Prister’s Thursday Thoughts

Irish Illustrated nailed five of Notre Dame’s projected draft picks -- Ronnie Stanley, Will Fuller, Nick Martin, C.J. Prosise and Sheldon Day.

1 – NFL Draft Dreams: After months of analysis, Irish Illustrated zeroed in on the NFL Draft as it pertained to projecting where and when most of Notre Dame’s players would be selected.

We missed on LB Jaylon Smith because of the uncertainty of his knee injury, and we should have had some insight when CB KeiVarae Russell stopped to talk to a Kansas City Chiefs scout before conversing with the media following Pro Day on March 31.

But Irish Illustrated will put its five picks up against any mock draft in the country.

  • We had OT Ronnie Stanley going with the 7th overall pick to the 49ers. The Ravens tabbed him one pick earlier.
  • We projected WR Will Fuller going to the Bengals with the 24th overall pick. He went three picks earlier to the Texans.
  • As the No. 2-ranked center, Nick Martin looked like a great fit for the Redskins with the 53rd overall pick. He was scooped up by the Texans three picks earlier.
  • Our best pick was RB C.J. Prosise going to the Patriots with the 91st overall selection. The Seahawks made Prosise the 90th overall choice.
  • DT Sheldon Day looked like a match for the Seahawks late in the third round with the 97th overall pick. He went six picks later early in the fourth round to the Jaguars.

2 – Missing The Mark: In addition to not coming close to Smith and missing by 31 picks on Russell, Irish Illustrated also had WR Chris Brown and DE Romeo Okwara going late in the sixth round, and neither was drafted.

Still surprised by Brown, who had a quality senior season and an even better post-season at the East-West Shrine, the NFL combine, and Notre Dame’s Pro Day. Okwara is not as big of a surprise because his football instincts are limited. He did all of his ’15 damage in the second half of the season when the Irish faced a string of poor pass-pro teams.

Credit to both, along with three other Irish players, who signed as free agents within 24 hours after the draft.

3 – Missing The Mark: Okay, full confession. A year ago, I went on Irish Illustrated’s podcast and said I wouldn’t be surprised if 20 Notre Dame players were selected in the 2016-17 NFL drafts combined.

Twenty? What was it, Tequila Tuesday?

The Irish had seven players drafted last weekend. I had anticipated Amir Carlisle and Elijah Shumate playing well enough in ’15 to get drafted.  I expected NT Jarron Jones to be completing his eligibility in ’15. I also thought Everett Golson would be finishing his Notre Dame career on a high note.

Looking ahead to 2017, I anticipated DE Isaac Rochell, OL Steve Elmer, CB Cole Luke, RB Tarean Folston, S Max Redfield, WR Corey Robinson and possibly OLB James Onwualu getting drafted. I had C.J. Prosise and Will Fuller with this group. Was Greg Bryant on that list?

Some 2016 Irish players with eligibility beyond this season who could end up in the ’17 draft include OG Quenton Nelson, OT Mike McGlinchey, QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, and WR Torii Hunter Jr.

In other words, I would have needed just about every draft possibility for Notre Dame to reach 20 draft picks in two years. The Irish probably won’t reach 15 and may need some guys to bypass eligibility to reach a dozen.

If we get credit for a good mock draft last weekend, the prediction of 20 in two years deserves to be mocked.

4 – Not-So-Glowing Review: You are an NFL scout. You call Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher for some insight into an NFL team’s desire to sign QB Everett Golson to a free-agent contract. Oh, to be a fly on the wall…

5 – Mr. Irrelevant: Someone please explain why the NFL supports an award for the last player in the NFL draft dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant.” I get the part where he benefits from being last. He spends a week in Newport Beach, Calif., where they roast him and present him with the “Lowsman Trophy.” The trophy depicts a player fumbling the football.

And we have this award for what reason? To make fun of a football player who has virtually no chance to make it in the NFL? Wow, great fun.

6 – Beachem’s Back: No surprise that senior-to-be sharpshooter V.J. Beachem removed his name from the list of NBA draft aspirants and announced his decision to return for his final year of eligibility with the Irish.

No surprise, of course, since Beachem was not invited to the combine and isn’t ready for the NBA. He bypassed a handful of opportunities to work out for some NBA teams, and declared his desire to focus on the task at hand, which is helping his teammates prepare for a challenging 2016-17 season that has lost three sure-fire NBA players (Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson) and another that’s at least in the conversation (Zach Auguste) over the last two years.

7 – Geben’s Turn?: Irish head basketball coach Mike Brey, in a recent conversation with South Bend Tribune reporter Tom Noie, said that the first attempt at an answer to Notre Dame’s gap up front with the departure of Auguste likely will be junior Martin Geben.

Geben, the 6-foot-10, 253-pound Lithuanian via St. Maria Goretti in Maryland, was given chances to be a consistent contributor early in his freshman season. It wasn’t pretty. Auguste got a majority of the playing time with Bonzie Colson, Austin Torres and Austin Burgett mixing in. Geben’s game – at least in games – deteriorated.

Now it’s Geben’s turn, and as Brey correctly pointed out, this program usually has an answer from its junior class when it needs it.

Irish Illustrated heard on several occasions – including during the NCAA tournament run – that Geben often was the best Irish player on the practice court. It’s hard to picture considering his limited vertical jump and lack of finesse around the basket.

A trimmed down version of Geben would help. A healthy 6-foot-9 sophomore Elijah Burns seems more likely.

8 – Talking Tripucka: For those whose sports memories don’t dip back into the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, you missed a great one in Kelly Tripucka, Notre Dame’s No. 4 all-time leading scorer when he finished at Notre Dame and current No. 12 on the Irish basketball list.

Tripucka, at 6-foot-7, 220-plus pounds, was a complete offensive player. He could post you up and beat you with his strength. He could penetrate and finish at the rim. His jump shot was as pretty as just about anyone who has ever worn the Irish uniform. He was a rebounder as well.

If you haven’t read our Catching Up With…story on Tripucka earlier this week, check it out. For those who do remember Tripucka and often wondered if the stories about his rocky relationship with head coach Digger Phelps were true, wonder no more. Tripucka eliminated the gray area on that one.

9 – Player Bios: Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson, Tim O’Malley and myself held the second annual Notre Dame player bio draft Monday.

There’s no rhyme or reason as to who we pick per se because each scholarship player will be featured, one per day, beginning next week and going through mid-July. It’s just as easy to write about a player with limited accomplishments on the gridiron as it is one with a long resume. You just fill in the blanks.

We tend to lean toward choosing those we have interviewed in the fall and/or spring. Also key: spreading out the picks alphabetically so you don’t have to write five of them in one week.

They’re kind of fun for us to write – with O’Malley clearly getting the biggest kick out of it – and a little different from our normal feature presentations.

ND A to Z begins Monday with RB Josh Adams.

10 – Kentucky Derby Prediction: Exaggerator (No. 11 post position). Top Stories