NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Former University of Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas was selected with the 52nd overall pick (20th choice of round two) in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals and was the third Fighting Irish player taken in this year's draft. He is the fifth-straight Irish starting tight end to get chosen in the top-two rounds and seventh since 1992 – a feat no other program in the country can approach.
Niklas is the 12th tight end in school history to be taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft. The first-round picks include Tyler Eifert (21st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013), Irv Smith (20th overall by the New Orleans Saints in 1993), Derek Brown (14th overall by the New York Giants in 1992), Tony Hunter (12th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 1983), Ken MacAfee (seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 1978) and Monty Stickles (11th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 1960).
The second-round picks include Kyle Rudolph (43rd overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2011), John Carlson (38th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in 2008), Anthony Fasano (53rd overall by the Dallas Cowboys in 2006), Dave Casper (45th overall by the Oakland Raiders in 1974) and Jim Kelly (28th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1964).
Niklas becomes the first Notre Dame player drafted by Arizona since 2011 when the Cardinals selected Michael Floyd in the first round.
Niklas continues a trend that has followed Irish head coach Brian Kelly at his previous coaching stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Niklas joined the Notre Dame program as a linebacker and played in 12 games as a reserve in 2011. He totaled 20 tackles, including eight solo stops. However, Kelly and the Irish staff felt his future was at tight end. Thus, Niklas joins the likes of Joe Staley from Central Michigan, as well as Jason Kelce and Connor Barwin from Cincinnati. All four opened their respective careers under Kelly at one position before ultimately getting drafted into the NFL at another position. Staley was a first-round choice in 2007, while Barwin (2009) and Niklas (2014) were second-round picks and Kelce was a sixth-round selection (2011).
Niklas started in 22 of his 38 career games for the Irish. After moving to the tight end position after his freshman season (2011), Niklas registered 37 receptions for 573 yards and six touchdowns over his sophomore and junior campaigns. He averaged 15.5 yards per catch in 2012 and 2013.
Niklas ranked third on Notre Dame in receptions (32), receiving yards (498) and touchdown catches (five) in 2013. He was one of 10 semifinalists for the Mackey Award – an award given to the nation's best tight end. Among NCAA qualifying tight ends in ‘13, Niklas ranked tied for 10th in the FBS in touchdown receptions, 13th in receiving yards and 14th in receiving yards per game (38.3 yards/game). Niklas' five touchdown receptions last season are the second-most in single-season Notre Dame tight end history. He also registered nine receptions of at least 20 yards.