Looking Ahead to Notre Dame’s 2020 NFL Draft Prospects

The 2019 NFL Draft wrapped up over the weekend with five Notre Dame players getting selected in the seven rounds of the draft.  Next year’s NFL Draft though might have much more of an Irish flare depending on how the decisions of a few players who will have eligibility left in 2020.  With a year between now and then, here’s a real early look at how next year’s draft could play out for Notre Dame players.

Players with No 2020 Eligibility

Julian OkwaraKhalid Kareem – Both decided against pursuing the NFL this year to return for their senior seasons and their decisions will pay off for them and Notre Dame.  Pass rushers are in high demand in the NFL these day and both can get to the quarterback.  Neither would have been a particularly high pick this past weekend had they left because of the talent ahead of them, but next year both have their eyes on high selections.

Of the two, I think Kareem has the better chance of being a 1st rounder simply because of his size.  Okwara was still weighing in at 240 lbs in the spring and while he’s highly disruptive and effective at that weight in college, it could give some NFL teams pause.  If he bulks up to say 255 lbs by the draft and retains his explosiveness, then I can easily see both being 1st round picks.

Regardless of where they are selected, both should be in store for monster senior seasons that will power the Notre Dame defense in 2019.

Troy Pride –  Pride looks ready to be the top corner for the Irish.  He played in the shadow of Julian Love this year, but 2019 will be his time to shine.  His speed could also propel him to a much higher in the draft than Love’s disappointing 4th round selection on Saturday.  Pride will run in the 4.3 range at the Combine next year and if he has the tape to go with that speed, he could be a 2nd round pick.

Chase Claypool – He contemplated leaving early this year, but didn’t get back the evaluation to make that decision a wise one.  He is Notre Dame’s unquestioned #1 receiver this year and if he builds on his 2018 output and shows more consistency, he can play himself into being a very high selection.  Wide receivers weren’t in huge demand this year, but it’s not hard to envision Claypool being a 2nd round pick without much stretching.  He’s got the measurables to be a 1st rounder, but that would require a pretty big leap.

Jalen Elliott – Elliott went from afterthought to potential captain in a little over a year’s time.  He completely turned his game around in 2018 becoming a ball hawk in the process.  How high of a pick he can ultimately end up being is still a little up in the air.  A mid to late round selection seems the most likely for him at this point.

Chris Finke – Finke’s draftability will largely be dependent on how much volume he gets this year in an offense that is probably going to be spreading the ball around quite a bit.  We saw Clemson’s Hunter Renfrow get drafted in the 5th round by the Raiders this past weekend and Finke’s game is very similar.  With a big final campaign he could be a late round pick.  At worst, Finke is going to get signed as a undrafted free agent next year.

Asmar Bilal – Bilal is a bit of a wild card right now.  If Tevon Coney can go undrafted, Asmar Bilal as we know him now certainly will be undrafted.  He still has an entire season to change that though so it’s possible he plays himself into draft contention this year.  He has got a rather large hill to climb to get to that point as of now though.  Spring practice didn’t do a whole lot to change that perception either.

Early Exit Possibilities

Alohi Gilman –  Gilman, along with Elliott, solidified the safety position for Notre Dame in 2018.  He has already given a few indications that he is planning on leaving for the NFL after his senior season so while he has two years of eligibility left, 2019 is probably the last year we’ll see him in South Bend.

Gilman transferred from Navy initially because of their internal policy change that wouldn’t allow for athletes to pursue professional sports careers prior to fulfilling their service commitments so it’s pretty clear Gilman has his eyes on the NFL.  If he improves on his 2018 season this fall, he’ll be ready for the NFL.

Ian Book – Technically speaking, Ian Book has two years of eligibility remaining.  There’s a school of thought though that if Book has a huge year to build on his impressive debut in 2018, he’ll declare for the draft without using the 5th year of eligibility he has remaining thanks to redshirting in 2016.   It’s not a forgone conclusion that Book will head to the NFL at the end of the 2019 season, but it’s a pretty safe assumption IF he has the kind of year that people are expecting him to have.

Where he would project in the Draft isn’t as clear though.  No matter what Book does he won’t be able to address the two biggest concerns NFL teams have on him – size and arm strength.  We’ve seen the NFL embrace smaller quarterbacks the last two drafts, but arm strength is another story.  Book might be in a situation where even with a huge year in 2019 his draft ceiling might be limited and it might be limited even he were to use a 5th year.

Jafar Armstrong – It might be a bit of a stretch at this point, but if Armstrong were to explode this year and top 1,000 yards; leaving for the NFL wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.  NFL teams don’t put high value on running backs any in the Draft anymore, but there is certainly value put on backs without a lot of tread on their tires.  There is a lot of risk for running backs to leave early though.  The last two Notre Dame RBs to leave after their junior years – Darius Walker and Josh Adams – went undrafted.

Aaron Banks, Liam Eichenberg, and Tommy Kraemer – Three of Notre Dame’s starting offensive linemen will be draft eligible by the end of the season.  In the case of Banks he will still have two years of eligibility remaining while Kraemer and Eichenberg will just have one – a 5th year for both. Now all three have seen a series of Notre Dame linemen return for their senior seasons and parlay that into high draft picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Mike McGlinchey, and Quenton Nelson so there is precedent at Notre Dame for offensive linemen to return.

All three would have to improve considerably this year for leaving early to make much sense.  Banks wasn’t a starter until half way through the season.  Eichenberg was a first time starter and was fine, but not exceptional enough to think he’d be a high draft pick at current level.  Kraemer lost his starting job in 2017 and while he wrestled it back in 2018, he was still a work in progress.

Cole Kmet – We’ve been waiting for Kmet to breakout for a while now and all signs point to 2019 being the year he does it.  If he does, there will be an opportunity for him to leave for the NFL and there has been some precedent set at tight end at Notre Dame for that.  Troy Niklas only had one season as the #1 tight end where he put up good production in 2013 and he left for the NFL right after that one season as a true junior at the time.

There may be too many weapons on offense for Kmet to get enough targets to have the kind of production that would really warrant leaving early, but there is a premium placed on athletic tight ends like Kmet in the NFL these days.

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  1. I . remain flummoxed about the doubling down on the negative treatment of the round in which our wonderful player,and soon to be
    fellow alumnus, Julian Love was drafted.

    Such redundant.. repetitive focus on some people’s disappointment seems to diminsh the totality of Julian Love’s overall contribution
    to Kelly’s reboot and the last three years. That he achieved his status without having played DB in high school, is, for me,
    more noteworthy than the collected wisdom (vel non) of NFL draft gurus.

    When you have the banquet inviting all to swoon and fawn about the “genius” of NFL front office execs, well, to use the Goldwynism,
    “include me out.”

    Thank you Julian, I appreciate you.

  2. This is mostly for crazy mike.

    This draft stuff is more unbridled conjecture that a valid predictive science, and there are logical reasons for that.

    The Walter site lists four Irish in the 2020 second round.

    In order, Kareem, Kraemer, Okwara, Eichenberg.

    We report, you decide.

    Some would say that the absence of Troy Pride from that gang of four is noteworthy…

    Anecdotal evidence and recent history suggest that there will be MYRIAD changes in the next 11 months.

    The most recent exhibit is Quinnen Williams, particularly juxtaposed with his teammate Raekwon Davis, for those of you who
    dabble in the Crimson Tide.1.

    The Tide had six or seven in the first round of the Walter 2020 mock.

    Tua Tagavailoa was listed as the first pick. Well, we shall see. On Tua, color me unimpressed.

    Our third opponent of 2019, those Hairy Dogs from Athens, had Andrew Thomas and Jake Fromm early in the first round.

    I should have mentioned something in the South Bend Tribune recently. A guy wrote into the Sports Department with a theory explaining why some high rated QB’s did not develop as fast as we would expect under BK. His theory was (I’m paraphrasing and inferring) that the QB’s that spent the most time on the prep team prepping the defense seemed to be less ready to perform as high as they could than the QB’s who did not spend much time on prep squads, comparatively speaking. The ones who spent the most time on the prep teams seemed to know the real ND offense (meaning BK’s: it goes back through his whole career) the least proficiently, while the ones who spent the least time on prep knew the ND offense much better. No surprise that, of course. But the surprise is in the “who did what category” during BK’s tenure, QB by QB. Get a copy and read the correlation he sets out. It’s far from conclusive, but it is interesting, and worth thinking about. The SB Tribune Sports writer will be asking BK about it. Maybe some of us here would like to discuss this.

    Think about it, all you here who have said QB’s aren’t developing well here under BK (though some of them do). I’ve noticed it myself. It’s an interesting theory, especially since I doubt BK’s offense is easy and quick for a QB to learn.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  4. Heard Coach Brian Kelly on west coast. Hope He picks up some good players for the Fightin Irish☘️

  5. WOW does anyone have a comment about the DRAFT PROSPECTS the IRISH have or just these, my post is better than yours!! Been away a while are we talking football, personal grudges, military status or your right and everybody else is wrong declarations!! WHAT THE HELL’S GOIN ON HERE!!!

    1. NDCRAZYMIKE. Sorry man. Draft prospects for postseason 2019 (the 2020 draft) are unknowable at this time, though I would agree with the observation that there are some defensive linemen who will move up in 2020 from experience and exposure gained by playing this upcoming season (2019). It’s boring stuff, as you would expect in May. Stay the course until August, when we will again get refuge from the agonizing boredom of tennis, major league baseball, and the most excruciating “sport” to spend 3 hours watching of all, golf. In the meantime, we’ll prattle on about “absolutely nothing” as Seinfeld might call it. What else can we do…watch horse racing or car racing?

      BGC ’77 ’82

  6. Well, boo hoo! the snowflakes are all a twitter about some silly checkmark.

    Play hard, life is tough.

    The reality here is Notre Dame football. That’s important. Mens basketball used to be, but no more under that sniveling mediocrity, the Emperor of Excuses, Mike Brey.

    Fans are expandable, fungible, you ‘umble narrator included.

    The GAME and the TEAM are what counts.

    Not enough of the whiners on this board have gone through basic training. Perhaps you had issues with your “bone spurs” and were 1-y, with complete fabrication.

    8 weeks with my “mentors” sheesh- Sgt. Heisler and Sgt. Gyenge (a refugee from Hungary, when the Rooskie tanks rolled in inh ’56) saw to it that every bit of inchoate “snowflakism” was eradicated-with extreme prejudice.

    Futher there is this..

    Matthew 5:11. Look it up.

    You need a tough football team to win.

    only and ONLY tough football fans deserve that.

    For those who don’t like this message, then click on, diatribe, whatever. It ain’t my first rodeo.
    Then go root for a team that is more like you, the Houston Rockets, with their refereeing whinefests.

    \Refereeing happens No team, EVER has lost a contest because, IN TOTALITY, they committed fewer mistakes than the zebras did.

    Notre Dame football, and womens basketball is important. Your precious delicate little egos are not. Mine either.

    1. There you go again Duranko.. I love your explanations. I have to read and reread your brilliant posts. Just pulled out the Bible, we never read the Bible, the catechism was pummeled into our young receptive heads. Matthew 5:11 very enlightening. And I had my basic training I am very proud to say by the meanest and Kindest Irish Nuns ever to set foot on American turf. The only time I saw them smile in their forerunner Star War habits was on Paddy’s Day and they had a precious, delicate Shamrock pinned on.

    2. Actually, 4-F Duranko….unfit for military service under any conditions. I guess they saw me coming!

      But you are correct about the TEAM, the TEAM, the TEAM, as Bo would put it. Does anyone who ever knew me actually think for one second that I give a damn about somebody pushing my dislike button?

      Bruce G. Curme

      1. So, Bruce, I was just rewatching the “Departed” and, as French told Costello (Whitey Bulger in real life) “I’m one in ten million.” So too is BGC, a Domer, true and Blue!

        I have observed, with great empathy, the extent to which you anguish and bleed for our Irish.

        thanks for invoking Bo. He and Tressel are my two all time favorite non-ND coaches.

      2. Well Duranko, I think one thing all our posters can agree on is this: There is a lot less to be anguished about now than just three years ago, and most of the previous couple of decades before that!
        “My anguish turned to joy, my mourning turned to laughter.”
        But there is still one last task for one of our future teams to attend to…and that too shall come.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  7. My old man would say after one of His surgeries “ it takes a lot to kill a guy.” Cowards that click dislike get off on this and move on to another site. It will take a LOT more to KILL this guy. Sticks and stones may break my bones but clicks will never hurt me.

    1. Then why are you commenting on your dislikes? If they don’t bother you just ignore them.

      It’s obvious the “cowards” are getting to you because you’re coming across like a wounded 5th grader.

      1. Then reply Keith, explain other than dislike/graffiti. That’s what makes UHND a great site to air it all out.

  8. Hey, “Southside,”

    I totally agree, brother. I couldn’t care less what internet trolls and cowards think. This “new” function was, is, and will be a bad idea. Period!

    Why did the administrators go with this? Probably some marketing decision. Regardless, it’s pathetic and a refuge for the gutless.

    It does seem that the days of us going at it are waning. That will not help this site. But the trolls will at least be able to hit the “Like” or “Dislike” button.

    Hope to hear from the other old timers on this or other matters soon!


  9. How is Daelin Hayes not mentioned at least once?Irish finally have depth where non starters can get drafted

  10. Hey Frank , off the subject here. You Authors do a great job providing updates of Notre Dame football during season and off season. When I first joined UHND around 2010/2011 — it was flooded with posters/comments through out the year. One could debate / disagree / –and indeed things got heated among us. If a poster was too out of hand with personal attacks , foul language — You and the powers that be could just ban/delete their response. Since the new format brought about —voting on “Likes or Dislikes”–has in my opinion reduced the art of debate/ disagreements/pros & cons / humor /sarcasm/tongue in cheek metaphors. Some new posters come on here — and get dislikes –just because their new ! Some of my post/opinions are off the charts — and I’ll get called out — fine with me. I like that — instead of some coward hitting a Dislike button. Which kills any debate– period. I’m wondering if UHND would go back to old days perhaps on a trial basis of not having “Like-Dislike” button ? I think it would bring more posters to the Website— that are hesitant to do so. Go Irish !

  11. I know the timing of the timing may be different, but can football players declare for the NFL draft and pull back before the drafting process like college basketball players who “test the waters” to see where they may stand in the draft?

    1. Yoon was undrafted and is currently unsigned. He might get a shot somewhere, but it doesn’t seem likely it will be the NFL

      1. I don’t know Jeff…I’ve seen some kickers have long careers in the League who were not even close to Yoon in ability and accuracy, let alone collegiate scoring totals. Could go either way.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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