Notre Dame football is no stranger to players leaving early for the NFL, and 2019 should be no different.
College football has been trending toward a three year process for quite some time. Even though the Notre Dame degree is a major selling point for recruits and is held in high regard, it’s difficult for young, promising athletes to bypass their dreams. Couple that with injuries and financial situations, and that makes it even harder for universities to hold onto their athletes for 4-5 years.
Like most years, Notre Dame will probably deal with this again when the 2019 NFL Draft rolls around. Here is a look at the prospects that could make the jump with outstanding junior seasons.
It is hard to envision a scenario in which Mack is back in an Irish uniform next season. He has dealt with multiple suspensions during his time in South Bend, and should have his degree soon. A five-star recruit out of high school, Mack has yet to live up to his lofty expectations. With that said, character concerns shouldn’t be a question mark for NFL scouts. Mack’s issues at Notre Dame revolve around academics and on-field performance. A strong red-shirt junior season could change his fortune quickly. Mack is from my hometown, and I am excited to see him grow as a player this season. Draft Projection: Anywhere from 1st round to UDFA.
Strong Season Means Gone
Boykin enters his fourth season at Notre Dame, and he will finally be able to showcase his abilities. Stuck behind other talented players much of his career, Boykin is now a starter entering the 2018 season. Standing at over 6’4 and nearly 230 pounds, he demonstrated his go up and get it skills during the Notre Dame bowl game vs. LSU. If Boykin can prove his talent over the course of a full season and receive his degree, there is nothing keeping him at Notre Dame for another season. A solid season could catapult him into Day 2 discussion.
Claypool enters his third season at Notre Dame, and he provides the offense with another “above the rim” weapon at receiver. Claypool’s talent level is second to none on the Irish roster, but inconsistencies and injuries have held him back. A dominant junior season could see him rise up draft boards. If he bolts, first or second round is very possible. Anything different, and we are looking at another Equanimeous St. Brown situation. My advice: Pay attention to what NFL draft evaluators are saying.
This is more of a gut feeling than anything, but Love feels like a four year guy. Yes, he had 3 interceptions and 20 passes defended. That can’t be ignored. However, his position in the NFL is up in the air. At the next level, Love is a zone boundary corner or possible free safety. Either way, he can be great in the right scheme. He compares favorably to former Stanford corner, Quenton Meeks, who went undrafted this year after leaving early. It could pay off for Love if he returns for his senior season.
I can feel the eye rolls from a mile away. Let me set the record straight. Wimbush will not sniff the NFL as a quarterback if he doesn’t dramatically improve off of last season’s numbers. With that said, the talent is undeniable. He has arm strength, mobility, and good enough measurables to impress NFL scouts. Accuracy, mechanics and confidence are what will ultimately hold him back. It’s a very unlikely scenario right now, but stranger things have happened. Two years of good film would be ideal.
The two Notre Dame starting defensive ends both have the look of potential NFL starters, but a lot of work is needed to leave early. Daelin Hayes enters his second season as the full-time starter as drop-end. If he could reach double-digits in sacks, he could climb up this list. However, his pass rush skills need a lot of fine tuning. The former five-star recruit has a lot to like at the next level, but it should take another few years to fully be ready for the rigors of the NFL.
Khalid Kareem is another interesting case. In limited action as a sophomore, he posted 3 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, but those number should increase dramatically this season. Kareem’s measurables are desired at the next level, so a dominant season could get him there. He’s my sleeper pick to leave early if all goes well in 2018. Both Kareem and Hayes have Day 1 traits. The only question is how long will it take to reach.
Again, the 2019 class will probably not hold the same caliber of players as the 2018 did. However, the depth is there to see many players drafted in the middle rounds, and with a little luck a few breakout stars could be found. As a Notre Dame fan it’s tough to see guys leave early, but if certain guys do, that probably means great things for the 2018 Irish season.