While Notre Dame is still reveling in the selection of six of its former players in last weekend's NFL draft, it's never too early to peek ahead at which players on the Irish's 2013 roster will have their names called in Radio City Music Hall next April in the 2014 NFL draft.
The six Irish players drafted last weekend—Tyler Eifert, Manti Te'o, Jamoris Slaughter, Theo Riddick, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta—were the most since 2007, when seven Irish players were selected.
Despite their departures from campus, head coach Brian Kelly has stockpiled a wealth of talent that is becoming increasingly attractive to scouts, general managers, coaches and owners across the NFL.
The most popular name amongst the Notre Dame roster that has been thrown around in draft circles in recent weeks belongs to a stud defensive lineman.
Louis Nix III, NG
Much to the happiness of the Irish faithful, Nix announced his intention to return to school for his senior academic year in South Bend, Ind., a tad more than two weeks prior to Notre Dame's loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
Having the luxury of pondering an early entry to the NFL draft proves just how valuable of a commodity the 6'3", 347-pound nose guard has become during his time in the blue and gold.
For those who enjoy rankings and concrete statistics, NFLDraftScout.com ranks Nix as the best available defensive tackle in next season's draft class.
And for those of you who really wish to look ahead, CBSSports.com's draft experts—Rob Rang and Dane Brugler—have Nix being selected 32nd overall by the San Francisco 49ers and 10th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively.
Now, fans must consider that Nix does have the option of returning to school for a fifth season—the Jacksonville, Fla., native redshirted as a freshman in 2010—though the odds of that happening are slim to none.
Should he choose to enter next season's draft, Nix will be the top target of teams needing to fill a spot along the interior of the defensive line. Having played in a 3-4 scheme during his career at Notre Dame, Nix is capable of playing as a true nose guard, though he's just as menacing as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
Kelly's first step in the building of a championship-caliber team at Notre Dame was to construct an elite defense.
Securing the commitment from Tuitt, a 5-star prospect in the 2011 class per Rivals.com, was an integral piece in that process. He and former Irish defensive end Aaron Lynch—who has since transferred to South Florida—formed the most fearsome pair of defensive ends the Irish have featured in the post-Lou Holtz era.
The first of Tuitt's variety of attributes to jump off the page is his herculean size, as he stands a legitimate 6'6", while tipping the scales at 303 pounds.
That immense size gives Tuitt the ability to successfully battle the majority of offensive tackles at the point of attack. NFLDraftScout.com has certainly noticed, as the site ranks Tuitt as the second-best available defensive end in next year's crop.
Rang and Brugler also consider Tuitt a first-round talent, as they each have the Monroe, Ga., native being selected sixth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, Tuitt—a junior in the fall—would bypass his senior year and a Notre Dame degree should he choose to enter next spring's NFL draft.
Prince Shembo, LB
Shembo's inclusion on this list may come as a surprise, but the Charlotte, N.C., native has established himself as one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the country during the past two seasons.
The 6'2", 250-pound Shembo plays the CAT linebacker position in defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's 3-4 scheme and is the Irish's resident pass-rushing specialist, as shown by his 7.5 sacks recorded last season.
Shembo possesses average speed for a player of his size but has proven he has the ability to drop back into coverage on obvious passing downs.
Unlike Nix and Tuitt, Shembo won't have to wrestle with the decision to enter the draft, as the 2013 season is his final season of collegiate eligibility.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Shembo as the 11th-best available outside linebacker in next year's haul, which likely equates him as a late-round selection.