NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Loyko
Here are the top 2012 NFL Draft Prospects that we’ll be watching for the Notre Dame vs. South Florida (3:30pm eastern, NBC) game this Saturday afternoon.
Coming off a season where they had only 1 player drafted (TE Kyle Rudolph), Notre Dame returns a solid core of players who have potential to be drafted, and a couple who are projected to be 1st round picks.
Who to Watch:
1) #3 Michael Floyd, WR, 6-3 224 Sr. –
Floyd’s combination of size, speed and hands are all qualities that could make him a top 15 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. However, during his time at ND Floyd has had numerous off the field problems. In March he had a DUI, which almost ended his Notre Dame career. On the field Floyd is a beast. He can beat defenses over the top as well as run short and intermediate routes. His body control and ability to go up and high point the ball make him a massive target and mismatch against almost any CB. He needs to improve his route running and if he shed 10 pounds it might make him even quicker and more elusive.
2) #5 Manti Te’o, ILB, 6-2 255 Jr. –
Te’o is the best line backing prospect to come out of ND in a long time. Te’o has the ability to not only make an impact on 1st and 2nd down, but also on passing downs. Not only is Te’o extremely athletic, he has a great football IQ. He can read and diagnose plays very quickly. Te’o is always around the ball due to his quickness and burst. To use a Bill Belichick phrase Teo’s scheme versatility should make him attractive to all 32 NFL teams. Te’o along with Boston College’s Luke Kuechly and Arizona St. Vontaze Burfict should battle it out all year to see which MLB will be selected 1st in the 2011 NFL draft.
3) #22 Harrison Smith, SS, 6-2 218 Sr. –
While Te’o is the best pro prospect on the defense; Harrison Smith is the leader of the defense. Smith makes plays all over the field and often big plays. He is an extremely smart player who always seems to be in the right spot. Led ND with 7 interceptions last year. Aside from INT’s Smith flies around the field from sideline to sideline making tackles. His combination of smarts and athletic ability, not to mention his leadership will make him a day 2 NFL draft pick and a very productive NFL safety.
4) #17 Gary Gray, CB, 5-10 195 Sr. –
Gray is a player who really stood out for me when I watched Notre Dame last year. I liked the way he came up in run support and tackled. Gray has good speed and seems to be a very solid NFL prospect. I will be watching Gray closely to better evaluate his NFL Stock.
Other 2012 NFL Draft Eligible Players to watch:
#45 Darius Fleming, OLB, 6-2 245 Sr., #78 Trevor Robinson, 6-5 311, Sr., #10 Dayne Crist, QB, 6-4 235 Sr.
Underclassman to Watch:
#20 Cierre Wood, RB, 6-0 215 Jr. –
Wood broke out last year to lead the Irish in rushing. A highly rated recruit coming out of high school Wood will have every opportunity to be heavily involved in the offense. With a good season Wood could vastly increase his NFL draft stock.
Compared to 2011 the Bulls aren’t likely to have many players rated too highly on NFL team’s draft boards. While I will list some players so watch I am not going to get into a detailed breakdown until after I see more of these players.
Who to Watch:
#2 Quinton Washington, CB, 5-10 196 SR., #6 Jerrell Young, S, 6-1 209 Sr., #36 Sam Barrington, LB, 6-1 226 Jr., #7 BJ Daniels, QB, 6-0 223 Jr.
Underclassman to watch:
#54 Julius Forte, DE, 6-2 254 RSo. –
Could be the next in a long line of productive USF defensive end prospects.