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Notre Dame Football Power Rankings: The Top 7 NFL Prospects on the Irish Roster

Emily O'Neill ElmerCorrespondent IINovember 29, 2012

Notre Dame Football Power Rankings: The Top 7 NFL Prospects on the Irish Roster

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    The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are the No. 1 team in the nation and will be heading to Miami to play in the BCS Championship game on January 7th. Starting their season unranked, they have clawed their way to the top of the rankings in a war of attrition that left Notre Dame the only undefeated BCS-eligible team, a feat they have not replicated since 1993. While the Irish are known for their strength as a team, you don't get to No. 1 without a good amount of individual talent.

    Let's take an in-depth look at the Irish and pinpoint the top seven pro prospects currently in Brian Kelly's program. 

    *indicates a player who is an underclassman. 

No. 7 Cierre Wood

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    *Cierre Wood, Running Back

    Projected Draft Round: 7th-FA

    Position: 24

    Overall: 308

     

     

     

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    Receiving:

    • Receptions: 51
    • Receiving Yards: 386
    • Average Receiving Yards Per Reception: 7.6
    • Touchdowns: 2

    Rushing:

    • Rush Attempts: 446
    • Rushing Yards: 2445
    • Rushing Yards Per Attempt: 5.5
    • Touchdowns: 16

    Cierre Wood is a great all-around running back with creativity and great speed. He can accelerate in a flash, is comfortable running both inside and outside and is one of the most entertaining players on the team to watch. He is ranked seventh for the most career rushing yards in Notre Dame history. 

    Will Wood go to the NFL this season?

    His mother tells the Chicago Tribune that he is "70-30" leaning toward the NFL. While the financial security may be tempting, the redshirt junior may want to consider spending another year with the Irish to beef up his statistics. His average rushing yards dropped from 1102 in 2011 to 740 this year. His total receiving yards have also dropped, falling from 189 in 2011 to just 27 this year.

    There is little doubt that this decline in statistics is responsible for his 2013 draft prospects not looking so bright. If he chooses to enter the draft, he will do so, at best, as a seventh-round draft pick. His best option is to remain at Notre Dame and work towards a banner 2013 season with the Irish. Look what sticking around did for Manti Te'o

No. 6 Kapron Lewis-Moore

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    Kapron Lewis-Moore, Defensive End

    Projected Draft Round: 7th-FA

    Position: 25

    Overall: 271

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    • Solo Tackles: 78
    • Assisted Tackles: 101
    • Total Tackles: 179
    • Interceptions: 0
    • Fumbles Forced: 5

     

    Kapron Lewis-Moore, the 6'4", 306-pound senior from Weatherford, Texas has been a seminal member of the 2012 Notre Dame defensive line. He has forced five fumbles in his career with the Irish, three more than defensive star Manti Te'o. While he will probably end up a free agent, Lewis-Moore has proven that he is a hard-working team player and distinguished himself in the game against USC. 

No. 5 Theo Riddick

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    Theo Riddick, Running Back

    Projected Draft Round: 6th-7th

    Position: 18

    Overall: 212

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    Receiving:

    • Receptions: 119
    • Receiving Yards: 1257
    • Average Receiving Yards Per Reception: 10.6
    • Touchdowns: 7

    Rushing:

    • Rush Attempts: 234
    • Rushing Yards: 1132
    • Rushing Yards Per Attempt: 4.8
    • Touchdowns: 5

     

    Theo Riddick, the 5'11", 200-pound running back from Manville, New Jersey, has impressed many in his final season with the Fighting Irish.  One of quickest and most exciting players on Irish roster, he is effective when rushing and receiving the ball. In his final regular season game with Notre Dame, he rushed for a career-best 146 yards and a touchdown against USC, bringing his season total to 880 yards. 

    Riddick is on the official watch list for the 2012 Paul Hornung Award, which is given annually by the Louisville Sports Commission to the most versatile player in major college football.

    "If you want to know about the Fighting Irish, you just need to look at Theo Riddick," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said

    There is no doubt he will have a bright future in the NFL. 

No. 4 Zeke Motta

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    Zeke Motta, Safety

    Projected Draft Round: 3rd-4th

    Position: 6

    Overall: 121

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    • Solo Tackles: 85
    • Assisted Tackles: 78
    • Total Tackles: 163
    • Interceptions: 2

     

    Coached by his father since the fourth grade, 6'2", 215-pound Ezekiel "Zeke" Motta has been a critical part of the renowned 2012 Irish defense. He and Bennett Jackson are tied with 61 tackles each for the 2012 season, placing them second on the team behind Manti Te'o. 

    An incredibly focused player, Motta has always made his football career a priority, and has not missed a game in his Irish career.

    "A lot of it comes down to focus and preparation, and both of those things I've really worked on improving," he said

    With the Fighting Irish defense ranking second in points, allowing only 10.1 per game, there is no doubt that Motta will be drafted toward the latter end of the third round and go on to a successful NFL career. 

No. 3 Bennett Jackson

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    *Bennett Jackson, Cornerback

    Projected Draft Round: 2nd-3rd

    Position: 9

    Overall: 86

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    • Solo Tackles: 65
    • Assisted Tackles: 25
    • Total Tackles: 90
    • Interceptions: 4 (all in 2012 season)
    • Fumbles Forced: 0


    Bennett Jackson, the 6'0", 185-pound cornerback from Hazel, New Jersey, may be the most NFL-ready cornerback that Notre Dame has had in recent memory. Having seen the majority of his early playing time on special teams, Jackson’s speed and size interested coach Brian Kelly enough to move him from wide receiver to cornerback last year. Since then, he has impressed both his coaches at ND and NFL scouts across the nation, as his draft stock has soared in the final weeks of the 2012 season. Should he elect to go to the NFL, he will be solid early third-round draft pick.

No. 2 Tyler Eifert

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    Tyler Eifert, Tight End

    Projected Draft Round: 1st-2nd

    Position: 1

    Overall: 30

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    Receiving:

    • Receptions: 134
    • Receiving Yards: 1779
    • Average Receiving Yards Per Reception: 13.3
    • Touchdowns: 11

    Defense: 

    • Solo Tackles: 3
    • Assisted Tackles: 0
    • Total Tackles: 3

    Listed as the top tight end on multiple sources for the second year straight, Tyler Eifert finds himself sitting pretty for the 2013 NFL draft.  6'5", 252-pound is poised to be the fourth tight end drafted in the second round since 2006 (Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and Anthony Fasano), unless he sneaks into the back end of Round 1. He holds Notre Dame's all-time leader in receptions by a tight end (Surpassing Ken McAfee at 128).

    Eifert is a finalist for the 2012 John Mackey Award, which is given out annually to the most outstanding tight end in FBS college football. 

    Eifert's potential for versatility makes him a dual-threat in the NFL. While he has shown amazing prowess as a receiver, he continues to develop as a blocker, a skill which could easily be developed given his height and weight. If he ends up with a coach who fosters his tackling skills, he will be among the most lethal tight ends in the NFL. 

No. 1 Manti Te'o

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    Manti Te'o, Linebacker

    Projected Draft Round: 1st

    Position: 1

    Overall: 5

    Notre Dame Career Statistics:

    • Solo Tackles: 209
    • Assisted Tackles: 218
    • Total Tackles: 427
    • Interceptions: 7 (all in 2012 season)
    • Fumbles Forced: 2

    Awards and Honors:

    Watch List – Heisman Memorial Trophy
    Awarded to the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity
    Winner announced December 8

    Finalist – Maxwell Award 
    Awarded to for the nation’s best all-around player
    Winner announced December 6

    Finalist – Bednarik Trophy
    Awarded to the defensive player of the year
    Winner announced December 6

    Finalist – Lombardi Award 
    Awarded to the top collegiate lineman
    Winner announced December 5

    Finalist – Nagurski Trophy 
    Awarded to the best defensive player in college football
    Winner announced December 3

    Finalist – William V. Campbell Trophy 
    Awarded to the premier football scholar-athlete based on academics, community service, and on-field performance

    Finalist – Senior CLASS Award 
    Awarded to the NCAA Division I senior student-athlete who uses his platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities and has notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition
    Winner announced during 2012-13 bowl season.

    Finalist – Butkus Award
    Awarded to the nation’s top linebacker
    Winner announced December 1 through 4

    Semi-Finalist – Walter Camp Award 
    Awarded to the collegiate player of the year as selected by a vote of FBS head coaches
    Finalists named November 28, winner announced December 6

    Semi-Finalist – Lott Trophy 
    Awarded to the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year who best exemplifies Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity
    Winner announced December 9

    Lott IMPACT Player of the Week – Week 3 (Notre Dame vs. Michigan State)

    Lott IMPACT Player of the Week – Week 4 (Notre Dame vs. Michigan) 

    Lott IMPACT Player of the Week – Week 7 (Notre Dame vs. Stanford) 

    Second player to ever be named Lott IMPACT Player of the Week three times in a single season

    Although Te'o was considered by many to be a first-round draft pick after his junior season, he elected to return to Notre Dame for what would become a banner season for the Irish. The 6'2", 255-pound native of Laie, Hawaii has lead the Irish in tackles for three seasons and was on the 2012 All-American team. With his team allowing an average of just 10.1 points allowed per game, he has poised himself to be among the top first-round NFL draft picks for 2013. 

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