Notre Dame and the NFL draft

Notre Dame’s eight draft choices in 2014 were the most selected in 20 years and the second largest contingent since the NFL draft was reduced to a seven-round format in 1994.

This year’s Thursday-through-Saturday draft – at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University in Chicago – will be a tame one for Notre Dame. Tight end Ben Koyack is the only “certain” Irish selection in the seven-round affair with cornerback Cody Riggs and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels other possibilities.

Since the inception of the National Football League draft in 1936, Notre Dame has had 485 players selected, which ranks most all-time ahead of second-place USC (483). Rounding out the top 10 are 3. Ohio State (413), 4. Oklahoma (367), 5. Nebraska (350), 6. Michigan (345), 7. Tennessee (337), 8. Penn State (335), 9. Texas (332) and 10. Alabama (319).

The following is a brief history of the NFL draft from a Notre Dame perspective. A total of 65 Notre Dame players have been selected in the first round. The Irish could add to that total in 2016.

• First pick: Quarterback Bill Shakespeare was the No. 3 overall draft selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates – they wouldn’t come the Steelers until 1940 – in the first NFL draft in 1936, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia.

• First overall No. 1 pick: Notre Dame’s first overall No. 1 pick by the NFL was quarterback Angelo Bertelli – the 1943 Heisman Trophy winner – in the 1944 draft. The Boston Yanks selected Bertelli. Halfback Creighton Miller was the No. 3 overall pick by the Brooklyn Tigers that same year.

• No. 1 overall picks: Notre Dame has had five players selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft: Bertelli (1944), QB-Frank Dancewicz (1946, Boston), E-Leon Hart (1950, Detroit), B-Paul Hornung (1957, Green Bay), and DE-Walt Patulski (1972, Buffalo). HB-Nick Eddy was the No. 1 overall pick by the Denver Broncos in the 1966 AFL draft.

• First-round draft choices: Notre Dame has had 65 players selected in the first round. The most recent was offensive lineman Zack Martin – a 52-game starter at Notre Dame – who was the No. 16 overall selection in 2014 by the Dallas Cowboys.

• Last time without a draftee: After defensive tackle Steve Niehaus was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1976 draft by the Seattle Seahawks, the Irish did not have a player chosen in 1977. They had three No. 1s and five in the top three rounds the following year after claiming the ’77 national championship.

• Most first-rounders in a year: The Irish have had four players chosen in the first round twice. The first came in 1946 when QB-Frank Dancewicz (Boston) was the No. 1 overall pick, followed by QB-Johnny Lujack (Chicago Bears) at No. 4, T-George Connor (New York Giants) at No. 5 and B-Emil Sitko (Los Angeles Rams) at No. 10. That’s right, Notre Dame had two quarterbacks chosen within the four picks of the ’46 draft.

In 1993, QB-Rick Mirer (Seattle) was the No. 2 overall selection, followed by RB-Jerome Bettis (10th, Los Angeles Rams), CB-Tommy Carter (17th, Washington) and TE-Irv Smith (New Orleans, 20th).

• Three first-rounders: Notre Dame has had three players selected in the first round six times:
1954 – T-Art Hunter (Green Bay) at No. 3, B-Johnny Lattner (Pittsburgh) at No. 7, and B-Neil Worden (Philadelphia) at No. 9;
1955 – QB-Ralph Guglielmi (Washington) at No. 3, T-Frank Varrichione (Pittsburgh) at No. 6 and B-Joe Heap (New York Giants) at No. 8;
1967 – G-Paul Seiler (New York Jets) at No. 12, DE-Alan Page (Minnesota) at No. 15 and G-Tom Regner (Houston) at No. 23;
1972 – DE-Walt Patulski (Buffalo) at No. 1, CB-Clarence Ellis (Atlanta) at No. 15 and DT-Mike Kadish (Miami) at No. 25;
1978 – TE-Ken MacAfee (San Francisco) at No. 7, DT-Ross Browner (Cincinnati) at No. 8 and CB-Luther Bradley (Detroit) at No. 11.
1994 – DT-Bryant Young (San Francisco) at No. 7, G-Aaron Taylor (Green Bay) at No. 16 and FS-Jeff Burris (Buffalo) at No. 27.

• Consecutive years with a No. 1: The Irish had at least one first-round draft choice four straight years on two occasions. It first occurred during the Ara Parseghian regime when the Irish had three No. 1s in 1967 (see above), one in 1968 (DT-Kevin Hardy, No. 7 New Orleans), two in 1969 (T-George Kunz, No. 2 Atlanta and SE-Jim Seymour, No. 10 Los Angeles Rams) and one in 1970 (DT-Mike McCoy, No. 2 Green Bay).

The second time it occurred was during the Lou Holtz era with one No. 1 in 1991 (CB-Todd Lyght, No. 5 Los Angeles Rams), one in 1992 (TE-Derek Brown, No. 14 New York Giants), four in 1993 (see above), and three in 1994 (see above).

• Most players drafted: The NFL went to a seven-round draft format in 1994. It was an eight-round draft in 1993, 12 rounds from 1977-92, 17 rounds from 1967-76, 20 rounds from 1960-66, 30 rounds from 1950-59, and as many as 32 rounds prior to that.

Since the adoption of the seven-round format, the most players selected from Notre Dame in a season came in 1994 when 10 Irish players were chosen. In addition to Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris in the first round, other Notre Dame players selected included C-Tim Ruddy (2nd round, Miami), DT-Jim Flanigan (3rd, Chicago), CB-Willie Clark (3rd, San Diego), SE-Lake Dawson (3rd, Kansas City), SS-John Covington (5th, Indianapolis), LB-Anthony Peterson (5th, San Francisco) and LB-Pete Bercich (7th, Minnesota).

In 1946, Notre Dame had 16 players drafted, the most in school history.

• Notre Dame’s 2014 draft: Notre Dame had eight players drafted last year -- OL-Zack Martin (1st, Dallas), DE-Stephon Tuitt (2nd, Pittsburgh), TE-Troy Niklas (2nd, Arizona), DT-Louis Nix III (3rd, Houston), G-Chris Watt (3rd, San Diego), LB-Prince Shembo (4th, Atlanta), CB-Bennett Jackson (6th, New York Giants) and WR-TJ Jones (6th, Detroit).

That’s the most Notre Dame players drafted since 10 were selected in 1994 – the first year of the seven-round draft.

• Solo draft choices: There is the possibility that TE-Ben Koyack will be the only Irish player selected in the 2015 draft. That would be the third time in seven years Notre Dame has had a single draftee.

In 2011, TE-Kyle Rudolph was a second-round draft choice by Minnesota. In 2009, FS-David Bruton was a fourth-round selection by Denver.

The Irish also had solo draft choices in 2000 (QB-Jarious Jackson, 7th, Denver) and 1998 (DB-Allen Rossum, 3rd, Philadelphia).

• First-round draft choices since 2000: C-Jeff Faine (2003, Cleveland), QB-Brady Quinn (2007, Cleveland), WR-Michael Floyd (2012, Arizona), S-Harrison Smith (2012, Minnesota), TE-Tyler Eifert (2013, Cincinnati), OL-Zack Martin (2014, Dallas).

• First-round draft choices 1990s (not mentioned above): TE-Derek Brown (1992, New York Giants), DL-Renaldo Wynn (1997, Jacksonville), OT-Luke Petitgout (1999, New York Giants).

• First-round draft choices 1980s (not mentioned above): RB-Vagas Ferguson (1980, New England), LB-Bob Crable (1982, New York Jets), TE-Tony Hunter (1983, Buffalo), RB-Greg Bell (1984, Buffalo), DE-Eric Dorsey (1986, New York Giants), WR-Tim Brown (1988, Los Angeles Raiders), T-Andy Heck (1989, Seattle).

 


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