3. OLB Prince Shembo (Jr.)
Prince Shembo has seemingly come out of nowhere in the early part of the 2012 season, but he is quickly becoming one of the stars of the Notre Dame defense, and also making a name for himself as an NFL prospect.
Shembo lines up as both an outside linebacker and defensive end at Notre Dame, and looks like a potential star as a 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. He has good size for that position at 6’2’’ and 250 pounds, coupled with very good explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and fluid pass-rush technique.
Shembo has a very good on-field drive; even he is blocked initially, he has a tendency to work his way through blockers if given time to do so. His relentless, and ability to work his way through blockers with his speed and moves, frustrate opposing offensive linemen, and should continue to do so at the next level.
Considering Shembo is just emerging on the draft radar, he is most likely to stay at Notre Dame for his senior season and be a 2014 NFL draft prospect, but he is starting to look like a potential Day 2 draft choice.
4. C Braxston Cave
In the games I have watched of Notre Dame this season (Michigan State and Michigan), it has been rare to see pressure coming directly up the middle against the Fighting Irish offensive line. The main reason for that has been the consistently solid play of Braxston Cave.
Cave is not a hulking, overpowering offensive lineman, but he is a very steady presence in the middle of the Notre Dame line. He is a very efficient snapper and quick off the snap, and he is effective in both pass protection and run blocking.
Cave can occasionally be overwhelmed by defensive tackles with great size and quickness, but he is strong on a consistent basis. He looks like a mid-round NFL draft choice and one of the best centers in the 2013 NFL draft class.
5. OT Zach Martin (Redshirt Jr.)
Another Notre Dame offensive lineman emerging as an NFL prospect is Zach Martin. He has been a very steady presence at left tackle for the Fighting Irish this season.
He does not have fantastic size at 6’4” and 304 pounds, but he has good feet for an offensive tackle, and he has held his own against some very good defensive ends. Against Michigan State, he did a very good job in pass protection against two future NFL pass-rushers in William Gholston and Marcus Rush.
With another remaining year of eligibility, it is unlikely Martin will declare for the 2013 NFL draft, but if he continues to have a strong season, he looks like a potential mid-round offensive tackle who has potential as an NFL right tackle or a quality backup.