The first round of the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday evening in Chicago, and for the first time in a few years there won't be a former Notre Dame player selected.
This week's question is pretty simple--who will be the first Irish player selected (round/team)? For some bonus material, who else gets selected and in which round?
Ben Koyack is the obvious choice for the first ND guy off the board. I think he is a late 3rd round/early 4th round pick. Then again, I generally project guys a round or two before they really get picked, so that makes him what--a 5th round guy? He may not be the flashiest TE on the board, but is probably the most complete and ready to contribute. I could see him going to somewhere like Denver or Carolina.
I think Daniels gets picked late (6th-7th round), as this draft is deep at WR and he didn't do himself any favors with his combine or pro day numbers. I think NE takes a flier on McDaniel in the last round and Brindza gets the Pat McAfee treatment with someone turning him into a full-time punter and kick-off specialist.
Before sustaining an injury during Notre Dame's Pro Day, I thought Cody Riggs had a shot to be the first Irish player taken. He is an intriguing, versatile prospect with a good football mind, but injuries might move him down teams' boards. To whatever team he goes, I think he will have opportunity to contribute in packages with extra defensive backs.
Ben Koyack will be the first Notre Dame football player taken in this draft, hearing his name on Saturday. With the loss of Jordan Cameron, I see the Cleveland Browns picking up Koyack with one of their fourth round selections. Koyack wouldn't be a direct replacement to the hyper-athletic Cameron, but he would help ease the loss of Cameron. Judging from his workout invitations, the New England Patriots could pick up Cody Riggs in the sixth round. DaVaris could join him in Foxboro via a seventh round Patriots pick, unless Belichick trades his entire draft for 2019 and 2020 selections. Cam McDaniel ends up back in Texas when the Cowboys take him with their last pick.
It's obvious Koyack will be the first player taken. All the above suggestions are good picks, especially Cleveland. Being a Carolina fan, Koyack would make sense if the Panthers wanted to run some two-TE sets, but that hasn't really been their MO outside of the red zone, and Greg Olsen is sneaky young and still very productive. WalterFootball.com is projecting San Francisco to pick Koyack, and that seems about right. My bold prediction, though, is that Koyack goes somewhere that doesn't have an apparent need for a TE at this point.
I would be surprised if anyone else from ND is drafted. DaVaris Daniels has too many question marks - I sure as heck wouldn't take him - and Cody Riggs has the injury. I hope I am wrong, of course.
On a tangential note, this will hopefully be the last boring draft from an ND perspective for a while. Brian Kelly has recruited better since his first class as ND's coach, so we should see consistent high draft picks going forward.
I'll say Koyack is taken with the 18th pick of the 5th round by the New Orleans Saints. I don't think any other Irish players will be drafted.
I'm interested to see how the Draft plays out in Chicago, especially with some of the high profile players foregoing attendance. That's going to be weird, but a bit of a throwback to the old days when everything played out in a small hotel conference room without any players on hand.
The new rookie pay structure has opened up so many more trades which has breathed life into the first few rounds. Of course, on the eve of the Draft we've got the Browns dangling both their 1st round picks to try and move up to No. 2 overall. I don't think there are a ton of great storylines heading into start of this thing but it's bound to come alive after a few picks.
Also, can I just say that it's weird to see Leonard Williams be so coveted--even some calling him the best player in the Draft? Maybe he will be that player but from a Notre Dame perspective I can't think of a USC player who had such a small impact in our rivalry to then go on to such a high draft pick.