• Phil Houk

2021 NFL Draft: ND Fan 'Cheat Sheet'

Updated: Apr 28

By: Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview

Building off of last year’s wildly popular Fighting Irish Preview NFL draft guide, here is what Notre Dame fans need to know as they watch the 2021 draft.

In all, 14 Fighting Irishmen are in play which means there is a pretty good chance the record for most players selected in the Brian Kelly era will fall. In fact the "guess" below indicates that the old record just may be broken by a significant margin. The record for most players drafted in the Brian Kelly era stands at 8 in 2014. That 2014 group was headed up by Zack Martin who was selected 16th overall by the Cowboys.

Going back a bit further, since the NFL draft went to the current 7 round format in 1994, the most ever selected was 10 and that happened during that 1994 first 7 round draft. The Irish had three first rounders that year, Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris.

Having so many players contend for the draft this year indicates two things. First it is a sign of strong player development and solid recruiting, that is a good thing. But the fact that 14 players are going out the door with NFL prospects is a certain sign that the Irish will be looking to fill a lot of holes in their 2021 line up.

Here is the list in predicted order of selection, along with likely free agents.

1. Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah OLB, 6-1½, 221

Comment: Butkus award winner as the best linebacker in the nation, "Wu" is a bit undersized, but he has everything else. His combination of instincts, speed and power will turn him into an explosive fan favorite wherever he goes.

2. Liam Eichenberg OL, 6-6 1/8, 306

Comment: 38 starts and he kept Ian Book's 'blindside' mostly clean at an impressive rate. Better known for his pass pro than run blocking. The Colts are looking to replace a retiring Anthony Castonzo, and are slated to draft 21st in round one. If they trade down, it might be a sign that Eichenberg is headed to Indy. There, he would team with Quenton Nelson.

3. Aaron Banks OG, 6-5 3/8, 325

Comment: One of the keys to the Irish successful run game in 2020. His, size, mobility, durability and high-level College experience should spell, “NFL Payday” for Banks.

4. Tommy Tremble, TE, 6-3 3/8, 241

Comment: But for the emergence of Michael Mayer, Tremble’s draft stock may well have been higher. Expect the NFL to figure that out. A devastating blocker, who ran a 4.59 on his pro day, conventional wisdom has been that any skills he lacks in catching the ball, he can develop.

5. Robert Hainsey, OG, 6-4 ½ 306

Comment: 33 starts and a 2-time Captain. Combine those traits with his potential for versatility-he took reps at center and guard at the Senior Bowl, should make him a middle round pick.

6. Ade Ogundeji, DE, 6-4 ½, 260

Comment: Steady improvement at ND, the former 3- star has worked his way into NFL contention. Great measurables including 35 ½ inch arm length and a 4.7 40 time, his best football may well be ahead of him.

7. Nick McCloud, CB, 6-0 1/8, 193

Comment: After playing through a shoulder injury and providing stability as a grad transfer to the Irish secondary in 2020, his stock is moving up. Two Hula Bowl interceptions and an impressive 4.37 forty time on his pro day, combined with size and high level experience should earn him a later round draft status.

8. Daelin Hayes DE, 6-3 ½ 253

Comment: His excellent fundamentals reflect hard work and Mike Elston’s coaching. Emerged as a team leader, serving as a Captain in 2020. Shoulder injuries have plagued him since High School, which may keep him from going higher. Arguably played his best game in the overtime victory over Clemson.

9. Ian Book QB, 6-0, 211

Comment: Combine mobility, athleticism, escapability, leadership skills and 30 victories at Notre Dame with a so-so arm, limited field vision and less than ideal size and you likely have a back up NFL QB with the potential to earn millions.

10. Tommy Kraemer, OG, 6-5 ½, 309

Comment: 39 starts, prototype NFL guard size and versatility. Suffered a knee injury at Michigan in 2019 but recovered to play well in 2020. The highly recruited prospect out of high school, looks like a last day pick.

11. Ben Skowronek WR, 6-2 7/8, 220

Comment: Nagging injuries have been an issue, but strong hands, excellent size and deceptive speed may make this grad transfer from Northwestern, one of ND's 11 overall picks in this year’s draft. Lots of receivers in this year's draft, but Skowronek's size and strength sets him apart.

12. Javon McKinley, WR, 6-1 ¾ 215 (FA)

Comment: A late bloomer, can he continue his development? Led the Irish in 2020 with 42 catches. 4.57 pro day speed a bit slow.

13. Shaun Crawford, DB, 5-9 1/8 182 (FA)

Comment: Oh, what could have been for this oft injured 6 year player. Showed good 4.47 speed on his pro day. Coverage skills a plus.

14. Brock Wright, TE, 6-4 ½, 257 (FA)

Comment: On his pro day, showed better than anticipated speed (4.60) and put up 26 bench press reps. Rarely targeted at ND, but the NFL loves ND tight ends. Why not Wright?

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will start on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. and go until approximately 11:30 p.m. ET. Friday’s TV coverage of the second and third rounds will start at 7:00 p.m. ET while Saturday’s will begin at 12:00 p.m. ET.

ABC, ESPN, and the NFL Network will all air the entire draft.

ESPN coverage will feature host Mike Greenberg with Mel Kiper Jr., Louis Riddick, Booger McFarland, Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen and Suzy Kolber.

ABC’s coverage will feature Rece Davis, Maria Taylor, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Todd McShay, Jesse Palmer and David Pollack.

On the NFL Network, host and contributors will include: Rich Eisen, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis, David Shaw, Kurt Warner, Joel Klatt, Ian Rapoport and Melissa Stark.

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