Notre Dame Players Participating In 2020 NFL Combine
Three position groups — quarterback, tight end and wide receiver — will report to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine tomorrow, with the rest to follow in the days to come.
A good performance at the NFL Combine can make a break player's draft stock.
Last year, former Notre Dame wide receiver Miles Boykin exemplified this when he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and went from being considered a day three pick (rounds four through seven) and became a third-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens.
This upcoming week, nine former Notre Dame players will have a chance to make a positive or (God forbid) negative impact on their NFL futures.
Notre Dame is tied with Utah and Auburn for the sixth most players from one school invited to the NFL Combine.
The National Champion LSU Tigers have by far the most with an incredible 16 players attending, followed by Michigan and Ohio State with 11, Georgia and Alabama with 10.
As Blue and Gold Illustrated mentioned previously, the none of the Fighting Irish invitees are surefire first-round picks, but at least one player could become one with a strong combine performance.
The Notre Dame players participating in the 2020 NFL Combine:
- Tight End Cole Kmet
- Defensive End Julian Okwara
- Wide Receiver Chase Claypool
- Defensive End Khalid Kareem
- Cornerback Troy Pride
- Safety Alohi Gilman
- Safety Jalen Elliott
- Running Back Tony Jones
- Wide Receiver Chris Finke
* A notable combine snub is Notre Dame linebacker Asmar Bilal, who had an excellent graduate senior season and likely would have tested well in Indianapolis.
ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. says that for tight end Cole Kmet to be a first-round pick, he needs to run at least a 4.7-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine this week.
He'll have the opportunity when tight ends do their on-field testing on Thursday.
After fracturing his fibula against Duke this season, the only physical testing Julian Okwara will be able to participate in is the bench press, where he's donating every rep he does to Uplifting Athletes, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the rare disease community.
Despite being slightly undersized, this will be a good opportunity for Okwara to demonstrate his strength.
He will also get the change to undergo medical examinations. Showing that his recovery process is going well and is on target be key to Okwara being a day one or two draft pick.
According to his Instagram account, he's already running, which is a good sign.
Like Kmet, it will be important for Claypool to show off a good 40-time.
There is some speculation out there that at 6-4, 229 pounds he'll be able to come close to Boykin's 40-time from last year. If he does that, his stock will rise and it will be difficult for a team to not scoop him up by the second round.
Either way, you can expect his teammate will be watching and cheering him on, just like they did for Boykin in 2019.
Khalid Kareem chose to not participate in any of the post-season all-star games, so this will be the first opportunity for NFL general managers and scouts to get a look at the powerful defensive end since the college football season ended.
A big question he'll be able to answer is does he have the speed and agility to develop into a more imposing pass rusher?
Scott Wright at DraftCountdown.com projects that Kareem will run a 4.79 in the 40-yard dash, and it's important for him to at least meet expectations if he wants to stay at day two pick.
No Notre Dame player has done more for their NFL Draft Stock since the college football season ended than Troy Pride Jr.
But now it's his turn to prove that he's the athletic specimen and speed freak that everyone expects him to be, and I doubt Pride will disappoint.
Videos on his Twitter account already show him running a 4.30-second 40-yard dash, but he'll be in even rarer company if he can get that a tenth of a second.
Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott
I'm including these two players together because, while safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott will need to show well in the physical tests, both should also shine in the interview portion of the NFL Combine.
Along with Okwara and Kareem, both were captains this past season at Notre Dame and are considered strong leaders.
We've seen videos of Gilman give fiery speeches, but the personality of the less assuming Elliott really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl.
"What also stood out to me was just the energy and the leadership he brought back there in the secondary," Wright said. "It's a short week and guys come in, they don't know each other. I always find it interesting to see who steps up as an alpha, who's the leader of men. Elliott is definitely one of those guys."
It was a surprise that running back Tony Jones received an invite to the combine. Wright projects that he'll run a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, which won't be fast enough to get him drafted.
Maybe Jones can perform well enough when it comes to his strength and agility that a team will take a chance on him late in the draft.
Either way, Jones should have a shot to make an NFL roster given his pass-catching and blocking abilities.
Throughout much of his career, the 5-9, 184-pound Chris Finke received a lot of comparison to fellow slot receiver and former walk-on, Hunter Renfrow. — a fifth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders at the 2019 NFL Draft.
While Finke is comparable to the former Clemson standout when it comes to stature, the Notre Dame captain wasn't as productive as Renfrow, especially in 2019 when he was hampered by injuries early in the season.
But where Finke might be able to beat Renfrow is when it comes to his 40-yard dash time. Renfrow ran a 4.59 at the 2020 NFL Combine. Can Finke beat that?
Another advantage Finke has is he could be a sure-handed and productive punt returner at the next level after he finished 19th in the nation in yards per punt returned in 2019.