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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Irish draft nine players to NFL, making Notre Dame all-time leaders in total draft picks with 520

Liam Eichenberg — Round 2, Pick 42, Miami Dolphins

Former Irish tackle Liam Eichenberg was the first former Irish player to be drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft when he was selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins with the 42nd overall pick.

Eichenberg came to Notre Dame in 2016 as a highly-touted offensive line recruits out of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Although Eichenberg did not play his freshman year and was the backup for eventual first-round pick Mike McGlinchey in 2017, Eichenberg went on to start every game at left tackle for the Irish in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Eichenberg was vital for the Irish over these three seasons and was most known for his pass-blocking abilities.

Eichenberg received plenty of recognition for his efforts, as he was named to the 2020 All-ACC First Team, Walter Camp All-America First Team and Associated Press All-America Second Team. Eichenberg was also a finalist for the 2020 Outland Trophy which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.

It is unlikely that Eichenberg will be utilized as a left tackle for the Dolphins, but he should have a chance to compete for right tackle or even a guard position.

Aaron Banks — Round 2, Pick 48, San Francisco 49ers

In the second round, with the 48th overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers selected Aaron Banks, guard, Notre Dame. Banks joins another former Notre Dame player, Mike McGlinchey, on the 49ers’ offensive line. Aaron Banks returns to Northern California, where he was a four-star prospect out of El Cerrito High School.
Hyosub Shin / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former Irish quarterback Ian Book (back) drops back for a pass, former Irish guard Aaron Banks (front) protects his quarterback during Notre Dame's 31-13 win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 31. at Notre Dame Stadium.
Banks boasts some impressive college playing experience, with 31 starts for the Fighting Irish and an All-ACC first-team selection in 2020. The 6’6 330-pound Banks was one of the most impressive guards in the country, and during his time at Notre Dame allowed only two sacks over three seasons and 844 snaps. Banks was one of three Notre Dame offensive linemen to have their names called in the 2021 NFL draft, selected after Liam Eichenberg and before Robert Hainsey.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — Round 2, Pick 52, Cleveland Browns

Former Notre Dame Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 52nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Cleveland Browns were able to get an excellent player by trading up and selecting Owusu-Koramoah with this second-round pick, as the versatile Owusu-Koramoah figures to have a prominent role in the defense as a rookie in 2021. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah entered the draft as a projected first-round pick, and one of the draft’s best linebacker prospects. He was ranked the 16th best prospect in the entire draft by CBS, and earned a 6.82 rating (“Pro Bowl Talent”) on the NFL Prospect Tracker, the 8th best of any player. Owusu-Koramoah came to Notre Dame as a three-star prospect out of Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia. He made his mark playing for the Fighting Irish, showcasing his sideline to sideline speed and consistent playmaking. As a starter in 2019 and 2020, Owusu-Koramoah accumulated 142 total tackles, 7 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles and an interception. He is also remembered for his incredible fumble-return touchdown against Clemson, extending the Irish lead to 20-10 and leading to an eventual Irish victory. His career also includes being named the 2020 Butkus Award Winner, an award given to the nation’s best linebacker. Previous recipients of this award include Notre Dame’s own Jalyon Smith and Manti Te’o.

Tommy Tremble — Round 3, Pick 83, Carolina Panthers

Tight end Tommy Tremble was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the 83rd pick. Tremble was a valuable player for the Irish as one of the most talented blocking tight ends in college football. He offers a lot of versatility and upside entering the NFL and looks poised to join a long list of successful Irish tight ends at the next level. Tremble stood out at Notre Dame’s pro day, running a 4.59 40-yard dash, a 36.5” vertical jump, 10’2” broad jump and 20 reps of 225 lbs in the bench press. In 2020, he earned an 83.7 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest of any tight end that season. He was a key player in Notre Dame’s run game, helping to clear the way as a lead blocker for running back Kyren Williams. Notre Dame continues to be the home of some of the most talented tight ends, including former Irish tight ends drafted in now each of the last 4 years: 2018 (Round 4 - Durham Smythe), 2019 (Round 7 - Alizé Mack), 2020 (Round 2 - Cole Kmet) and 2021 (Round 3 - Tommy Tremble)

Robert Hainsey — Round 3, Pick 95, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notre Dame offensive tackle Robert Hainsey was the third Irish offensive lineman drafted when he was selected by the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round with the 95th overall pick. The Buccaneers already have their starting offensive line in place for the 2021 season, but Hainsey will bring valuable depth and leadership to the team. A two-time team captain, 2020 All-ACC Second Team selection, and a member of Notre Dame’s 2017 Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line, Hainsey leaves South Bend with a bevy of accolades to his name.Hainsey should also feel right at home in Florida, as he attended IMG Academy in Bradenton in high school. According to 247Sports, Hainsey was a four-star prospect and the No. 84 player in the country when he joined Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class.The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Hainsey was one of nine Irish players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. The nine selections are the most during Brian Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame and the most since 10 Irish players were picked in the 1994 NFL Draft.

Daelin Hayes — Round 5, Pick 17, Baltimore Ravens

Defensive end Daelin Hayes waited until the fifth round to hear his name called in the NFL Draft, but he’s headed to instant Super Bowl contender, the Baltimore Ravens, who used the second of their three fifth-round picks on the former Irish standout. Hayes stuffed the stat sheet in 2020, with 17 tackles (six for loss), three sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a pair of forced fumbles. Hayes is considered a high-upside pick for the Ravens, particularly in the fifth round, after many expected him to go slightly earlier. Baltimore entered the draft with needs off the edge, and they grabbed an outside linebacker plus Hayes, so he will certainly have a chance to play his way onto the roster this summer. Hayes’ biggest game was against Georgia Tech this past season, in which he had five tackles and two sacks, but his biggest contribution in an Irish uniform will undoubtedly be remembered as his overtime sack against Clemson that helped Notre Dame upset the #1 team in the nation this past November.

Ade Ogundeji — Round 5, Pick 182, Atlanta Falcons

Another Irish defensive end that waited until the fifth round to find a home in the NFL, Ade Ogundeji found possibly an ideal landing zone in the defense-needy Atlanta Falcons, who made Ogundeji their only primary addition to their edge defense, which had definite holes heading into the draft. Ogundeji made his name as a disruptive pass rusher at Notre Dame, forcing six fumbles in his career with the Irish. His ability to collapse pockets made him an attractive day 3 option for NFL teams, and in Atlanta, Ogundeji could have a much better opportunity than the average fifth round pick to compete for a roster spot and snaps this coming fall. Ogundeji notched 23 tackles and seven sacks in his final season with the Irish, delivering two sacks in Notre Dame’s overwhelming defensive effort against UNC’s high-octane offense. He had 1.5 sacks in two postseason games for the Irish against Clemson and Alabama .

Ian Book — Round 4, Pick 133, New Orleans Saints

Quarterback Ian Book was drafted by the New Orleans Saints as the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite some doubt over whether or not he would get drafted, Book becomes a successor to Drew Brees — NBC’s new Notre Dame game analyst — as he heads to Louisiana. He was the sixth Irish player to be selected this year, and is the second quarterback in the Kelly-era to be drafted. Book was also chosen in a record-setting NFL draft: this was the first time that eight quarterbacks were signed over the first three rounds. After attending Oak Ridge High School, the El Dorado Hills native came to South Bend as a three-star recruit. Book spent three years as QB1 for the Irish, starting in 35 games (30-5). He played in two playoff games and an ACC Championship during his time at Notre Dame, and also led the team to the victory over then-No. 1 Clemson last season.Book is renowned for his running game especially, having completed nine rushing touchdowns in the 2020 season alone. Though he has appeared to be inconsistent at times, he has proved to be a calm and persistent force on the field, which will benefit him in the NFL. He enters into a position battle among the Saints, as quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are also vying for the top spot in the wake of Brees’ retirement.

Ben Skowronek — Round 7, Pick 249, LA Rams

Ben Skowronek was taken in the final round of the NFL Draft, and he heads to a loaded wide receiver corps in Los Angeles, where he will have to fight hard for his roster spot. A transition to tight end for the big wide receiver is not out of the question, either, but his solid speed and hands, combined with his ability in the air, was an intriguing enough skillset for the Rams to take a flier on him with their final draft pick. The Rams somewhat surprisingly used three draft picks on wide receivers, despite it not being considered a major need, so it may well be at tight end that Skowronek finds a fit, as his blocking ability could add to his value. Skowronek also figures to offer value in special teams, which may be what Rams’ head coach Sean McVay had in mind with this draft pick.  Skowronek elevated a lackluster Irish receiving corps this past season, after transferring from Northwestern. He notched three touchdown catches against Boston College, and two against Pitt, to go with a rushing touchdown against UNC on an end around. He had at least three catches in each of Notre Dame’s final six games.

Shaun Crawford — Las Vegas Raiders

Former six-year Irish safety Shaun Crawford did not get drafted over the weekend, but he still landed a professional contract, signing with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted free agent. Crawford saved his best for last in an injury-marred collegiate career, notching 57 tackles in his final season with the Irish, to go with two sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Crawford played both safety and cornerback for the Irish, and the latter may be where he may have to work at to land a roster spot with the Raiders. Las Vegas had desperate needs in the secondary, and they spent three draft picks on the safety position, including landing the consensus top player at the position, Trevor Moehrig from TCU in the second round. However, with only one sixth-round cornerback added to the Raiders’ draft haul, Crawford could find an opportunity there. His best games with the Irish came in their losses towards the end of the season, as Crawford combined for 17 tackles against Clemson in the ACC Championship and Alabama in the Rose Bowl, putting on an impressive defensive effort despite the pair of defeats.

Nick McCloud — Buffalo Bills

Nick McCloud was a bit of surprising draft declaration for the Irish after their most recent season, and while he didn’t hear his name called during the 7-round event, he did get signed by the Buffalo Bills, who are coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance this past season. McCloud was Notre Dame’s clear top corner after coming to the Irish as a graduate transfer from NC State. He notched eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception during his final collegiate season, and he impressed with a 4.3 second 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s pro day. His speed makes him an intriguing prospect, and with Buffalo having a need at corner and only adding a sixth-round pick at the position, it makes McCloud a definite contender for a roster spot.

Javon McKinley, Brock Wright and Tommy Kraemer — Detroit Lions

McKinley, Wright and Kraemer signed with the Detroit Lions after the draft. Kraemer makes four Notre Dame offensive linemen who have made it to the next level just this year, as Notre Dame further cements itself as “O-Line U.” Both Wright and Kraemer were reliable players for the Irish, posting 11 and 39 starts respectively in their time at Notre Dame and appearing in 48 and 43 games. McKinley was also reliable throughout his Irish tenure. He had seven receiving touchdowns in 31 games for 985 yards, compounded with 15 rushing yards, he earned 1000 yards total. Kraemer, a former five-star recruit, will have a very solid chance of making an NFL roster, as Alex Bars and Sam Mustipher accomplished last season as former Notre Dame offensive lineman who were undrafted free agent signings.