Top Three Notre Dame NFL Draft Prospects on Defense

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Notre Dame did not have a player selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. 2021 will likely be no different. But similar to 2020, Notre Dame will be well represented. There are eight players on the team who can expect to hear their name called or sign onto an NFL team in 2021.

The second of three bye weeks (we’ll probably have some more of those, now that the state of Indiana has decided to go full re-opening) is the perfect time to look at who those top prospects are.

Today we look at the prospects on defense, go here for the offense. For our latest NFL mock draft go here.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB) 6-1, 216 

If Liam Eichenberg isn’t the first Notre Dame player picked in the NFL draft, it’s likely to be Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK). The versatility of JOK will be his best asset when NFL scouts look at his film. In 2019, Owusu-Koramoah led the Irish with 70 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss. He added 5.5 sacks, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. 

notre dame pro day

Owusu-Koramoah reflects the defensive players needed to handle the new NFL offenses focused on “pace and space.” NFL defenses need players who have the skill set to stay on the field in all down and distance scenarios. JOK’s athleticism and versatility are similar to other hybrid defenders like Derwin James, Isaiah Simmons, and Shaq Thompson. 

Playing the “rover” position for Notre Dame, JOK offers the third safety to the Irish Defense. He often matched up with the slot receiver but was also used by defensive coordinator Clark Lea as a traditional box linebacker in 2019. He played 200 of his 683 snaps in the box last year. When Lea placed JOK on the line of scrimmage, he lines up as an additional pass rusher and overhang defender, using speed to get to the quarterback and make plays. 

Projected Round: 2-3

Comparison: Patrick Chung 

Daelin Hayes (DE) 6-4, 266

Daelin Hayes has struggled to recapture the excitement from his sophomore year. After spending most of his career behind Khalid Kareem (Cincinnati Bengals) and Julian Okwara (Detroit Lions), Hayes suffered a torn labrum in 2019 that cut his season short. 2020 will be the year that allows the defensive end a chance to shine. 

Hayes has the build of a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s athletic – showing the speed needed to chase down plays from the backside, great reaction to RPOs, and he can drop into pass coverage. 

notre dame

His pass rush is limited, and he lacks the consistency to bend the edge and attack the quarterback. Hayes has a great spin move that he’s thrown a few times, but it’s not compelling enough (e.g., Dwight Freeney) to make him a pass rush specialist. 

Hayes has never been the full-time starter for the Irish. In 2019, he only played in four games before getting hurt. For his career, he’s seen limited action and hasn’t jumped out on film. To climb up draft boards before the 2021 draft, Hayes will need to have a breakout season and put up a tremendous 40-yard dash at the combine. Even if he’s able to do that, there will be concerns about his durability. 

Projected Round: 6-Undrafted 

Player Comparison: Sam Acho 

Adetokunbo Ogundeji (DE) 6-4, 253

Adetokunbo (Ade) Ogundeji also spent most of his career behind Kareem and Okwara. With the limited opportunity in 2019, Ogundeji jumped off the screen, recording 14 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Pro Football Focus gave him the second-highest rating among Notre Dame defense players last year. 

Again, similar to Hayes, 2020 will be the year for Ogundeji to improve his draft stock. Ade plays the traditional 4-3 edge position for the Irish, but he might be best suited as a 5-technique in a 3-4 scheme. He’s a tremendous run stopper but will have to gain weight to play 5-technique at the next level (most 3-4 defensive ends are 290-300 pounds). 

 

notre dame pro day

As a pass rusher, Ogundeji has a limited skill set. Apart from a bull rush, he doesn’t have anything else. His strength allows him to get good leverage and make plays in the run game. In comparison to Hayes, he’s the inferior athlete and is a stiff runner that lacks acceleration and straight-line speed. 

With such a limited 2019 season, it’s hard to know what his ceiling is. 2020 will be an important year for him. 

Round Projection: 6-Undrafted 

Player Comparison: Karl Klug 

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