Notre Dame Football: Early look at 2021 NFL Draft prospects

Liam Eichenberg (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Liam Eichenberg (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Ian Book(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Could argue day two for some depending on 2020 seasons, but most likely day three picks or UDFAs 

Quarterback Ian Book – Book doesn’t have the prototypical NFL body or natural ability to put him in the day one or day two talks at the position but saying he has a good chance as a day three quarterback prospect is completely reasonable. He is a good athlete for the position, has good short to intermediate accuracy and velocity and he isn’t a small quarterback by any means – especially in today’s quarterback landscape.

If Book can look more like his redshirt sophomore season and build upon his last six games last year, I think he is a solid day three draft pick and can enjoy a nice career as either a surprise NFL starter or decent NFL backup.

Wide Receiver Ben Skowronek – Before his injury in 2019, Skowronek was seen draftable NFL wide receiver for this year’s draft. Instead of entering his name in the draft, he decided to enter his name into the transfer portal and found his way to Notre Dame. He’s got the height teams will like, and while at Northwestern he had the knack for the big play and finding the end zone – showing off strong hands and decent athleticism. I’d be surprised if he was in the Claypool/Boykin range next year, but as a lade round wide receiver pick I think it is possible.

Defensive End Daelin Hayes – We likely would have seen Hayes as mid to late-round pick in this year’s draft if not for the injury, but Notre Dame is lucky to have him back for the 2020 season. Hayes is a hard guy to project. Coming to Notre Dame, he was a highly rated prospect and not very raw for a recruit that didn’t play much in high school due to injury.

His shoulder injuries seemed to be behind him, with 3+ years of college football without missing time, but in game four of this past year, he, unfortunately, tore his labrum again. His medicals will be a big red flag, but assuming he plays the full year with a clean bill of health his athleticism at defensive end at nearly 270-pounds will be hard to ignore.

When you watch Hayes play, he doesn’t look like a big as his listed weight and part of that is how free and easy he moves around. He plays with his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end or he can play outside linebacker in 3-4 system – personally where I would put him. A team that takes him with the understanding that he has a linebacker skill set in a defensive lineman body will the type of team/scheme he thrives in.

Anywhere from mid-round to UDFA is possible – mostly due to medicals.

Defensive Tackle Kurt Hinish – Much like how Hinish has worked out at Notre Dame, it is hard to see him not finding a way to be a productive player in the NFL. He won’t be a high draft pick, and he might not be a draft pick at all – but teams will put on the tape and he will be hard to ignore. Hinish always seems to be around the football, and while he may never be a pass-rushing force in the middle of the defense he could work his way into a productive NFL role player that clogs up the middle and helps other guys collect stats. Day three is definitely a possibility.

Safety Isaiah Pryor – While he grad transferred to Notre Dame with two years of eligibility, if Pryor wins the starting spot next to Kyle Hamilton and has a productive year it is easy to see him trying his luck at the NFL. He has his college degree already, and as a former top 50 recruit, the athleticism and ability is there to be a box safety or undersized linebacker in the NFL – something that is certainly common in today’s football. He likely won’t overwhelm athletically at the combine, and with Alohi Gilman going in the 6th and Jalen Elliott signing as a UDFA I don’t see how Pryor goes higher than that.

Javon McKinley (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Late round prospects or UDFAs 

Wide Receiver Javon McKinley – Hard to rule out the possibility of a breakout season after showing flashes at times in 2019 and the senior campaigns of Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool in back to the back years. McKinley has the size and speed to be a big-play threat and 50-50 jump ball king. In fact, I was highly impressed with his ball skills and winning at the point of attack in limited action last year. McKinley does have some off-field stuff he would have the answer, so outside of a Chase Claypool like senior season, it would be hard to predict anything better than day three.

Tight End Brock Wright – Much like the offensive line, when Notre Dame has a tight end in the draft the NFL will take notice, and recently Notre Dame had a similarly skilled tight end go in round 4 of the draft in Durham Smythe – and that is certainly the ceiling for the rising senior. Like Smythe, Wright won’t give you much in the passing game, but he is a tremendous in-line blocker and certainly has the size to hold up in the NFL. Wright will also have the chance to prove himself as a pass-catcher with Cole Kmet gone to the NFL, though most of those duties should be handled by Tommy Tremble and incoming freshman Michael Mayer.

Linebacker  – Definitely wish he had another year of eligibility like Jamir Jones, but Genmark-Heath has been a key special teams player and reserve safety/linebacker since his freshman season so the traditional four-year plan is likely it for the senior linebacker. He will fight for the starting BUCK linebacker spot in Clark Lea’s defense vacated by Asmar Bilal, and at least in the extremely limited spring ball action, he held the edge.

If Genmark-Heath is the started the whole season, his athleticism and special teams ability could catapult him into a late-round pick.

Cornerback Shaun Crawford – The injuries and size will probably take him off of many team’s boards, but we know what Crawford is capable of when healthy. He is one of those guys that go undrafted, finally gets a clean bill of health, and turns into a nice slot corner in the NFL for several seasons if all works out for the best.

However, slot corners are a valued NFL draft pick, and Crawford hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. This year will also be his 6th year at Notre Dame, so age isn’t in his favor either. He would be an awesome story late in the draft, but that is the ceiling for him next season.

Kicker Jonathan Doerer – I don’t feel Doerer was actually appreciated enough for his outstanding junior season last year, taking over for Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer Justin Yoon. In his first year as the lead placekicker, Doerer scored 108 points – which is the most prolific by a kicker season in Notre Dame history.

He actually the first kicker to ever record more than 100 points. What Doerer has that other kickers haven’t had, is both distance and accuracy – which is obviously important for the NFL. If Doerer has a similar senior year, we are looking at a draftable kicker. Quite the turnaround from the 2019 preseason stories that were questioning if he would lose the job.

Other Prospects Worth Mentioning

Several other Notre Dame players have NFL eligibility after the 2020 season, but I chose not to include them for a variety of reasons.

Running back Jafar Armstrong has the size and speed the NFL likes, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy. If he can play all 12 or 13 games this year and put up strong numbers, I could see him leaving mostly due to the running back position. It is rare to see fifth-year seniors with NFL talent at running back. His receiving ability is another plus.

Wide receivers Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin. In Lenzy’s case, putting out two dominant seasons of film would really help his stock after limited action for 2022 with 2021 already coveted as another top-notch wide receiver class. In Austin’s case, we still need to see. He has the hype, but we need to see him on the field.

Tight end Tommy Tremble could pull a Cole Kmet and enter the draft as a junior tight end, but he doesn’t possess the natural NFL size that Kmet does, and the 2021 draft is supposed to be a much stronger class at the position.

Offensive lineman Aaron Banks, Josh Lugg, and Jarrett Patterson while all technically eligible will likely return with seasons left of eligibility as most Notre Dame offensive lineman do. In Patterson’s case, he would still have two years of eligibility left.

Most of the eligible defensive lineman don’t have enough tape to consider leaving. A dominant season would have to be there. The most likely of the bunch would be Jayson Ademilola.

I don’t see Drew White having the type of measurables or natural athleticism to leave with a year of eligibility left.

Next. The San Francisco 49ers sign Chris Finke. dark

At corner, I really like TaRiq Bracy as a possible NFL prospect in 2022 after his senior year, but two more years of tape and weight training would really help. Leaving after his junior year would surprise.