Notre Dame football: FULL 2020 NFL Draft Preview

Notre Dame players in the NFL Draft(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Notre Dame players in the NFL Draft(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

As we inch closer to Thursday’s 2020 NFL Draft, let’s take a look at the Notre Dame prospects who could potentially be drafted.

With this year’s NFL Draft soon approaching, now is a good time to get to know all of the Notre Dame players that will be drafted.

You have the players like Cole Kmet and Chase Claypool who are 100% getting drafted, but it is almost more interesting to look into fringe players like Jalen Elliott and Chris Finke who have a chance at getting drafted if they have the right fit for a certain team in the later rounds.

It is set to be one of the more weird NFL Drafts in recent memory, because of the state of the world at the moment due to COVID-19. Not only will it be different because of it being done online, but GMs and coaches did not have the opportunity to sit down with players and get to know them 1-on-1 as they normally would with a normal year’s draft process.

Depending on your perspective, this could be good or bad for all players but especially for Notre Dame guys.

Some players would relish the chance to prove their knowledge of the game and really get to know an organization from the inside out before potentially being drafted there. Other players do not like the high-pressure situations that constant interviews with big-time GMs put on them.

It also affects players like the aforementioned Jalen Elliott, Chris Finke, Jamir Jones, and others who could have greatly benefited from being able to have a full Pro Day at Notre Dame. Elliott and Finke had rough combines, while Jones was not invited so he did not have a chance to showcase his talents in Indianapolis.

Now, let’s breakdown each and every Notre Dame player that could be drafted in the next few days and pick landing spots for them.

Cole Kmet

Starting off with the player I expect to be the first Notre Dame player off the board, the former star tight end, Cole Kmet.

Kmet is the best tight end in the draft, and everyone knows it. He will be a hot commodity among teams with a need at tight end. Coming off a junior season at Notre Dame where he racked up 515 yards and six TDs on 43 receptions, he has caught the eye of many teams.

The Illinois product is as versatile as it gets at the position, and looks to be a ‘can’t miss’ pick.

There are multiple teams with tight end needs, but picking a tight end in the first or second round has not been historically common.

Possible destinations: Patriots (R1, 23), Packers (R1, 30), Bengals (R2, 33).

Each of the above teams has a glaring need at tight end, and are all in need of offensive reinforcements. If Kmet drops past these three teams, someone is getting a steal.

Chase Claypool

The best athlete Notre Dame has in this 2020 draft class is next, Chase Claypool.

Claypool had a season to remember in South Bend to cap off his Notre Dame career in 2019. Registering 66 catches, 1,037 yards, 13 TDs, the kid did it all.

The Canadian was already going to be relatively high on many teams’ draft boards, but he skyrocketed after an unreal combine. Standing at 6’4″, 238-pounds, nearly the size of a tight end, Claypool was not expected to have one of the faster 40-yard dash times.

Then, he ran a 4.42 second time, good for one of the best times among participating wide receivers. Claypool is simply a freak of nature.

Possible destinations: Panthers (R2, 38), Bears (R2, 43), Jets (R2, 48)

There are many teams that need wide receiver help, but these three fit Claypool the best. He has the size, speed, and athleticism and each of these teams needs that in their offense.

Troy Pride Jr.

Potentially a guy that squeezes into the late second or early third round is the former Notre Dame cornerback, Troy Pride Jr.

Pride’s well-advertised track star speed automatically gets him looks at the NFL, but he has also improved quite a bit in his coverage abilities at the cornerback position.

Corners, especially solid ones, are drafted at a high-rate in drafts because so many are needed in today’s NFL, so Pride should have a solid chance at going relatively early.

The South Carolina product shone at the Reese’s Senior Bowl a few months back, and that should help Pride out in his quest to be a top-round NFL draft pick.

Possible destinations: Lions (R2, 35), Vikings (R2, 58), Dolphins (R3, 70)

Pride was the hardest to gauge as to where he would be selected. Corners tend to go quickly, so he could get snatched up in the 2nd or 3rd rounds but he could also slip if there is an early corner run and teams skip on Pride.

Julian Okwara

Next, is one of the very best edge-rushers in the entire draft, Julian Okwara.

Okwara had an up-and-down 2019 season but showed he is still a dominant pass-rusher off the edge and can be a force to be reckoned with at the next level. His speed, athleticism, and bend from either edge rusher position have many teams looking his way.

The lanky pass-rusher recorded four sacks, six tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovered and a blocked kick this past year in a shortened season due to an ankle injury.

Possible destinations: Lions (R3, 67), Dolphins (R3, 70), Falcons (R3, 78)

All three of these teams struggle to rush the passer and could use a talent like Okwara. Many teams feel Okwara was a first-round talent before his ankle injury in 2019, so he could even jump into the second round if a team decides to reach on his upside.

Alohi Gilman

One of the most charismatic players in recent memory, Alohi Gilman should hear his name called at some point in the NFL draft this year.

After coming to Notre Dame as a transfer from Navy, Gilman played a great safety position and was widely regarded as one of the hardest hitters on the team. You love to see that from a safety.

Besides what he does on the field, Gilman is also a tremendous leader. In the few chances, I had to interview the Hawaiian, he came across as so well-spoken and confident. He may not be a top-5 safety in the draft necessarily, but he will find his way onto a squad.

Possible destinations: Falcons, Raiders, Kansas City.

Each of these teams needs help in their secondary and would benefit greatly from a player like Gilman. It is hard to gauge where he will go and with what pick from any of these teams, but I would wager he goes in the 6-7 rounds.

Jalen Elliott

Gilman’s safety-partner in 2018 and 2019, Jalen Elliott is next on the list.

This is where we get into murky waters as to whether a guy will be drafted or not. There is no doubt that Elliott has the talent and ability to make an NFL roster, but if he does not get selected in a later round, I could easily see him going as a UDFA.

Elliott could be used in the NFL as a cornerback rather than safety as he has good coverage skills, but lacks speed and quickness.

Possible destinations: Bears, Titans, Packers

Chris Finke

As sure-handed of a wide receiver as there is, don’t be surprised if a team takes a late-round flyer on the former Notre Dame walk-on, Chris Finke.

Finke is speedy, catches the ball well, and is a good enough route-runner to make an NFL squad. There have been many comparisons to the Raiders’ Hunter Renfrow, who was drafted in the fifth round last season out of Clemson.

If Finke is not drafted in a later round, he will definitely be an undrafted free agent and make a practice squad to get a shot at making a roster.

Possible destinations: Packers, Steelers, Broncos

Tony Jones Jr.

After a solid senior season, there is a decent chance that Tony Jones Jr. gets selected by a team in the 6th or 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. If not, he is likely to be signed as an undrafted free agent.

Jones has some power and speed to his game but doesn’t have any attributes that are especially exceptional at the running back position. As a result, he may struggle to make an NFL roster.

Possible destinations: Steelers, Packers, Redskins

Jamir Jones

A player with a ton of upside that is not being talked about hardly at all is defensive end, Jamir Jones.

Jones filled in at the defensive end position in a huge way when Notre Dame lost both Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara to injury in 2019. COVID-19 has definitely hurt Jones, though, as teams only have his tape to go off of and there is not a ton there.

Expect Jones to be taken very late on or sign as an undrafted free agent.

Possible destinations: Patriots, Steelers, 49ers

Asmar Bilal

Lastly, is a guy who had a true breakout season in 2019, Asmar Bilal.

Bilal is a sure-tackler, with the speed to play at the next level. His ability to dissect opposing offenses hurt him at Notre Dame, but it is something he will most definitely be working on as he tries to make an NFL roster.

Do not expect Bilal to be drafted, but he will be signed to a practice squad.

Possible destinations: Chargers, Vikings, Bears

Next. Top 5 offensive linemen in Notre Dame history. dark

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