Draft Projections

The 2007 NFL draft will represent Notre Dame's most highly represented draft since 1993. Notre Dame could possibly produce one top-ten pick, one 2nd round pick, and two 3rd round picks. Much has happened since their last game to fluctuate their draft stock. In some cases we have seen a player's rating go up, down, and then up again.

The following is a summary of where I believe some of Notre Dame's draft eligible players stand at this point. With the draft just over three weeks away, there is still plenty of time to see the stock fluctuate. In addition, I will provide a projection of where I see each player getting drafted.

Brady Quinn – Brady's stock has been as highly monitored recently as that of Google or G.E. In the immediate aftermath of the Sugar Bowl, Quinn saw his draft stock take a dip due to concerns over his supposed inability to "win the big game." At the time, many prognosticators forecasted Brady going somewhere between the 7th and 10th picks, to teams like Houston, Minnesota, or Miami. These arguments were easy to make because all the experts had to do was look at Quinn's stats from his games against Michigan, USC, LSU, and Ohio State.

However what is not shown in those stats is that Quinn was frequently forced to become a gunslinger and throw his team back into the game. All too frequently in these big games, it was defensive breakdowns that cost the team the game. While Brady may have not played his best in those games, his defense was not giving him much wiggle room.

Also, Quinn's stock may have dipped because he has been the "IT" guy on the college football scene since the 2006 draft, which sent such stars Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and Vince Young to the NFL. "Experts" have had so much time to dissect his abilities that some will say that he's not the player that everyone thought. This same thing happened to Matt Leinart a year ago when some thought that he was not the main reason for USC's success. Come draft day, he fell to No. 10 overall. This was a blessing in disguise because Leinart joined a talented Arizona Cardinals team that already had offensive tools in place. If Brady Quinn were to fall to a team like the Miami Dolphins, a very similar blessing could occur.

However, in recent weeks we have seen a recovery in Brady's stock. Quinn showed great strength in the bench press and was very solid at both of his pro days. At this point, I would be surprised if Brady lasted beyond the top four picks. Quinn would be a great fit for the Cleveland Browns of his home state. However, I don't think they can't get him at #3 overall. I think they will have to move up to secure the former Heisman candidate.
Projection: 1st round, Cleveland Browns, 2nd overall (trade from Detroit).

Victor Abiamiri – The Maryland native's raw physical talent is going to be his biggest advantage come draft day. Abiamiri's mix of size, strength and speed make him an ideal DE on paper. It will be his perceived lack of production that keeps him from being viewed as a top-tier defensive end. I believe that Victor Abiamiri is a guy who could surprise a lot of people and contribute pretty early on in his NFL career. As previously stated, the strongest arguments against Abiamiri have been that he did not put up the type of numbers one would have expected in college considering his talent. While there may be some truth to this, I believe that Abiamiri was never paired with a solid group of linemen to complement him. With depth issues throughout the defense during his career, Abiamiri became the focal point of the opposing team's pass protection philosophies.

Abiamiri will have to overcome the perception that he disappeared at times during this college career. But that's all it is, perception. There is a lot of talent and depth at the defensive end position in the 2007 draft. There could be as many as six defensive ends taken in the first round. Victor is a guy whose stock has risen since his last college game. His performances at the combine and ND's pro day have provided enough information for college scouts to forget some of their previous concerns and move him up draft broads. I anticipate Victor being selected in the middle or even the top of the 2nd round.
Projection: 2nd round, Cincinnati, 49th Overall.

Ryan Harris – After a very productive career as the anchor of Notre Dame's offensive line, I think some may have been disappointed with Harris' performance at the Senior Bowl and his respective workouts. Harris struggled at the Senior Bowl to stay with his blocking assignments. Since then, Ryan has seen his stock stumble. At the NFL combine, he weighed in at 305 pounds, silencing some of the questions about his size. Harris tested out to be slightly below average in strength, but slightly above average in agility. Harris' struggles at the Senior Bowl, and lack of knockout performance at the Combine and pro day could end up dropping him to the end of the first day of the draft. Despite some of these issues Harris will prove to be a quality back-up and possible starter in the NFL.
Current Projection: 3rd round, Houston, 73rd Overall.

Darius Walker – Speed was a hot topic of discussion throughout Darius Walker's productive career at Notre Dame. Many thought he didn't possess the "game-breaking" speed to be a big-time college back. Despite the criticisms, Darius Walker proved himself to be a tough, versatile player who can run, catch, and block. What made him even better was his reliability, he rarely fumbled. Walker ran in the 4.5's in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and his pro day. While this number may not be electrifying, it certainly didn't hurt him. Consider that Penn State RB Tony Hunt, who could be off the board in the second round, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 and 4.71 at his recent pro day. While it may be true that Hunt is a different type of back, it seems clear that Walker's lack of speed may be over-hyped. Darius Walker can be a great fit for a team as a 3rd down back. I picture him as a great complement to a team with a starter already in place. While I don't believe he can be the focal point of a team's running attack, his blocking and receiving skills make him a great option for a team on passing downs. I expect Darius Walker to come off the board at the top of the fourth round on the draft's second day. I think he will provide some team great value at that point in the draft.
Current Projection: 4th round, San Francisco, 106th Overall.

Rhema McKnight – After his season-ending injury during the Michigan game of the 2005 season, Rhema McKnight returned for a fifth year in 2006 and achieved some very lofty numbers. McKnight is a tough, athletic receiver with good size. He struggled at the end of 2006, dropping too many balls. This provided some negative momentum heading into the NFL combine and pro days. McKnight did not run the 40-yard dash at any of his workouts. Maybe he has been injured, but I find it hard to believe that Rhema helped himself by not running. It is not inconvincible to imagine a pro scout thinking, "Is he afraid to run the 40?" As a result, it is very hard to imagine Rhema being selected anywhere in the top 4 rounds of the draft. However, McKnight is known to be a hard worker with a good attitude. I'm sure that was obvious during his interviews with prospective teams. If Rhema can make teams believe that he can catch the easy balls, in addition to the hard ones, he'll provide good value in the 5th or 6th round.
Projection: 6th round, Tennessee, 189th overall.

Mike Richardson – Many considered Mike Richardson to be one of the most improved players on the Notre Dame squad during the 2006 season. His strong campaign provided momentum going into the Combine and pro day. As a former wide receiver, Richardson has the athletic ability to play cornerback at the professional level. At 5-foot-11, he has the size too. Richardson did not participate at the NFL combine, so the only teams to see him workout were those that traveled to ND's pro day.
Projection: 7th round, Dallas, 193rd overall.

Chinendum Nduwke – Another coverted offensive player that found a role in Notre Dame's secondary. At 6-foot-2, Nduwke has great size and good speed. (4.5 40-yard dash at the combine). However, Nduwke's biggest problems at Notre Dame were not talent, but his lack of big plays at his position. Many say that he was frequently out of passion and became exposed on big plays. Nduwke's solid combine numbers may have landed him in the 7th round, but it'll be close.
Projection: 7th round, Indianapolis, 223rd overall

Much can change during this exciting time of year of predictions and prognostications. Stay tuned as we continue to follow the stock of Notre Dame's draft eligible players.

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