Alohi Gilman could have returned to Notre Dame for a 5th year in 2020 to lead the Notre Dame but chose to pursue an NFL future. At the time he made that decision, that NFL future was much clearer before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the sports world to a halt. The NFL Draft, however, is the one sporting event in America that has not been directly impacted and is still scheduled for April 23-25. That much is certain, where Gilman gets selected, on the other hand, is far from certain.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be breaking down the NFL Draft projections for most of Notre Dame’s draft-eligible players since the Draft is the closest thing to football we might have for a while.
Over two seasons at Notre Dame, Gilman amassed 169 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 INTs, six forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery while starting al 26 games he was eligible for after his transfer. As a reminder, the inconsistent and incompetent NCAA denied Gilman’s waiver request for immediate eligibility despite a solid case for one in 2017.
During his time at Notre Dame, Gilman was a cornerpiece of the Irish secondary and served as a captain in 2019. Had he returned in 2020, he would have been a surefire two-time captain and would have been one of the stars of the Irish defense again this fall.
Senior Bowl Helped, Combine Didn’t
Not surprisingly, when Gilman got around other prospects in live practice and game environments, he stood out. At the combine, which is based on just testing numbers, he didn’t. That’s not surprising since we know Gilman isn’t a player who will post eye-popping numbers. That’s one of the reasons he initially wasn’t highly recruited before he arrived at Navy and had a standout freshman campaign.
Gilman ran a 4.67 and 4.6 in his two attempts at the NFL Combine, but there were a lot of questions about the times for all the defensive backs being much slower than expected. This is one case for a Notre Dame prospect where they could have used Notre Dame’s Pro Day to show that he can run a sub 4.6. The coronavirus, however, has canceled Pro Days – something that should help most Notre Dame prospects this year. Gilman, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.
One area where Gilman clearly stood out at the Combine, however, was in his display of character. After completing drills in Indianapolis, Gilman stayed on the field and cleaned up the tape, pylons, etc in the area of the field he was performing – something the announcers said they had never before witnessed.
What He Can Do in the NFL
From day one, Alohi Gilman is going to be a special teams contributor on an NFL team. I do not doubt that at all. Gilman is relentless and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Whoever ends up drafting him will get a special teams maven and having a player who can play in the secondary and be a special teams ace is a sought after commodity.
Gilman won’t just be a special teams player in the NFL though. We know he doesn’t have great top-end speed, but he can be an effective in the box safety and nickel linebacker in the right system on the NFL level. He will be an asset in the running game as well. Any NFL team that invests a draft pick on Gilman would be wise to move him around and keep him close to the line of scrimmage.
What Gilman Could Struggle with in the NFL
Gilman won’t be a single high safety in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the range, and his lack of elite measurables is what will ultimately prevent him from being a very high pick. In fact, his lack of elite speed is what made his decision to leave for the NFL despite having a 5th year available a sound decision. He wasn’t going to get a lot faster with another year at Notre Dame.
It might take Gilman some time to become a regular contributor on an NFL defense, but he does have the ability to be that kind of player in the right system.
Worst Case Scenario
We’ll start these draft profiles with the worst-case scenario so that we end them on a high note. Sound good? Ok, so with Gilman, I can’t imagine a situation in which he doesn’t get drafted. With some prospects out of Notre Dame this year, there’s a good chance that undrafted free agent is their likely outcome. I don’t see that with Gilman because of his ball-hawking ability and nose for the football.
The worst-case for Gilman would be a 6th/7th round selection. There will be more than one team that won’t want to risk Gilman making it to the undrafted free agent pool, assuming he lasts until the final two rounds. He is simply too versatile on the NFL with his ability to be an impact special teams player.
Best Case Scenario
Some mock drafts have Gilman getting selected as high as the 3rd round, which seems like the absolute best-case scenario for him. In fact, that might be a little too optimistic. It’s not hard to imagine an NFL team falling in love with Gilman’s game tape, attitude, and intangibles. Gilman brings no red flags and the kind of work ethic that all NFL teams covet. If he were an inch or two taller and a little bit faster, he’d be a second-round pick.
Teams that place a value on special teams and versatility in the secondaries make a lot of sense for Gilman. Think of playoff teams like Kansas City, New England, Indianapolis, and Philadephia.
I think the 3rd round projection might be just a bit too optimistic because of the 40 times at the Combine that Gilman wasn’t able to make up for at Pro Day. I don’t see him last much longer than that, however, either. I think Gilman will be off the board in the late 4th round, and if not, definitely by the end of the 5th round. Gilman is a high floor player who will be a contributor from day one on special teams and a team without a lot of glaring needs who has the luxury of drafting a player like that early could pounce.