Projecting Draft Stock for Key Notre Dame Players After Championship Game Flop
The BCS title game wasn't kind to Manti Te'o and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but did the loss to Alabama really impact his draft stock?
Te'o isn't the only Notre Dame player with pro aspirations, either. Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick, Braxston Cave and a few others will be selected at some point during the draft process, but where will they fall?
That's what we're aiming to nail down, so follow along and find out where the key draft-eligible players from Notre Dame's 2012 squad will likely be taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Manti Te'o, Middle Linebacker
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Manti Te'o's BCS title game performance was his worst showing all year long.
He missed tackles, took poor angles and looked completely lost at times against the Alabama offense—the closest thing to an NFL offense in college football.
Te'o lacks elite sideline-to-sideline speed which takes him out of Patrick Willis territory, but he does remind me of a young Brian Urlacher, which isn't a bad comparison.
He projects as a 3-4 inside linebacker more than a 4-3 middle linebacker, and I could see the San Diego Chargers or Pittsburgh Steelers taking him in the middle of the first round.
Draft Projection: Top 20 pick.
Tyler Eifert, Tight End
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Tyler Eifert will likely be the first tight end taken off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.
He didn't exactly shine against Alabama in the title game, but nobody from Notre Dame did.
Eifert possesses the best pure hands of any receiver/tight end in this year's draft class. His size (6' 6" and 250 pounds) is exactly what NFL teams are looking for in a tight end these days, and his ability to go up and grab balls at the highest point in the red zone is an invaluable trait.
The biggest question I still have about Eifert is how fast he is. If he puts up a 40-yard dash time of 4.6-4.7 seconds, he may be deemed worthy of a late first-round pick.
Draft Projection: Top 40 pick.
Theo Riddick, Running Back
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Brian Kelly didn't do Theo Riddick any favors against Alabama, giving his talented running back only 10 chances to carry the ball. Riddick responded with 37 yards and a long run of 20, and runners like him deserve more chances than that to get going against a tough defense.
Riddick displays good vision, runs well between the tackles, has enough speed to get outside and around the corner and possesses excellent hands out of the backfield.
Running backs are rarely taken high in the draft these days, especially since so many good ones can be found in the later rounds. Riddick won't be taken in the first couple of rounds, but he could sneak into Round 3.
Draft Projection: Round 3-4 pick.
Zeke Motta, Safety
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Zeke Motta is a tackling machine, but he isn't a huge playmaker and doesn't possess elite speed. He only tallied two interceptions in his four years at Notre Dame and only forced one fumble.
Motta hauled in 16 tackles against Alabama (seven solo), but he was often out of position in the passing game and made many of his tackles well beyond the line of scrimmage.
Motta may end up becoming a serviceable safety in the NFL, but he'll spend his first year or two contributing on special teams.
Draft Projection: Round 4 pick.
Bennett Jackson, Cornerback
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Bennett Jackson is an intriguing prospect at cornerback. He began his career at Notre Dame as a wide receiver before making the switch to defense.
Jackson struggled mightily against Alabama's passing attack in the BCS title game, allowing some huge plays. He also struggled against USC and his junior season as a whole was an up-and-down campaign.
As a junior, Jackson may be better served to stick around and play out his senior season. As it stands right now, he's yet to declare his intentions, and another season at South Bend would certainly be good for his draft stock.
Draft Projection: Round 5 pick, should he decide to come out early.
Braxston Cave, Center
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Senior center Braxston Cave is a player NFL scouts will have on their radars as a diamond in the rough.
Cave isn't a big guy by NFL standards, at 6' 3" and 300 pounds. He is more of a finesse player than a mauler, but he led an underrated rushing attack that gained almost 2,500 yards in 2012.
Cave could become the NFL's next Jeff Saturday, but he'll need to work on getting stronger at the point of attack to handle the NFL's defensive tackles on a regular basis.
Draft Projection: Round 5 pick.
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