The 2021 NFL Draft is now behind us, and it was a big weekend for the Notre Dame football program and its former players.
From a draft standpoint the focus now turns to the 2022 NFL Draft, and scouts throughout the league are about to start putting together their initial boards. Below is a look at Notre Dame players that should be considered top draft prospects heading into the 2021 season.
NOTRE DAME OFFENSE
RB Kyren Williams
Williams had a breakout season for Notre Dame in 2020, rushing for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns to go with 35 catches for 313 more yards and another score. The Missouri native ran with authority and was extremely difficult to bring down in space. Williams isn't a burner but has enough speed to hit the home run if there is a crease.
What makes Williams an even more attractive NFL prospect is his work in the pass game, and the 2021 season should see him become even more impactful in in that department. Expect to see Williams be used a lot more in the slot and on designed pass routes out of the backfield. I see nothing keeping Williams from becoming a Clyde Edwards-Helaire type of player.
Edwards-Helare went in the first round a year ago despite running a 4.6 at the NFL Scouting Combine. He got picked in round one because he was a big-play back and an impact player in the pass game. If Williams can build on his sophomore breakout season and tests well he could see his stock skyrocket.
Of course, Williams is just a junior so he could very well return to Notre Dame in 2022. Notre Dame fans should hope that Williams leaves after the next season, because that would mean he had a monster junior season.
OL Jarrett Patterson
Patterson could very well return for a fifth-season in 2022, but he's certainly going to be on the radar for NFL teams. If Patterson moves to tackle and thrives the odds of him leaving increase, but a move to guard could result in him staying for a fifth season because interior players aren't usually valued as much as tackles.
Patterson is a quality athlete the fires off the ball, works extremely well to the second level and he's a strong pass blocker inside. Another year of improved weight room strength should help him become more effective in the run game, something that is key to him taking his game to another level and becoming a top draft prospect.
Being a veteran player from Notre Dame provides Patterson with an immediate boost. He'll need to prove to be healthy, but he is a more consistent and more effective player through his second season as a starter than was Aaron Banks, and he's more athletic than Banks, who was a second round draft pick this weekend.
QB Jack Coan
Coan isn't on the NFL radar right now but he could change that with a strong season at Notre Dame. He'll play in an offense that gives him more opportunities to show off his arm talent and playmaking ability from the pocket, and he'll be surrounded by better skill talent than he had at Wisconsin
Coan also gets three premium quarterback matchup opportunities. North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis and Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder are all projected early as first round picks next year. Coan running the table against that group, and playing well while leading the Irish to victory, would certainly put him on people's radar.
The Irish veteran doesn't have the arm power of many top quarterbacks, but his arm strength is on the same level as Florida's Kyle Trask and Notre Dame's Ian Book, who were 2nd and 4th round picks respectively this past weekend.
WR Avery Davis
Davis got an opportunity to work out in front of NFL scouts and coaches at Notre Dame's March Pro Day, which was good exposure. He's an athletic player that is still developing as a wide receiver, but with a breakout campaign he could get on people's radar.
Davis must continue developing his route running, but a key to him taking the next step as a draft prospect is being given more opportunities to make plays after the catch, and then Davis showing the YAC ability that helped him rush for over 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns in his final two seasons as a high school quarterback.
His quarterback background gives him strong leadership qualities, and he's a high character young man. A breakout campaign (over 50 touches) and impressive numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine and/or the Notre Dame Pro Day could see him get consideration as a day two player.
OL Joshua Lugg
Of the three offensive veterans Lugg has the most to prove. He'll need to make a big jump this season if he wants to get on the radar of NFL teams, but with his size (6-7, 310) and Notre Dame's pedigree with producing linemen he could certainly make a case for being an NFL player with a healthy, productive and consistent final season in the lineup.
NOTRE DAME DEFENSE
S Kyle Hamilton
Like Williams, Hamilton still has eligibility beyond the 2021 season, but the odds are strong that he'll head to the NFL after this season, barring injury.
Hamilton was a second-team All-American in 2020, and his game still has plenty of room for improvement. At 6-4 and over 210 pounds he has elite size for the safety position, and Hamilton can do a little bit of everything at safety. He can play centerfield, he can play the alleys at a high level and his coverage ability took a huge jump this past season.
Should Hamilton make normal sophomore to junior improvements he'll emerge as one of the nation's best defensive players and a top draft prospect. Players with his combination of size, athleticism and football IQ are very, very rare. I've heard from sources that while Hamilton isn't necessarily a burner, he shows elite explosiveness and agility performances in testing sessions.
Mock drafts right now don't mean a whole lot, but I've seen Hamilton consistently projected as a Top 10-15 overall player in next year's draft, and as long as he tests well and stays healthy that could certainly be his landing area in next year's draft.
DE Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa
I saw a couple of seven-round mock drafts for 2021 that actually included Tagovailoa-Amosa for some reason, so clearly he's on some people's radar. The move to defensive end should only enhance his draft profile, assuming he shows the ability to be disruptive and productive.
Tagovailoa-Amosa projects best as a five-technique, so he'll likely be a target for teams that run three-down defenses, with the potential to move inside in passing downs. I'm curious to see where he finishes up from a weight standpoint and how well he tests, which will impact his draft status.
The key for Tagovailoa-Amosa, however, is becoming more productive. He needs a breakout season from an impact on the ball standpoint to jump up beyond the 6th or 7th round.
DT Kurt Hinish
Hinish lacks ideal interior size when projecting to the NFL, and he's not an elite athlete by any means, but he's got a ton of experience, his motor runs red hot and he became a much more productive player in 2020.
The Pittsburgh native must continue staying healthy and productive, but there were players that were far less productive and effective than Hinish get selected on day three of this past year's draft.
DT Jayson Ademilola
Ademilola is on this list more because of his potential than his production. He is an undersized player, but he has great hands, he's athletic and he's graded out very high on a per-snap basis the last two seasons.
The key for Ademilola is turning his potential into production and staying healthy. He had a big spring and he could easily become a Sheldon Day type of player from a production standpoint, which means a 10+ tackle for loss season. If he can make that kind of jump in production he could consider coming out and being a day two pick.
One thing that would help Ademilola's draft stock is him getting a chance to play some as a 5-technique when Notre Dame goes to a three-man front, and then showing the ability to rush the passer from the edge. His lack of size (6-3, 279) could make it challenging for him to stay as a pure interior player in the NFL, so proving to be capable of playing as a 5-technique could make him attractive for 3-4 teams.
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