Draft Preview

Author: Daniel Paglia

Notre Dame has long been associated with the NFL Draft. With nine picks in last year’s draft class, the university regained its crown as the school with the most picks in draft history and has seen at least one player drafted in all but one NFL Draft. Players come to Notre Dame with the dream of one day hearing their name called at the NFL Draft, and this year will be no different as several Irish players head to the draft with high aspirations. Whether it be bonafide stars selected in the first round or diamonds in the rough selected in the later rounds, Notre Dame will continue to be well represented in the NFL Draft come this spring. 

First Round Aspirations 

From a little known recruit out of Atlanta to a five-star prospect per 247Sports, Kyle Hamilton has seen a continuous upward trend in his NFL potential throughout his career. Considered the best professional prospect on the Notre Dame roster heading into the season, Hamilton did not disappoint in the first seven games of the season before he suffered a season-ending knee injury against USC in late October. Hamilton, a captain of the 2021 Fighting Irish, racked up 34 tackles (138 career) and 3 interceptions (8 career) in his junior season before declaring for the NFL Draft prior to the team’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. Listed as Mel Kiper’s fourth best prospect overall on the board, whichever team selects Kyle Hamilton will be getting a ball-hawking, hard-hitting safety who can immediately bolster an NFL secondary in his first professional season. 

While not currently projected to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, running back Kyren Williams could see his stock soar after NFL executives review his film and testing numbers. Williams has eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark in each of the last two seasons, ending the 2021 campaign with 1,002 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. The versatile running back chipped in an additional 359 yards receiving on 42 receptions for three touchdowns. Williams’ value to the team was proven even further after the Irish struggled mightily to run the ball against the Oklahoma State defense in the Fiesta Bowl (Williams opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL Draft). Whether Kyren Williams finds himself drafted in the first round or has to wait until the second day to hear his name called, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the best playmakers in recent Notre Dame history. He will bring energy, power, speed and elusiveness to any NFL backfield. 

Potential Riser 

Kevin Austin has the prototypical measurables to become a very talented wide receiver at the next level, but with just one full year of production at Notre Dame, he is projected to be a later-round pick at this year’s NFL Draft. Austin burst onto the scene this past season with 888 receiving yards on just 48 receptions, averaging an impressive 18.5 yards per catch. He added seven touchdowns and a 2-point conversion catch while becoming one of the team’s most trustworthy receivers. Austin will surely impress NFL executives at his Pro Day with his solid frame (listed at 215 pounds) and height (listed at 6’2”), as well as his physicality while making contested catches. Considered more of a developmental prospect, Austin will likely be taken in Rounds 4-7 and will have to earn his way onto an NFL roster throughout training camps. 

Defensive Stalwarts 

Over the past few seasons in South Bend, few names have been heard more than Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Kurt Hinish, and Drew White. In fact, all three earned roles as captains this past fall and led the Irish defense to another successful season. While not playing the flashiest of positions throughout their careers at Notre Dame, each of these three players have steadily contributed greatly to the success of the Irish defense. Tagovailoa-Amosa, a graduate student who transitioned from defensive tackle to defensive end this season in order to help the team, finished the year with 25 total tackles and two sacks. He also contributed one of the highlights of the season when he scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown on Senior Day. Hinish concluded his Notre Dame career with 28 total tackles and 2 sacks in his final season in South Bend, while White contributed an additional 55 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a pick-six before heading to the NFL Draft. No player in Notre Dame history has played more career games than Hinish (61). After impressive careers for the Fighting Irish, these three defensive stalwarts will look to find success in the NFL, whether it be from a late-round draft pick or by signing as an undrafted free agent. 

As the Irish look to reload next season and continue building on the program’s recent success, these players will be sure to make names for themselves in the NFL like the many former Irish players before them.