As the football season has ended and NFL Draft (slowly) approaches, let's check on the draft stock of the Irish players that may be selected in the first few rounds of the 2016 draft. I pulled eight mock drafts - Pro Football Focus, Mel Kiper (ESPN, Insider), Dan Kadar (SBNation), Rob Rang (CBS Sports), Dane Brugler (CBS Sports), Chris Burke (SI), Matt Miller (Bleacher Report), Walter Football - to see where these former ND players might end up.
Most likely pick and destination: 6th overall - Baltimore Ravens (4 drafts)
Highest: 3rd overall - San Diego Chargers (Matt Miller, Bleacher Report)
Other selections:5th overall - Jacksonville Jaguars (1), 7th overall - San Francisco 49ers (1), 25th overall - Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
Only one mock has Stanley falling beyond the 7th overall pick, and ProFootballFocus definitely has the most unique ratings of any source (heavily utilizing and relying on their own grading). The most common landing spot for Ronnie is in Baltimore, where Joe Flacco will be turning from injury and need at tackle is clear. It's worth noting that while Stanley could play either tackle position, many of the teams near the top of the draft have pretty stable situations at left tackle - the Browns and Cowboys have Pro Bowlers with Joe Thomas and Tyron Smith, and Jacksonville has already invested in a young tackle in Luke Joeckel. That really leaves Tennessee, San Diego, and Baltimore as the top landing spots for Stanley - all three are set at quarterback.
Draft Stock: HOLD
Looking at each mock draft, Stanley's status is remarkably consistent as the #2 offensive lineman off the board. Almost every mock draft has him taken shortly after Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) and before the next tier of Taylor Decker (Ohio State) and Jack Conklin (Michigan State). Can Stanley pass Tunsil and jump into contention for the #1 overall pick? It's definitely possible - both are listed at a similar height and weight and are extremely athletic, but one could gain a slight edge at the NFL Combine or their Pro Day with a freaky performance or an advantage in a category like arm length that scouting departments will dissect. Barring a pre-draft injury or the totally unexpected emergence of any red flags, Stanley is a virtual lock to go in the top 10 and could rise slightly higher in coming weeks.
Highest: 11th overall - Chicago Bears (Dan Kadar, SBN)
Other selections: 14th overall - Oakland Raiders (1), 20th overall - New York Jets (1), 21st overall - Washington Redskins (1)
Prior to Jaylon's injury in the Fiesta Bowl, he was a unanimous selection in the top 10-15 of most mock drafts. Given the severity and timing of the injury (as well as rumors that nerve damage that would have added to the severity of his torn ACL and LCL), his place in mock drafts (and likely the NFL Draft itself) has become much less certain. Myles Jack has likely jumped Smith as the first OLB taken - both are physical freaks, but Jack suffered a torn meniscus in September and as a result will be able to contribute much earlier in 2016. Darron Lee (Ohio State), Su'a Cravens (USC), and Leonard Floyd (UGA) are now Smith's main competition - it may just depend on the general manager's pressure to win now versus pick the player they believe has the brightest long-term future.
Draft Stock: BUY
At this point, most draft prognosticators and general managers are likely in "wait and see" mode on Jaylon's recovery. The tape will speak for itself in terms of his athleticism and ability, and my expert non-medical opinion is that I don't see any reason his rehab would go poorly - he's a hard worker and physical freak, much like Todd Gurley last year. Speaking of Gurley, he tore his ACL much earlier in his junior season, but at a less-valued position he went #10 overall last season. I don't see Jaylon slipping beyond #20 or so, and four mock drafts had him excluded from the first round - his stock will only rise from here.
Highest: 22nd overall - Seattle Seahawks (Matt Moore, Bleacher Report)
Other selections: 24th overall - Cincinnati Bengals (Mel Kiper), 55th overall - Cincinnati Bengals (Walter Football),
Fuller was out of the first round in six of eight mocks, which more than anything I think speaks to the quality of wide receiver prospects. LaQuon Treadwell (Ole Miss) is currently a near-unanimous choice as the first wide receiver taken, but after that it's a wide open competition between Corey Coleman (Baylor), Michael Thomas (Ohio State), Josh Doctson (TCU), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), and Fuller.
I love the destinations for Fuller in the mocks where he was a first rounder though - in Seattle in particular. A strong running game, Jimmy Graham in the short and intermediate passing game, and Russell Wilson throwing off play action to Tyler Lockett and Fuller as deep threats? Yes please - what a great fit. The Bengals would also be a fantastic landing spot featuring a stable quarterback situation, and dangerous weapons in AJ Green and Tyler Eifert to free up single coverage on Big Bill Fuller. And no one (at least in the NCAA) stays in front of Will Fuller one on one.
Draft stock: BUY
Teams love speed, and if I'm certain of anything it's that Fuller will post some silly combine numbers with his acceleration and burning ability. Mr. Esplosiva will have a few months here to train but also focus on his hands, which should be the only major concern for NFL teams. Devin Smith went #38 overall last year and seems like a good comparison to how NFL teams may evaluate Fuller - I don't see him slipping beyond the first few picks of the second round.
Draft stock: BUY
Day was included in one first round mock - Pro Football Focus actually had him 12th (!) overall to the Saints. Steve Palazzolo noted that Day had the 4th highest grade of any interior defensive lineman according to their numbers, which should bode well for how teams will look at his film. Walter Football (whose mock actually goes 4 rounds) has Day as the 46th overall pick to the Lions. Both are 4-3 defenses, but I think it may be an asset for Sheldon that he has experience at DE in a 3-4 as well.
The range of projections is pretty vast - CBS Sports has Sheldon ranked as the 11th DT and a 3rd or 4th round pick. Scouts Inc. on ESPN has Day at 13th at his position and the #106 player overall (early 4th round). While few of the mock drafts extend beyond the first round, I'm guessing the consensus right now would have Day as a 3rd round pick, which is leading me to buy his stock. The combine shouldn't lead to any surprises - Sheldon doesn't have ideal height and length, but should also interview extremely well. I think many teams will have him closer to the 6-8th DT and he ends up in the 2nd round.
Draft Stock: HOLD
It's hard to judge Martin's stock accurately since center is almost as undervalued a position as running back in the NFL. CBS Sports has Martin rated as the 2nd best center in the draft, and ESPN has him 1st, but each have him falling to the bottom of the 2nd round or early 3rd. His captaincy, last name, and experience at guard will only help him, but I think overall his stock is pretty stable and these projections are very accurate. Walter Football has him projected at 66th overall to the Chargers, where he could join Mani Te'o and potentially Ronnie Stanley.
Draft Stock: HOLD
Prosise is a particularly difficult NFL prospect to judge - where he goes in the draft is largely dependent on how teams continue to judge the value of running backs and how they view his limited film and experience. In 2015 Prosise showed great patience for a back without any experience playing the position of the college level and was an explosive runner. He also has experience at receiver that should translate into good hands out of the backfield, although he'll have to prove that between now and the draft.
CBS Sports has Prosise rated the 10th best running back, while ESPN has him 6th. They both agree that he's in the mix between the 3rd and 4th rounds. Beyond Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, there's a huge group of running backs that seem to be similarly valued in the same tier as Prosise - Kenneth Dixon, Corey Clement, Devontae Booker, Alex Collins, Paul Perkins, and more. The combine will be a big step in sorting out that order as will fit with teams with needs at RB.
Draft Stock: HOLD
Right now KVR is holding steady in rankings as a low 3rd / high 4th round pick. CBS has him as the #10 corner on the board, while ESPN has him 14th.
Is it fair to think of Russell as a boom or bust prospect? He should test exceptionally well when healthy, but it's unclear if he'll return to full strength before the draft (and I doubt teams will take his Instagram training updates from last offseason as fact). His film will show flashes of brilliance as well as some bad penalties and miscommunications - I can see Jon Gruden rewinding and showing that long TD pass against Pitt over and over. I don't think the "Frozen Five" suspension will be a limiting factor for his draft stock and think overall he'll impress teams with his personality, so 3rd to 4th round feels right to me coming off a significant injury.
What are the ideal landing spots for these former Irish players? Who would fit well with your favorite NFL team's needs? Am I a homer for not selling any Notre Dame players' stock? Fire away in the comments.