Notre Dame NFL Mock Draft Buzz: Could Irish Have Four Top-80 Picks?
Mock draft season operates at its optimal mania in April.
The 2021 NFL Draft will take place April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland, and with each approaching day the volume of mock drafts across the interwebs grows to torrential levels. Here, though, we’ll be tracking the latest news and updating frequently with Notre Dame players and their latest projected landing spots as the mock draft, big board and position rankings churn rolls on.
Wednesday, April 28: Four Top-80 Picks In One Mock Draft
Two first-rounders for Notre Dame this year would be a mild surprise. Four Irish players in the first 80 picks, though, seems more feasible. ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline was the latest to predict exactly that scenario when he released a three-round mock Wednesday.
Pauline tabbed Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as a first-rounder, at No. 19 to the Washington Football Team. Offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg was a second-round pick, going 48th overall to the Las Vegas Raiders. Tight end Tommy Tremble (73rd, Carolina Panthers) and guard Aaron Banks (79th, Raiders) were third-rounders.
If the scenario plays out, this year would be just the second draft since 1994 where Notre Dame had four players chosen in the first 80 picks. In 2016, the program had five players selected in the top 75.
Pauline's projection for Owusu-Koramoah is a common one. ESPN's beat writer mock draft, released Wednesday, had the same outcome. ESPN's Washington beat writer John Keim made the pick.
“Owusu-Koramoah can play weakside linebacker in Washington's base 4-3 front, and, playing behind this front, should have clean paths to the ball more often than not,” Keim wrote. “He also can cover so Washington can mix coverages and formations, using him at times in a strong safety role or in its nickel packages.”
Elsewhere, NFL.com's Charles Davis slotted the 2020 Butkus Award to Cleveland at 26 in his Wednesday mock.
Tuesday, April 27: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Holding Serve As Top-20 Pick
Notre Dame’s expected first draft choice, Owusu-Koramoah, is a projected first-round pick. It feels like a matter of when, not if, he is chosen in the first 32 selections Thursday night.
The consensus from Tuesday’s crop of mock drafts is he will be gone in the top 20. In five mocks released Tuesday (from NBC’s Thor Nystrom, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, NBC’s Chris Simms, Pro Football Focus, and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks), his average landing spot was 19.2. Nystrom, Simms and Brooks all had him going 17th to the Las Vegas Raiders, an oft-projected destination.
“The Raiders need an infusion of athleticism and playmaking ability on the second level,” Brooks wrote. “Owusu-Koramoah is a sideline-to-sideline defender with speed, instincts and big-hit ability.”
PFF’s mock was the only one of those five that had him outside the top 20. His destination there — No. 26 to the Cleveland Browns — is another frequent one for him in mocks.
“He would immediately be one of the shiftiest and quickest linebackers in the game and would have few problems following running backs or tight ends,” PFF’s Timo Riske wrote. “The Notre Dame product could probably also man up with the league’s average slot receiver, and despite his slight frame, his explosiveness allows him to also produce in run defense.”
PFF and Nystrom each mocked all 259 picks. Nystrom also had Eichenberg in the first round, going 31st overall to the Baltimore Ravens. That is the pick the Ravens acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade for their starting right tackle, Orlando Brown. With it, they grab Eichenberg as the potential successor.
“At the right tackle position, you plug him in and he plays right away in the NFL because of his consistency, because he’s going to be there every single day,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in March.
Beyond that, Nystrom only had four other Notre Dame players in his mock: Tremble (third round, 65th overall, Jacksonville Jaguars), Banks (third round, 66th, New York Jets), offensive lineman Robert Hainsey (fifth round, 169th, Cleveland Browns) and offensive guard Tommy Kraemer (sixth round, 198th, Los Angeles Chargers).
PFF, meanwhile, had six ex-Irish draft picks after Owusu-Koramoah: Eichenberg (51st, Washington Football Team), Hainsey (third round, 88th, Los Angeles Rams), Tremble (third round, 98th, New Orleans Saints), Banks (fourth round, 121st, Las Vegas Raiders), Book (sixth round, 217th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and defensive end Daelin Hayes (seventh round, 256th, Green Bay Packers).
Neither mock included defensive end Ade Ogundeji, who some analysts view as a top-200 player. The Athletic ranked him 171st on its big board. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked him 135th in his top 150 prospects.
While some mocks don't see seven Notre Dame players being chosen, Jeremiah has seven of them in that top 150: Owusu-Koramoah (15th), Eichenberg (47th), Tremble (52nd), Banks (74th), Hainsey (82nd), Ogundeji (135th) and Book (136th).
Monday, April 26: Aaron Banks Goes Before Liam Eichenberg In CBS Mock
A situation rarely considered in the Notre Dame community and not seen in prior mock drafts popped up Monday: What if Eichenberg isn’t the first Notre Dame offensive lineman taken or second Irish player taken in this week’s NFL Draft?
CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson’s three-round mock projected that exact scenario. He had ex-Banks going nine picks before Eichenberg in the second round, at No. 52 to the Chicago Bears. Eichenberg appeared at No. 61, to the Buffalo Bills.
That is the first mock from a major outlet to project Eichenberg below Banks, but Wilson has some internal support. Wilson’s CBS colleague, Josh Edwards, has Banks ahead of Eichenberg in his top 250 player rankings. Banks is Edwards’ No. 90 player in the draft. Eichenberg is all the way at No. 112.
That is an extreme outlier eval of Eichenberg, a projected early-to-mid second-round pick. In his Monday mock, NBC’s Peter King has Eichenberg as the No. 38 overall pick to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer’s three-round mock had Eichenberg 44th overall to the Dallas Cowboys.
Unsurprisingly, Banks and Eichenberg were selected in Wilson's mock after Owusu-Koramoah, who was the 17th overall pick to the Las Vegas Raiders. His average draft position in five mocks released Monday (Wilson, King, Iyer, CBS' Patrik Walker and NFL.com's Rhett Lewis) is 19th overall.
"Everyone wants the sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability of [Tampa Bay linebacker] Devin White," wrote King, who had Owusu-Koramoah going 21st to the Cleveland Browns. "Owusu-Koramoah isn’t Devin White (15 pounds lighter), but he has some of White’s traits."
The Golden-Domer is rangy (he played a rover position in the Irish D) and made first-team all-America last season, dropping in coverage, rushing and being a complete playmaker at the second level on defense.
"This is right about the area of the draft that he should be picked, and I could see others (Green Bay, New York Jets) being interested around here. I think playing behind Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and the Browns’ interior front, Owusu-Koramoah should be free to roam and be a playmaker in year one."
Meanwhile, Tremble was a Day 2 pick in Wilson's and Iyer's mocks. The former slotted him at No. 76 to the New York Giants, while the latter had him going 85th to the Tennessee Titans.
Friday, April 23: Owusu-Koramoah, Eichenberg Taken With Consecutive First-Round Picks, 10 Irish Players Selected
Eichenberg's name is still occasionally popping up in the first round of mocks a week before the draft.
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter pegged the Notre Dame left tackle as the Indianapolis Colts’ selection at No. 29 in a projected trade in his seven-round mock draft released Friday. Eichenberg was the eighth offensive lineman taken in the first round in the mock. He went one pick after the New Orleans Saints selected Owusu-Koramoah at No. 28.
“JOK steps in on the outside, lining up against slot receivers and providing a big pop against outside runs,” Reuter wrote.
Eight more former Irish players followed those two in the draft. All told, Reuter projects 10 Notre Dame draft picks this year.
Tremble in the third round (93rd overall) to the Buffalo Bills was the only day-two selection in his mock. Defensive end Ade Ogundeji (106th, Jacksonville Jaguars) was the first pick of the fourth round. Defensive end Daelin Hayes (128th, Pittsburgh Steelers) and Banks (137th, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) were also fourth-rounders.
That's among the lower projected landing spots for Banks, who has popped up on day two in several mocks.
Offensive lineman Robert Hainsey was a fifth-rounder, at 146th overall to the New York Jets. Quarterback Ian Book was a sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles (189th), and guard Tommy Kraemer is the No. 216 pick to the Atlanta Falcons. The final Notre Dame player in Reuter’s mock was cornerback Nick McCloud, who was a seventh-rounder (244th) to the Washington Football Team.
Wednesday, April 21: The Athletic’s Draft Confidential Raves About Owusu-Koramoah
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is expected to be the first Notre Dame player taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, possibly in the top 20. According to two anonymous NFL coaches polled by The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman in his “draft confidential” notebook, Owusu-Koramoah is entirely worth that kind of investment.
Said one NFL defensive coach to Feldman: “I f*** love that guy. He’s an explosive athlete. You put on the film and he’s played nickel and he’s going after the football every time he makes a tackle. I think he’s more ready to play linebacker in the NFL than [former Clemson linebacker and 2020 top-10] pick Isaiah Simmons was, but I think Arizona fell into that trap; asking him to do five, six, seven things before he gets good at one thing.
“I think even if this guy is only a cover guy, he’s gonna be so impactful as a coverage LB, and he’s gonna be a demon on special teams.”
The second defensive coach had similar praise.
“He moves like a good DB,” the coach told Feldman. “Some teams will have him rated ahead of [Penn State linebacker Micah] Parsons. He’s a specialty player. He’s a freak with his transitions and he’s physical. He’s a heat-seeking missile.”
In more traditional mock drafts, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso's three-rounder had four Irish players in it. First was Owusu-Koramoah, at an increasingly common landing spot for him: No. 26 to the Cleveland Browns.
“Owusu-Koramoah is one of the most freaky specimens in the entire class, and the Browns’ linebacker group needs an upgrade,” Trapasso wrote.
Behind him, Eichenberg was a second-rounder at the No. 55 pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of his teammates from recent Irish offenses was a third-round pick: Tremble at No. 82 to the Washington Football Team.
Meanwhile, ESPN mock draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay released a three-round mock where they took turns making picks. McShay drafted Owusu-Koramoah at No. 18 with the Miami Dolphins’ pick. He had the Dolphins’ second-rounder at No. 36 as well and took Eichenberg there.
“Eichenberg is versatile enough to play tackle or guard,” McShay wrote.
Kiper took Banks in the third round with the Cincinnati Bengals’ pick at 69th overall.
Monday, April 19: Nine Notre Dame Players In Full CBS Mock
CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson’s seven-round mock projects Notre Dame to have its most NFL Draft selections since 1994.
Wilson has nine former Irish players among the 259 picks, starting with Owusu-Koramoah at No. 28 to the New Orleans Saints. The 2020 Butkus Award winner and unanimous All-American had 62 tackles (11.0 for loss) 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles and an interception last year.
“Owusu-Koramoah is listed as a linebacker but you can find him all over the field — and he may eventually end up at safety at the next level,” Wilson wrote. “He can come off the edge and has the athleticism, speed and change of direction to be an asset in coverage.”
Three more Irish players were on day two: Eichenberg (No. 55, Steelers), Banks (No. 56, Seattle Seahawks) and Tremble (No. 77, Los Angeles Chargers).
Finally, a quintet are on day three: Ogundeji (fourth round, No. 111, Cincinnati Bengals), Hainsey (fourth round, No. 127, Indianapolis Colts), Book (sixth round, No. 199, Minnesota Vikings), Hayes (sixth round, No. 216, Steelers) and Kraemer (sixth round, No. 228, Chicago Bears).
Two other first-round-only mocks published Monday had Owusu-Koramoah in them as Notre Dame’s lone selection. TheDraftWire’s Luke Easterling and Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo both slotted the former Notre Dame linebacker to the Cleveland Browns with the 26th overall pick.
“He is a linebacker in name, but at Notre Dame, he lined up over the slot 411 times in his career to go with an 85.2 grade,” Palazzolo wrote. “His overall coverage grade of 89.6 ranks 13th among 121 recent NFL-caliber linebacker prospects.”
Wednesday, April 14: Eight Ex-Irish Players In The Athletic’s Seven-Round Mock
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler released a full mock draft of all 259 picks Wednesday and included eight Notre Dame players in it. The first, unsurprisingly, was Owusu-Koramoah, at No. 19 to the Washington Football Team.
“Whether he lines up over the slot or in a more traditional stack role, the Notre Dame product, who grew up just south of D.C., is a dynamic do-it-all defender,” Brugler wrote.
Eichenberg was next up, at No. 54 to the Indianapolis Colts. Two more Notre Dame players are Day 2 picks in Brugler's mock: Tremble (No. 73, Carolina Panthers) and Banks (No. 78, Minnesota Vikings).
Four more appeared on Day 3, starting with Hainsey in the fourth round (107th overall, New York Jets). Ogundeji (fourth round, 142nd, Green Bay Packers), Hayes (fifth round, 153rd, Detroit Lions) and Book (seventh round, 231st, Miami Dolphins) followed.
Tuesday, April 13: Owusu-Koramoah, Eichenberg In First Round Of Sports Illustrated’s Latest Mock
The latest mock draft from Sports Illustrated's Connor Orr projects Notre Dame's first-round left tackle streak to reach four players and cover all 11 seasons of Brian Kelly's tenure as head coach.
Orr has Eichenberg, a three-year starter at left tackle, as the No. 31 pick to the Kansas City Chiefs.
"The Chiefs need offensive line talent in the pipeline and Eichenberg, who didn’t allow a single sack of quarterback Ian Book last year, fits the bill nicely," Orr wrote.
Owusu-Koramoah is the No. 29 pick to the Green Bay Packers in Orr's mock.
Elsewhere, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest one Tuesday, a two-rounder, and had Notre Dame's top two prospects in it. Owusu-Koramoah was the No. 19 pick to Washington, and Eichenberg was a second-rounder at No. 58 to the Baltimore Ravens.
"I like the fit of Owusu-Koramoah, though, as a three-down off-ball linebacker with cover skills," Kiper wrote. "He's extremely versatile -- he lined up as a slot corner for the Fighting Irish at times last season -- and fast. He must improve as a tackler, but he should slot in as an instant-impact player for a defense that is already one of the league's best."
Monday, April 12: Aaron Banks In Second Round
CBS Sports Ryan Wilson’s two-round mock has three Notre Dame players in it. The usual suspects appear: Owusu-Koramoah (No. 31 overall, Kansas City Chiefs) and Eichenberg (No. 54, Colts). Banks comes two picks later, at 56th overall to the Seattle Seahawks. It’s on the higher end of his draft range, but several draft analysts view him as a potential Day 2 selection.
Banks is No. 99 on The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s top 100 big board. He is Brugler’s No. 10-ranked interior lineman and Sporting News’ No. 7 guard. FOX Sports’ Rob Rang, though, has him ranked No. 53 overall.
Elsewhere, Pro Football Focus’ April 12 mock has Owusu-Koramoah going 26th overall to the Cleveland Browns.
“Owusu-Koramoah has elite quickness and speed for a linebacker, and he also earned one of the best PFF coverage grades in the nation in the slot, regardless of position,” PFF analyst Sam Monson wrote. “JOK could bring some elite versatility to the Browns' coverage unit.”
Thursday, April 8: Owusu-Koramoah In Top 15
NFL.com analyst Peter Schrager’s mock has a higher landing spot for Owusu-Koramoah, slotting him No. 15 to the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a notable projection because it would land the former Notre Dame rover next to one of the players he models his game after: Falcons linebacker and coverage standout Deion Jones, whose 6-1, 222-pound build is nearly identical to Owusu-Koramoah’s frame (6-1.4, 221).
“He’s a smaller linebacker, but he’s speedy, he’s instinctive, he’s a player who really knows the game,” Owusu-Koramoah said before Notre Dame’s pro day. “When I watch him, even on third down, sometimes he’s lined up in the middle or lined up on the edge and dropping. He does a lot of different things within the Falcons’ defense."
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