Notre Dame Football’s Top 25 Players for 2019: #11-15

Our countdown of the top 25 players on the Notre Dame football roster for 2019 continues today with the players ranked 11th through 15th.  After a healthy dose of defensive linemen yesterday, we’re going to spend the majority of our time together today talking about the offensive side of the ball.

If you’ve missed either of the previous segments in this countdown, be sure to check them out here:

15. Cole Kmet (TE, Jr)

I must say that of all of the rankings in this countdown; Cole Kmet‘s was the most surprising to me.  I had Kmet ranked the highest at 8th overall and thought that might be too low so I was mildly shocked that Kmet ended up 15th in our composite rankings.  We heard the last two years that Kmet was impressive in camp and primed for a big year only to be followed by underwhelming campaigns so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

All that said, everything is there for Kmet to have a monster campaign.  He’s got an incumbent starting quarterback who has had the luxury of an entire off-season to build chemistry – something he didn’t have last year.  He’s got an offensive coordinator, Chip Long, who has been itching to get the tight end more involved for the past two years.

That’s my theory anyway.  Matt and Greg weren’t as optimistic.

Matt’s commentsAlize Mack’s departure to the NFL means it’s time for Kmet to get starting playing time at tight end finally.  The 6’6 freak will be competing with fellow junior classmate Brock Wright as the starter.  Kmet is a top candidate for a huge breakout season in 2019.

Greg’s commentsIt’s insane a player of this caliber could fall to 15, testament to this roster if nothing else. I’m just not sure if the production matches the possibilities this season, maybe next year for Kmet. If I’m wrong, that’s fabulous.  

  • Highest rank: 8
  • Lowest rank: 15
  • Number of ballots: 3

14. Daelin Hayes (DE, Sr)

  • Highest rank: 11
  • Lowest rank: 13
  • Number of ballots: 3

In almost any other year other than 2019, Daelin Hayes would be an unquestioned starter for Notre Dame at defensive end.  He’d be a starter for a lot of Power 5 programs this year too.  Unfortunately for Hayes, he’s got Julian Okwara ahead of him on the Notre Dame depth chart.

Hayes might not rack up a monster sack total this year, but he’s one of the most important players on defense for Notre Dame this fall because he is part of the wave of defensive linemen that Clark Lea and Mike Elston will deploy on opposing offenses. Matt had Hayes ranked the highest and is a bit more optimistic on Hayes’s potential this fall.

Matt’s comments: While Daelin has never quite lived up to his 5-star billing coming out of high school he is still a solid contributor finishing 3rd in quarterback hits last season.  I will be the first to admit I’ve been a little hard on Hayes and his performances.  After reviewing game film from last year, Hayes was a disruptive force on the edge and helped force ball carriers into Okwara, Kareem and Jerry Tillery.  A healthy senior season out of Hayes will be tremendous for ND, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him make All-American.

Greg’s commentsI think Hayes will be better at defensive end then Kmet or Kraemer will be at their positions, the two other players I was kicking around at this spot. Sneaky good year for Hayes upcoming. 

13. Tommy Kraemer (OG, Sr)

  • Highest rank: 9
  • Lowest rank: 14
  • Number of ballots: 3

Tommy Kraemer is the key to Notre Dame having an elite offensive line in 2019.  He is the 4th ranked lineman in our countdown right now, but he has the potential to be a much more productive player than the one we’ve seen the last two years.

If Kraemer takes the big step forward many think he will, Notre Dame could have a special offensive line again this year.  If he only shows moderate improvements, the line will still be very good but might not be elite.  Kraemer might not ever live up to the 5-star billing he came in with, but he doesn’t even need to for this line to special.  He just needs to play like a mid-4-star lineman for that to happen.

Matt’s commentsKraemer took a little bit of a step back last season after starting 12 games his sophomore season (2016) but still started nine games at guard for one of the best offensive lines in the country.  Tommy Boy will be counted on to take a step forward this year during his redshirt junior season and right now is penciled in to start at right guard.   Funny thing is some preseason publications have named Kreamer to their All-American teams, but I have him as my 3rd best offensive linemen on the team.

Greg’s comments: I think he thinks it’s his time and confidence means a lot in this game, just not sure of the upside here. He’s also reportedly in the best shape he’s been in, which also means a lot in this game. He can take this line to significant heights if he comes through. 

12. Chris Finke (WR, 5th)

  • Highest rank: 6
  • Lowest rank: 15
  • Number of ballots: 3

Chris Finke‘s ranking is one of the most polarizing in our countdown.  Greg is quite bullish on Finke ranking him #6 overall while Matt and I had him 14th and 15th respectively.  In retrospect, I think Greg might end up being closer than Matt and me here.  I don’t believe Finke will play like the 6th best player on the roster, but he very well could be closer to top 10 than top 15.

One thing working heavily in Finke’s favor this year is volume.  With Book’s accuracy and lack of a huge arm, Finke is going to rack up targets, receptions, and yards this year.

Matt’s comments: Enrolled at Notre Dame as a walk-on who earned a scholarship last fall and a starting position.  Finke finished 3rd on the team with 47 catches and 547 yards receiving.  Finke is also a valuable punt returner who has reliable hands.

Greg’s comments: 3rd and 5 with the season on the line, I want them to throw the ball to Finke. I think he’ll be open and I think he’ll catch it. The punt returning aspect factors in here also. 

11. Jafar Armstrong (RB, Jr)

  • Highest rank: 11
  • Lowest rank: 12
  • Number of ballots: 3

To be fair, Jafar Armstrong tied for 10th with another player, but since all three of us had him either 11th or 12th and the other player received top 10 votes, it seemed more fitting to place Armstrong here.  All three of us ranking Armstrong so similarly is interesting in that it signifies that we all see him just on the cusp of being a top 10 player this year.

If Matt’s outlook for Armstrong comes to fruition, this 11th ranking is going to look too low at the end of the season.  I tend to agree more with Greg though.  If Armstrong can stay healthy all year, he will put to ease a lot of concerns regarding the Notre Dame rushing attack.  If he gets banged up a couple times agian this year the ground game will experience some hiccups.

Matt’s comments: The converted WR only started two games last season but still ran for 377 yards and 7 TD, including two vs. Michigan.  Armstrong is a threat out of the backfield to catch the ball too.  He should be the bell cow rusher with Dexter Williams departure to the NFL.  I’m expecting 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit TDs for Armstrong in 2019.

Greg’s commentsBetween the running and receiving, such an essential player on the offense this season. If I knew he was going to be healthy, I’d have him higher. 

Check back with us tomorrow as we move into the top 10.

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  1. Sorry guys but Armstrong def belongs in the top 10, if not in the top 5. He’s the only back we have that can potentially replicate what Josh Adams and Dexter Williams brought to the table which are breaking off long runs for TDs. He also catches very well out of the backfield, probably the best since Theo Riddick. Talk about being a work horse this year. I agree, he needs to stay healthy but if he does, he’s one of the biggest weapons on this team with the versatility he brings. We need to be able to establish a good running game and Armstrong has all the tools to do it.

    1. Agree Chris J. I think Armstrong’s ceiling is higher than our previous two “home run hitters” due to his ability to get open out of the backfield and his good hands.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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