How Did Notre Dame Do in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Round 1: OT Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
After some speculation that the Irish could have up to three players taken in the first round, Martin ended up being the lone pick, going at No. 16 to the Dallas Cowboys. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted that it was a struggle not to draft Johnny Manziel, but with so much invested in Tony Romo, he decided to give him some protection on the offensive line.
Round 2: DE Stephon Tuitt, Pittsburgh Steelers; TE Troy Niklas, Arizona Cardinals
Tuitt is one of the guys who slid out of the first round. Considered a possible top-10 pick at one point in 2012, he never played up to that level in 2013. His health is also a little bit of a concern after having several small injuries last year that held him back from 100 percent but not severe enough to hold him out of significant playing time. The Steelers get a great player here and a possible first-round talent from the second round. Tuitt should thrive in the defensive minded culture of the Steelers and terrorize the AFC North for many years.
I was honestly surprised to see Niklas go as high as he did. I expected him to be more of a fourth-rounder at best. He is a good, dependable tight end but he was not quite the stud for the Irish that Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph were in past years. He definitely has the potential to be a fantastic grab but potential alone is a reach in the second round.
Round 3: DT Louis Nix III, Houston Texans; OG Chris Watt, San Diego Chargers
As surprised as I was to see Niklas go in the second round, I was equally as surprised to see Nix slip out of the second round. His knee is a big concern but the man is first round talent and I expected the knee to drop him into the second but not the third. Still, stop for a moment and think about the new potential for the Texans defensive line. Just imagine a line with Nix, Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt. The rest of the AFC South is going to have nightmares about that lineup.
Watt was a player that I didn’t see come up on many radars for going as high as the third round but the Chargers definitely see something they like and he will give them some quality depth to protect Phillip Rivers.
Round 4: LB Prince Shembo, Atlanta Falcons
If I could pick one phrase to describe Shembo’s ND career, it would be “on the verge of greatness.” He was always a dependable player and sometimes he was an absolute monster, terrorizing opposing offenses. I was constantly waiting for him to break out but it never seemed like he fully did. He has some off-field issues but he did himself a favor by being upfront about them throughout the draft process and I think he got drafted exactly where his play warranted.
Round 6: CB Bennett Jackson, New York Giants; WR TJ Jones, Detroit Lions.
After a one-round hiatus, Notre Dame is back on the board with Jackson going to the Giants. Jackson is a solid corner who gave the Irish plenty of reliability on his side of the field. Unfortunately for him, he played last season in the shadow of sophomore KeiVarae Russell, who is quickly becoming one of the top shutdown corners in college football.
Jones could end up developing into a nice slot receiver for the Lions. His durability is somewhat of a concern with several injuries littering his Irish career but he has dependable hands and is a warrior on the field.
All in all, the draft was kind to Notre Dame. Yes, Tuitt and especially Nix may feel a little slighted with their slides, but aside from the initial financial pitfalls, I think both players landed in extremely good situations for themselves. The eight players called is a 20-year high for Notre Dame in the draft and yet another testament to the overall quality job head coach Brian Kelly is doing.