Selected in the first, second, third and fourth rounds of the 2016 NFL draft at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, IL, the last week of April 2016 will be memorable for seven former members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. With seven picks in the first four rounds, the 2016 Irish draft class matches the 1955, 1967, 1993 and 1994 draft classes for the most in school history at this elite stage.
Joining first round selections offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (Baltimore Ravens) and Will Fuller (Houston Texans), linebacker Jaylon Smith, selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 34th overall pick and center Nick Martin, selected by the Houston Texans with the 50th overall pick in the second round. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 74th overall pick and running back C.J. Prosise, selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 90th overall pick in the third round and defensive tackle Sheldon Day selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth round 103rd overall.
Jaylon Smith becomes the highest-drafted linebacker from Notre Dame since Demetrius DuBose (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and the fourth-highest drafted linebacker in school history. Smith is the 10th linebacker in school history to be taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft and first since Manti Te’o. Smith, who started all 39 games of his Irish career, was named a consensus All-American in 2015 by the NCAA. He was a first-team pick by the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF), American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and The Sporting News. He also was a first-team selection by Sports Illustrated, USA Today, CBS Sports and Athlon Sports, as well as a second-team choice by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
Smith, the 2015 Butkus Award recipient, led Notre Dame in total tackles, solo tackles, assisted tackles, pass breakups and fumble recoveries during the regular season. He ranked third on the team with nine tackles for loss. Smith was the first Irish player with consecutive 100-tackle seasons since Manti Te’o hit that milestone for three straight years from 2010-12.
Nick Martin, becomes the highest drafted Notre Dame center since the Cleveland Browns chose Jeff Faines and the ninth center in school history to be selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 2003. Nick along with brother Zach Martin are the first set of brother in school history to each get selected in the top two rounds of the NFL Draft.
Martin, who started 37 of the 50 games over his Irish career, was named Notre Dame’s offensive lineman of the year in 2015. A two-time captain, one of 21 in school history, Martin allowed only three hurries, three hits and one sack on 374 pass blocking snaps this past season. He was a dominant force on arguably the top offensive line in all of college football.
KeiVarae Russell becomes the highest-drafted cornerback from Notre Dame since Bobby Taylor in the 1995 draft and the fifth-highest drafted cornerback in school history. Russell becomes the seventh cornerback in school history to be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft and first since Allen Rossum in 2013. Starting 37 games over his three-year Irish career. He finished his career with 169 tackles, 125 solo stops, 19 passes defended, seven tackles for loss, five interceptions, one and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Russell becomes the 16th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and first since Jordan Black in the 2003 draft.
C.J. Prosise becomes the highest-drafted running back from Notre Dame since Julius Jones in the 2004 draft. Prosise is the 22nd running back in school history and to be selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. Starting in 18 games of his 37 games, three year career, Prosise rushed for 1,158 yards, 12 TDs and caught 62 passes for 896 yards and three TDs over his career. He led the Irish in carries, rushing yards, rushing TDs and rushing yards per game. Ranked fifth on the team with 26 receptions and 308 recieving yards, his 1,032 rushing yards were the most by a Notre Dame running back since Cierre Wood in single-season school history.
Sheldon Day, a two time captain for the Irish started in 32 or the 48 games played during his career at Notre Dame. He finished his career with 32.0 tackles for loss, seven and a half sacks, registered 141 tackles, including 91 solo stops, as well as eight passes defended, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. A two-time Notre Dame Lineman of the Year, Day had the best season of his Irish career as a senior in 2015. He was named first-team All-America by USA Today and earned second-team honors by Phil Steele, Football Writers Association of America, Associated Press and Athlon. Day tallied 45 tackles, including a team-high 15.5 for loss, four sacks, four passes defended and two forced fumbles. His 15.5 tackles for loss were the most by an Irish player since Derek Landri in 2006. Day ranked 20th in the FBS in solo tackles for loss, 33rd in tackles for loss and tied for 42nd in tackles for loss per game (1.19). He recorded at least one tackle for loss in 11 of Notre Dame’s 13 games.
Notre Dame’s seven picks tied Alabama and Florida for the fourth-most of any school in 2016. The seven-man haul brings Notre Dame’s all-time NFL Draft roll to 492 members, just one shy of USC (493) for the most all-time.