2014 NFL Draft: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Loaded With Prospects

By Rick Stavig
NFL Draft
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish may have been destroyed by Alabama in the National Championship Game, but that was a very young team against a veteran team.  That’s certainly not an excuse for their performance in that game, but it is an indication of the talent returning, which is plentiful.

Every single starter for Notre Dame is an NFL Draft prospect, so let’s just focus on some of potential higher draft picks.

On offense the biggest name is LT Zack Martin, who got very good reviews by the NFL Draft Advisory Board yet still elected to come back and play his senior season.  Martin can get out-muscled if he gets lazy on his technique, but he’s usually as steady as the day is long and absolutely has a future in ‘The League’.

TE Troy Niklas is easily the most intriguing prospect on offense for the Irish.  At 6-foot-7, 260-pounds, Niklas is so athletic that he’s played multiple positions for the Irish, both on offense and defense.  He’s a matchup nightmare and easily could be the next great Notre Dame tight end.

Aside from Martin and Niklas, RB George Atkinson has to be the next top prospect.  He’s been stuck in the logjam at running back the last two years but now has top dog status in the backfield.  He’ll still have to split some carries with the plethora of other talented backs, but Atkinson could use a strong junior campaign to shoot up draft boards and declare early.

Defense is where it’s at in South Bend.  These are the guys that have really brought Notre Dame back to their place among college football’s elite, and it’s the D-line that’s really bursting with talent.

DE Stephon Tuitt is arguably the second best defensive end in all of football (behind some Jadeveon Clowney fellow) and is a lock to be a first rounder.  With the size and skill to play in both even and odd fronts, Tuitt is a monster, with the production to match.

Next to Tuitt is fellow future first-rounder Louis Nix, who is the top 3-4 nose prospect we’ve seen since Vince Wilfork.  At 6-foot 3, 360-pounds, Nix is more than a load for just a center to block, necessitating multiple offensive linemen to give him attention, freeing up the fast-flowing linebackers behind him.

Linebackers Prince Shembo, Danny Spond and Dan Fox all have multiple years of starting experience on one of the top defenses in the country.  Plus they all have the added experience of playing inside and outside of a 3-4 defense, further increasing their stock.  CB Bennett Jackson is another name to keep an eye after the season.  Jackson was arguably the top cover man for the Irish last year and will once again be counted on to be a leader in the back-seven.

Again, these are just a few of the many draft prospects for the Irish this fall.  Their defensive line is loaded with future pros, and that’s not even counting another one they should have, DE Aaron Lynch, another potential first rounder who transferred to South Florida.

This is only a sign of what’s to come.  The way coach Brian Kelly is recruiting (and more importantly, developing talent), more and more NFL scouts are going to be coming to South Bend each year.

Rick Stavig is an NFL Draft Columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on google.

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