , which would become a holy day in Texas if they can somehow win that one!
    At LA in November, and the most dangerous possible let-down game on the 2016 schedule- at NCSt., with Michigan State and Stanford at home at this year’s continuing Renovated bjMemorial Sodless Stadium Complex
    ‘ Ah! The humanity! ‘
    A myriad of opportunities of chances to lose.
    Six defensive starters GONE! More top prospects gone since ’94 from one ND roster.
    It makes me wonder-
    What could go wrong this year that could lead to at least two or even three losses . . . Plenty!

  3. Bottom line for me is wins and losses. So we are stocking the NFL with players. Maybe, just maybe our coach can not get it done at this level. Are we better off than the past few coaches? Yes. But mediocrity seems to be accepted by the school, administration and others.

  4. Using just a championship or a playoff spot as the measure of a season is not what I worry about. Maybe it’s because we have been so mediocre for so long that I thought last year was almost as good as it gets. Losing in the last second on the road to 2 top 5 teams (in games ND clearly should have won) then getting beat by a team that set a new record for NFL talent (and unfortunately we got them when they were focused) is pretty incredible. I think this was a better overall season than 2012 because we showed we can play with the best. 2012 seems like an anomaly now where all the breaks and a softer than usual schedule led to an undefeated season. Were any of you really surprised when Alabama smoked us? I wasn’t.

    Now, if ND can simply avoid a third straight season of catastrophic injuries this should be another great year. The schedule actually looks a bit softer if Stanford and Mich State take steps backwards and USC keeps floundering. I have been a die hard Irish fan since the early 70’s. The days of national championship or bust are gone. Just be in the mix each year and compete with the best and I will be happy. I can never go back to the embarrassing dark ages post-Lou until BK has things churning now.

    Having said that, each year we should be a few plays away form being in that top 4 and those plays should start going our way. From the Fla St game 2 years ago to the Clemson and Stanford games this year, those are the games we have to start winning.

  5. Good point. When will the recruiting / draft success translate to each gameday / season?

  6. We keep hearing about all these draft picks which is all fine and well. But how about a playoff spot and a championship?

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