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15 Storylines for the 2015 Football Season: Ronnie Stanley, #1 Overall Pick?

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His draft stock can't get much higher, but can Ronnie Stanley become the first Irish player since 1972 to be picked first overall in the 2016 draft?

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Notre Dame football history quiz: Who is Walt Patulski?

A) Cousin of Mike Krzyzewski
B) 1971 All-American offensive lineman
C) Notre Dame's last 1st overall NFL draft pick
D) All of the above

No cheating....

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The answer? C - Patulski was a Lombardi winning defensive end for the Irish, an All-American (at DE though) in 1971, and the #1 overall pick in the 1972 NFL Draft. That 44-year drought has a chance to end this season though, with an elite offensive lineman among the favorites to hear his name called first on draft night.

With Ronnie Stanley's decision to return for his senior season, he immediately jumped to the top of many mock draft boards for 2016. He has prototypical tackle size paired with exceptional athleticism - provided big Ronnie stays healthy, the question isn't if he's a first round pick, but how high?

The "Way-too-Early" mock drafts may be criticized by some, but as talent continues to be evaluated earlier and earlier NFL valuations have become much like recruiting - even with a year or two left of football to play, the top names usually stay at the top.

There may be a few breakout candidates like Kevin White, but looking back the top names were almost all there in early mock drafts for 2014 - Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota as the first QBs off the board, Leonard Williams as a top defensive pick, and Brandon Scherff, Andrus Peat, and Ereck Flowers as early first-round picks.

So while things still need to fall into place, where does Ronnie Stanley fall?

Matt Miller (Bleacher Report)

1

Chris Burke (SI)

2

Dane Brugler (CBS)

2

Dan Kadar (SBNation)

3

Rob Rang (CBS)

3

Eric Galko (Sporting News)

4

Walter Football

5

Jason McIntyre (The Big Lead)

8

Todd McShay (ESPN)

10

Mel Kiper (ESPN / Big Board)

10

AVERAGE

4.8

Not too shabby. There's still a lot that will need to go right for Stanley to have a chance to go first - at a minimum:

  • Team with need drafting first: Tennessee, Tampa Bay, or another team unlikely to take a quarterback would be ideal.
  • Solidifying position as the top tackle: the names to watch out for here are Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker, and Spencer Drango. Tunsil seems like the most likely candidate to pass Stanley but may drop on boards depending on the results of the domestic violence charges filed against him this offseason in an incident with his step-father that seems pretty bizarre.
  • Defensive stars show concerns: Joey Bosa and Shawn Oakman are athletic freaks at defensive end, but if they battle injuries or fall off a bit in production that will open the door a little further for Stanley.