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A New Home in The Pros: Recapping Where Our Notre Dame Stars Landed in The 2024 NFL Draft

Written by Owen O'Connor  Writer  Twitter/X: @Ocon54

Photo - Los Angeles Times

The NFL draft is one that is very familiar to Notre Dame and their fans. Throughout history, the Fighting Irish have had 525 draft picks excluding the players recently selected, the most out of every division 1 NCAA program. This year, many of our talented playmakers had the honor of being selected this weekend in the 2024 NFL Draft hosted in Detroit. Between Joe Alt and Javonte Jean-Baptiste, Notre Dame heard their university name called multiple times throughout the entirety of the draft for a total of 7 selections. Overall, Notre Dame's presence was felt this weekend in Detroit after many Fighting Irish stars found new homes, whether it be through the selection or signing process.

Some of our selected alumni have higher expectations than others. With so many transactions in the last few days, let's recap where all of our Notre Dame stars landed this weekend and how they will make an impact on their first professional team:

Joe Alt - OT - Los Angeles Chargers

Draft Result: Round 1, 5th overall to the Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers start their regime under new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh with one of the safest pro-ready players in the draft class. There was no doubt that the All-American Offensive Tackle was going to be the first Notre Dame player selected, but it is a huge achievement to officially become a top 5 pick. After allowing only one sack in the 2023 season for the Irish, Alt is expected to be the starting Left Tackle for the next decade in LA. The selection of Alt gives the Chargers a potential long-term tackle to pair with Rashawn Slater. This also secures the safety of franchise Quarterback Justin Herbert, who is seen as one of top young QB's in the NFL.

The selection of Alt was not a huge surprise since anyone could use his ability, but was one some Chargers and Fighting Irish fans didn't expect. Many NFL insiders and our Irish Tribune analysts predicted Alt to be selected by the Tennessee Titans at the 7th pick. They ultimately had to decide on their second option, Alabama Tackle JC Latham. Along with a Left Tackle need that has now been filled, the Chargers have a desperate need for an offensive weapon for their franchise QB. Both Georgia Tight End Brock Bowers and LSU WR Malik Nabers were available for the taking, and are seen as elite playmakers. This shows the value in the safety and security of a player like Alt, especially because he comes from the reputable "O-Line U" at Notre Dame. Alt will be next in line behind other household names such as Quentin Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, and Ronnie Stanley.

Blake Fisher - OT - Houston Texans

Draft Result: Round 2, 59th overall to the Houston Texans

Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio made former Fighting Irish tackle Blake Fisher one of their higher-end picks in this year's draft class. After losing their former starting Right Tackle George Fant to the Seattle Seahawks, this was an immediate need for Houston that Fisher can help with. Fisher was a vital member of an offensive line that helped the running offense finish 2022 and 2023 ranked 35th (189.1 yards per game) and 27th (185.7) in the FBS, respectively. In terms of sacks allowed per game (1.62) in 2022, Notre Dame ranked 40th; in 2023, however, they were 19th (1.23).

After addressing the defense with their earlier second round pick, Caserio had obvious reasoning similar to the Chargers behind this selection, protect the franchise QB. Both the Chargers and Texans are in similar situations where their offense will be completely reliant on the performance and health of their top offensive player under center. Last season was a perfect example of how losing your starting Quarterback can derail the hopes and dreams of your season goal, and protecting them is more important now than ever. Unlike the Chargers, the Texans also addressed a different need offensively with their recent trade acquisition of Stefon Diggs. This allowed Caserio to rely on his earlier draft picks to select premier talent like Blake Fisher who will be an immediate upgrade at the position.

Marist Liufau - LB - Dallas Cowboys

Draft Result: Round 3, 87th overall to the Dallas Cowboys

With the loss of Leighton Vander Esch to a medical forced retirement, the Cowboys needed a playmaker who is pro ready. Liufau was initially projected to fall into the 4th round, but this earlier selection comes as no surprise to Fighting Irish fans. During his time at Notre Dame, Liufau was one of the most electric defenders on the field thanks to his acceleration, football IQ, and tackling ability. The earlier selection shows that Dallas has high hopes for him to step in and play immediately. According to ESPN, Liufau is projected to be the starting SLB next to a very talented group. This LB room includes Erick Kendricks, Mason Clark, and 2x First-team All-Pro Micah Parsons. Our former Fighting Irish star will be able to learn from some very talented veterans while still gaining game experience.

The NFL has lately highlighted the talent and potential for Day 2 selected players in their league, and Marist Liufau has a chance to be one of those featured players. It will be a fascinating year for Liufau, who is now in a very bright spotlight in Dallas.

Cam Hart - CB - Los Angeles Chargers

Draft Result: Round 5, 140th overall to the Los Angeles Chargers

After selecting Joe Alt with the 5th overall pick on Thursday night in the first round, Harbaugh continues to build his new regime with Notre Dame stars. This was a surprise selection by the Chargers since they selected Maryland CB Tarheeb Hill at the 137th pick just 3 selections before. If this was to tell us anything, it's that Coach Harbaugh is a fan of Cam Hart. Thanks to his 4.50 40-yard sprint time, Hart only gave up more than 25 yards in a game once in 2023. One knock on Cam Hart was his injury history, as he's had 3 shoulder surgeries in the last 5 years. Even still, he proved to be very impressive on the field and the Chargers thought so as well.

Hart doesn't have a lot of interceptions in his last 32 collegiate games, so he's not a ball-hawk cornerback, but he does have an interesting toolkit that will at least make him a great punt gunner. His competition at the CB room in LA is Asante Samuel Jr and Tarheeb Hill, but he will have his chance to make an early impression in rookie mini camp this summer.

JD Bertrand - LB - Atlanta Falcons

Draft Result: Round 5, 143rd overall to the Atlanta Falcons

JD Bertrand gets to happily return home to Georgia. After a very well performed career for the Fighting Irish, Bertrand entered the NFL draft with hopes to go as early as the 3rd round. There was no doubt he would be selected, the only question was where to. The 4 year Notre Dame LB reminds many fans of former star Drue Tranquill, an underrated playmaker who will not surprise us as a good professional player. The player comparisons have appeared before but now make more sense after his final draft spot. Tranquill was selected in round 4 of the 2019 NFL draft with the 130th pick, only 13 slots earlier than Bertrand.

Bertrand's draft stock was unfortunately impacted after his total tackle number declined on back to back seasons, but this wasn't the way to sum up his year in 2023. Bertrand led the Notre Dame defense with improvements on his sack total, pass deflections, and forced fumbles from the previous season. While being impressive on the field, Bertrand also represented the University and himself very well. JD was a finalist for the Wuerfell Trophy (community service) and the Wiliam V. Campbell Trophy, which is viewed as the academic heisman. Bertrand will have to fight for playing time in the Atlanta LB room, but he will have a very reasonable chance of winning a starting spot. At the very least, expect Bertrand to get minimal snaps on defense and be a key special teams player early on.

And many might ask, where is Drue Tranquill now? He is the starting MLB for the Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs, currently operating under a 3 year deal.

Audric Estime - RB - Denver Broncos

Draft Result: Round 5, 147th overall to the Denver Broncos

Estime fell a lot further than many Fighting Irish fans would've liked to see. Due to his slower 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine earlier this spring, his draft stock took a serious hit. Estime also has the disadvantage of playing a position where the value seems to change every season in the NFL. When on the field, Estime proved to be one of the best offensive weapons for Notre Dame early on after having over 500 yards rushing in the first 4 games of 2023. Luckily, the fan-favorite RB was selected by the Denver Broncos, a team with an open spot at his position.

Denver selected Estime with higher hopes than many other 5th round selections. The Broncos still have both of their main contributors on the ground from last season despite the acquisition of Audric Estime. To fans, this shows that they are unsatisfied at this position, and the rushing statistics for the Broncos in 2023 speak for themselves. Javonte Williams was seen as a disappointment as the starting RB this last season despite a promising rookie campaign in 2021. This past season, he averaged only 3.6 YPC along with a disappointing 3 TD's. He also finished with an overall PFF grade of 63.3, ranking outside the top 20 RB's. Estime will have his chance to prove doubters wrong about his 40 yard dash time and potentially win the starting RB job. Estime is not predicted to start right away, but there is no doubt he is in line to be a productive back for the Broncos this upcoming season. If he shows he is the best back in the room, expect Head Coach Sean Payton to go with the hot hand.

Javontae Jean-Baptiste - DE - Washington Commanders

Draft Result: Round 7, 222nd overall to the Washington Commanders

After a five-year run with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Javontae Jean-Baptiste found the success he was looking for in South Bend. Jean-Baptiste transferred to Notre Dame with the hopes of one last shot at impressing NFL scouts and showing he belonged with the best of the best.

He played in all 13 games with 12 starts in 2023, piling up 49 tackles, a team-high 10.5 tackles-for-loss, five sacks and 11 quarterback hurries. This was easily his best collegiate season of his career, and a good time for it. He’ll need to hit the weights to improve his physicality, but he has the footwork and agility to slide off of blocks and make tackles in the NFL.

Jean-Baptiste now enters his professional career with some tough competition ahead of him. Dante Fowler Jr, Dorance Armstrong, and Clelin Ferrell are the biggest competitors that Jean-Baptiste has in front of him. Head Coach Dan Quinn enters his new regime with an open mind, and a defensive one. We will most likely see most of our former Fighting Irish star in the preseason rather than the regular season barring injuries, but Coach Quinn will make sure to give Baptiste his chance if he impresses early on.

Sam Hartman - QB - Washington Commanders

Draft Result: Undrafted Free Agent signing to the Washington Commanders

Sam Hartman was unfortunately not selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. Like many other UDFA's, Hartman has found an opportunity with the Washington Commanders to compete in the preseason for a chance at a roster spot. Before signing the Notre Dame QB, the Commanders added another collegiate Quarterback as well. They selected reigning Heisman winner Jayden Daniels from LSU with the second overall pick in the first round. A silver lining for Hartman is that he received a very generous offer that is unheard of for a UDFA.

The Commanders gave Hartman a $20K signing bonus along with a $225K base salary guarantee, per NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero. Many undrafted free agents do not have the pleasure of a guaranteed base salary after being unselected. This shows that Hartman is not just a camp arm for the preseason, but a QB the Commanders would love to keep for the foreseeable future. He will have to battle for his roster spot with Quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, Jeff Driskel, and fellow rookie Jayden Daniels.


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