9 DT Louis Nix III (6’2″ 326 pounds, JUNIOR)
Louis Nix III is probably the top prospect on Notre Dame’s roster, and he’s definitely deserving of that title after seeing what he can do in two college seasons. The redshirt junior is a big body in the middle with incredible strength and pass rush ability for his size. He led all Notre Dame defensive linemen in 2012 with 50 tackles, and also had 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks with five passes batted down. Not only does Nix occupy a lot of space in the middle and attract a double team, but he is also fully capable of making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Going into the 2013 season, he is undoubtedly one of my top defensive tackle prospects, and it will be good to see what he can do when he is the brightest star on the Notre Dame defense now that Manti Te’o is off to the NFL. If Nix has a strong junior campaign, he should be the first nose tackle off the board and will be coveted by all teams, especially 3-4 defenses.
7 DL Stephon Tuitt (6’6″ 305 pounds, JUNIOR)
Another junior star on Notre Dame’s defensive line, Tuitt is one of the top DE/DT prospects in the country heading into his junior season. He has a great frame with the room to add a little bit of weight if a team wants him to, and he is scheme diverse. He is the ideal five technique for a 3-4 defense but he is athletic enough and good enough as a pass rusher to play end or tackle in a 4-3 as well. Tuitt led Notre Dame as a sophomore with 11 tackles for loss, and also had 11 sacks, 45 tackles, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown. With his versatility and athletic ability, Tuitt is a guy who has first round written all over him. He has the length to play inside or outside, and I think he has a ton of upside. Very agile for a big mane and when in a passing situation, he’s pretty hard to handle off the snap. He doesn’t have elite bend around the edge, but that’s not really his game. He is a powerful end with good hand quickness and length, and he is simply relentless when going after QBs. Watching him take a fumble for a touchdown, it’s almost scary that a man of his size can move like that. I think he and Louis Nix III have a great chance of both being first rounders when all is said and done.
55 OLB Prince Shembo (6’2″ 258 pounds, SENIOR)
Shembo is the Irish’s returning TFL and sack leader at the OLB position, racking up 51 tackles, 10.5 TFL, and 7.5 TFL as a junior trailing only star sophomore Stephon Tuitt in those categories. Shembo has a solid build for the OLB position with good quickness off the ball. I like Shembo’s ability to power past offensive linemen but I would like to see him get to the QB a little bit more. In a defense with a front three as talented as Notre Dame’s, Shembo should be freed up quite a bit to make plays. He could be a top 100 selection if he puts together a big senior season. Good length and can play either standing up or with his hand in the ground.
2 CB Bennett Jackson (6’0″ 195 pounds, SENIOR)
Bennett Jackson enters his senior season as one of the top cornerbacks in the nation, perhaps one of the five best in the class of 2014. As a junior, he had a stellar season, finishing with 65 tackles, four interceptions, and four more passes broken up. His four INTs were second on the Irish, and as a former wide receiver, obviously has the hands and ability to make plays on the ball. Jackson has good length and solid overall size, allowing him to take some risks. I’m really impressed with what he was able to do in his first year as a starter at the CB position, and I think he has huge upside. Some scouts are ranking Jackson in the top 40-50 prospects as he heads into his senior season, and if he follows up his junior campaign with a similarly productive senior season, he should easily be a top 10 CB.
7 WR T.J. Jones (6’0″ 195 pounds, SENIOR)
Jones is the leading returning receiver on the Notre Dame roster with Tyler Eifert leaving for the NFL and being selected in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Jones is a well-built receiver who could grow to over 200 pounds and be more physical, but he has good body control and vertical speed. Jones has ability after the catch and was a big time target last year in a primarily run-oriented offense, catching 50 passes for 649 yards and four touchdowns. Jones has the ability to make tough catches downfield and fight for jump balls. Right now, he’s slated for the middle to late rounds but with a big senior season, he could jump into the upper echelon and sneak into day two or early day three.
70 OL Zack Martin (6’4″ 305 pounds, SENIOR)
Well built OLprospect who is one of the top offensive linemen in the entire country heading into 2013. The All-American has started 39 consecutive games heading into his senior season, and should be one of the most experienced players in the 2014 NFL Draft, regardless of position. The Outland Trophy hopeful considered leaving school after his junior season, but went back to Notre Dame for one more season to try and get the coveted National Title. NFL scouts feel like Martin can play either guard or tackle at the next level, but with his build he may be best suited to play inside at guard. Regardless, he has the look of a top 50 prospect and could even sneak into the first round if he stays healthy as a senior. This is a nasty OL prospect who can be a starter for a long time in the NFL.