Top Defensive Players Notre Dame Will See At Each Position In 2020
In the past two seasons, Notre Dame has gone against five top-10 NFL Draft picks, with four of them playing on the defensive side of the ball.
In 2020, it's unlikely the Fighting Irish will see anywhere that level of defensive talent, with only a few opposing defensive players having an outside chance of becoming a 2021 first-round pick, let alone top-10 selections.
This may come as a surprise with Clemson on the schedule this fall.
According to Pro Football Focus and ESPN, the Fighting Irish will face college football's top returning quarterback and running back in 2020, both of which play for Clemson.
The same will not be said for the other side of the ball. The Tigers will certainly be talented on defense this season, but none of their returning starters are considered to be a top-10 player at their position heading into the season, even if they made an All-ACC Team in 2020.
Oddly, the best defensive player Notre Dame will face in 2020 might actually be an edge rusher for Duke.
By looking at the rankings provided by PFF and ESPN, plus other pieces of content and statistics, below is a breakdown of the best defensive players Notre Dame will see in 2020.
Chris Rumph II • Duke • Oct. 31
In the last 45 years, how many defensive ends have been drafted out of Duke?
The answer: One—Chris Combs, a sixth-round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000.
Why am do I bring this up? Well, because it could very well mean rising senior Chris Rumph II is the most talented Blue Devil edge defender since at least the early 1970s.
According to a list produced by PFF/ESPN, Rumph is the No. 2 returning edge defender in all of college football and a third-team All-ACC selection, yet he didn't record a single start in 2019.
He accomplished this by leading the team in TFLs with 13.5 and was second on the team in sacks with 6.5. Rumph also recorded, by far, the highest PFF defensive grade on the team with a 93.9 (no one else on the team eclipsed 75).
Because he came off the bench, Rumph played just 403 snaps in 2019 but still pressured the quarterback an outrageous 49 times. He actually graded out even better against the run, recording 25 run stops.
"Rumph finished the season with a pass-rush win rate of 30.8% and a pressure rate of 25.7%, both of which were the best among edge defenders (yes, even better than [Chase] Young) and nearly 2.5 percentage points higher than second place," wrote Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus. "His last appearance of the season, against Miami in Week 14, was one of the best performances we saw all season regardless of position."
Ali Fayad • Western Michigan • September 26
Ali Fayad isn't a player worth getting overly excited about. He's on the smaller side, at least when it comes to length, at 6-2 and 255 pounds, but he's produced consistently over each of the last two seasons.
In 2018 and 2019 combined, Fayad accumulated 83 tackles, 24 TFLs and 10 sacks. According to PFF/ESPN, he is college football's No. 10 returning edge defender in 2020.
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