For Romeo Okwara, the next step in his maturation will come in the NFL.
He’ll do it as an undrafted free agent.
Rounds four, five, six and seven passed Saturday afternoon with only Sheldon Day’s name called among Notre Dame’s potential picks, meaning Okwara, safety, Matthias Farley, wide receiver Chris Brown, safety Elijah Shumate and receiver Amir Carlisle went undrafted. Farley and Carlisle will head to the Arizona Cardinals as undrafted free agents. Shumate is headed to Tampa Bay, according to his family. The Houston Chronicle reported that Brown would sign with Dallas.
That meant the Irish finished with seven draft picks this weekend, trailing only Ohio State (12), Clemson (9) and UCLA (8). Notre Dame’s seven picks matched Alabama and Florida. It also leaves the Irish one behind USC for the all-time mark, trailing 493-492.
Okwara will play his rookie year at just 21 years old, which probably makes his NFL career in need of a developmental season. That could make Okwara sticking on the Giants’ practice squad a possibility. New York didn’t draft a defensive end this year and picked just one last year.
That means opportunity is there for the former three-star prospect out of Charlotte, N.C., who was born in Nigeria and didn’t pick up football until a late age.
Okwara finished his Notre Dame career with 113 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. But it was his senior year when he shined most, leading the Irish with eight sacks and developing into a reliable pass rusher after playing bit parts the previous three years.
If Okwara and Chris Brown had been drafted as expected, Notre Dame’s nine picks would have been the program’s best showing since 1994 when 10 picks came out of South Bend. That was also the last time Notre Dame had a Top 10 pick, meaning it was a 22-year gap between Ronnie Stanley and Bryant Young.
But in the end the Irish finished with seven selections, one short of Notre Dame’s draft output two years ago.
Here are the Irish selections with the overall pick in parentheses.
1. Ronnie Stanley – Baltimore (6)
1. Will Fuller – Houston (21)
2. Jaylon Smith – Dallas (34)
2. Nick Martin – Houston (50)
3. KeiVarae Russell – Kansas City (74)
3. C.J. Prosise – Seattle (90)
4. Sheldon Day – Jacksonville (103)