NFL Draft – Radio City Music Hall
ESPN and NFL Network
Nine Notre Dame players received invitations to the NFL draft combine earlier this spring and after an extended pre-draft period, the NFL hopeful’s will finally live their fate this Thursday through Saturday. Notre Dame’s nine players, topped only by Alabama and LSU and tied with Florida State, should become the norm with the athletes head coach Brian Kelly has been recruiting to South Bend. I think as low as five Notre Dame players could be drafted, with the others, including quarterback Tommy Rees and Dan Fox signing with teams after the draft to compete in training camps to try and make a team; but for this article I will find a reason for at least one team to fall in with every Irish combine participant.
Zack Martin, OL – Round 1 – Pick 8 – Buffalo Bills
Martin, a two-time captain for the Irish, will bring his versatility, playing any position across the line, and the Bills’ need to stabilize protection for 2013 first round pick, quarterback, E.J. Manuel. Buffalo did not select an offensive lineman in the 2013 draft and even here at pick 8, Martin could be the third our fourth offensive lineman off the board.
Louis Nix, NT – Round 1 – Pick 16 Pittsburgh Steelers
“Irish Chocolate” is a perfect fit to revitalize the interior of the Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers ranked 18th against the run last season, a steep fall from top ten run defenses every season since 2004. Nix’ size, athleticism, and weight-loss will slide him closer to his draft stock during the 2012 season.
Stephon Tuitt, DE – Round 1 - Pick 20 – Arizona Cardinals
A lot of analysts have Arizona selecting a quarterback to succeed Carson Palmer, but the Cardinals have a stacked roster returning and will seek instant contribution in the first round. Earlier this offseason, head coach Bruce Arians, joked about drafting a quarterback in the first round and why the teams needs a better strategy. Tuitt, can walk into a veteran locker room, adapt to the NFL, and will be an asset to rely on in the future, if Arizona is not able to maintain their defensive line depth considering the payroll of Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and others. Tuitt’s physical tools fit in perfect with the AZ’s current defense and the NFC West.
Troy Niklas, TE – Round 3 – Pick 66 – Atlanta Falcons
Whether or not Tony Gonzalez returns for the 2014 season, the Falcons need a replacement at tight end. Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro worked out for Atlanta earlier this offseason, but Niklas could be available here and should bring enough physicality to be on the field for blocking even if Gonzalez returns in 2014. I expect the Falcons to go offensive line or any position at defense with their first two picks.