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Looking Back at Every First Round Draft Pick from Notre Dame in the Last Ten Years

Written by Jhett Garrett Writer Twitter/X: @JhettGarrett

Photo by Notre Dame Athletics


Over the last ten years, Notre Dame has had 47 players selected in the NFL Draft. Seven of those players performed well enough during their time in South Bend to be picked in the first round. In this article, I will be recapping the amateur, and professional careers for all eight of these players.


Zack Martin (2014)


OT, Pick 16, Dallas Cowboys


When talking about the greatest first-round picks from the University of Notre Dame, offensive lineman Zack Martin is towards the top of that list. He was a four-star prospect coming out of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and picked the Irish over Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan.


After redshirting his freshman season, Martin found himself starting on the offensive line in 2010, where he was the only player on the Notre Dame offense to start every game. He found himself starting every game once more during his sophomore year before being named a captain for the 2012 season. It was a special year for the unit that went 12-0 before losing in the National Championship Game against Alabama in 2013. Following this, Martin announced he would return for his senior season, where he became the 18th player in Notre Dame history to be named captain for the second time. Before being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, Martin would set the Notre Dame record for most starts by an offensive lineman with 52. In his final game with the Irish, the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, Martin won the MVP, becoming the first offensive lineman to win said award in a bowl game since 1959.


Martin would move to the guard position when he was drafted by the Cowboys. During his rookie season, Martin was named to a Pro Bowl, while also being the lone rookie on the All-Pro teams that season, becoming the first rookie offensive lineman to make an All-Pro team since 1947. During the rest of his rookie contract, Martin would make the Pro Bowl every season, and the All-Pro teams every season (three First-team, two Second-team). In June of 2018, Martin signed a six-year, $84 million contract extension with $40 million guaranteed with the Dallas Cowboys, which made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL. After signing the extension, Martin would miss his first career game due to a knee injury in week 15 of the 2019 season. Despite this, he became one of five offensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl in their first six seasons. In his ten-year career, Zack Martin has committed just seven holding penalties, and eight false starts, and has played 9.923 snaps. To say that Martin is a first-ballot Hall of Famer would be an understatement.




 

Ronnie Stanley (2016)


OT, Pick 6, Baltimore Ravens


When having the “O-Line U” debate, Ronnie Stanley is a guy who certainly helps the argument for Notre Dame. A four-star prospect out of Bishop Gorman High School, Stanley was ranked the number one player in the state of Nevada.


During his freshman season, Stanley was regarded more as a backup lineman for the Irish, only appearing in two games in the 2012 season. However, Stanley would be a huge part of the Notre Dame offensive line during his sophomore season in 2013. He started at right tackle in all 13 games, seeing him be a part of a team that gave up just eight sacks all season long, the second lowest in the FBS. Following the departure of Zack Martin in 2014, Stanley would make his move to right tackle where he would spend the rest of his college career. His junior season saw his best, giving up just one sack, and winning the award for Polynesian Football Player of the Year. It was because of this that Stanley found himself considering entering the draft, however, he would return to the Irish for the 2016 season before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the sixth overall pick.


Stanley was the highest drafted offensive lineman in 2016 and would be named the starting left tackle before the season. It was during that season that Stanley would make his first 12 career NFL starts before going down with a foot injury that caused him to miss four games. Despite this, Stanley was still the third-highest-ranked rookie offensive lineman after giving up three sacks all year.


He would once again give up three total sacks in the 2017 season despite starting three more games. It was his second season in the NFL, and after being ranked the 17th-best offensive lineman in the NFL during his rookie season, he would have high expectations throughout his career. He would finish his sophomore season ranked 13th.


At the end of the 2019 season, PFF gave Stanley the title of “the best pass-blocking-highest-paid tackle in the NFL.” It must have had some truth to it, because in October of 2020, Stanley would sign a five-year contract extension with Baltimore, that would see him being paid $112.8 million in max value, which made him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league.




 

Will Fuller (2016)


WR, Pick 21, Houston Texans


Ronnie Stanley would not be the only member of the Fighting Irish to be drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, as Will Fuller found himself a new home in Houston. He was a four-star prospect out of Roman Catholic High School located in Philadelphia, which caused him to originally commit to Penn State in June of 2012. However, just two months later, Fuller would switch his commitment to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.


Fuller had a hard time finding playing time during his freshman season, finishing with just six total receptions. It was in these six catches that Fuller would reel in his first career touchdown reception on a pass from Tommy Rees against Air Force. It would be his sophomore year that Will Fuller would become a household name on Saturdays in South Bend.


The back half of the 2014 season for Notre Dame is something many Irish fans will want to forget; however, Will Fuller was something worth remembering. He finished the year with 1,094 yards, 15 touchdowns, on 76 receptions. He had four games with 100 or more receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass in all but two of his 13 games played. In 2015, Fuller picked up right where he left off. Finishing with 1,258 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 62 receptions, Fuller felt it was time to enter the NFL Draft.


The Houston Texans selected Fuller with the 21st overall pick, making him the second wide receiver taken after the Cleveland Browns selected Corey Coleman at pick 15. He would make an immediate impact in his first career game against the Chicago Bears, where he would finish with 107 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. That next week, he would once again surpass the century mark, finishing with 104 yards on three receptions. Fuller would complete that season with 635 yards, and two touchdowns on 47 receptions.


His second season would unfortunately see him facing a collarbone injury suffered in August during training camp. Initially, it was expected that he would miss 2-3 months, and made his season debut on October 1st against the Tennessee Titans, where he caught four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. He would see the field in 10 games during the 2017 season, with a final stat line reading 28 receptions for 423 yards and seven touchdowns.


2018 was the year that changed everything for Will Fuller. He sat out game one of the season due to a hamstring injury but would find himself back on the field that next week. During his season debut, Fuller finished with 8 receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Titans. He would play the six games following this, seeing career-high numbers and exceptional development from the third-year player. However, things turned for the worse in week 8, where Will Fuller would go down with an ACL tear that would ultimately end his season. He totaled 32 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns in his seven games played.


He would bounce back during the 2019 season, reaching new career highs on multiple different occasions. Fuller saw himself tally 670 yards, three touchdowns that all came in one game against the Atlanta Falcons, and 49 receptions. Although he missed five games due to injury that season, it felt as if Fuller had proven himself once again in Houston. However, things would flip once more during the 2020 season.


With the departure of the Texans' number one receiver Deandre Hopkins, it was time to see how Will Fuller would look as a true WR1. He started the first 11 games of the season and was on pace for his first 1,000-yard receiving season since his time at Notre Dame. In week 11, Fuller would catch 6 passes, resulting in 171 yards and two touchdowns in a win against the Detroit Lions. Although it was not known at the time, this would be the final time Will Fuller would wear a Texans uniform as a player.


Fuller would be suspended for six games due to his involvement in performance-enhancing drugs that are prohibited by the NFL. This caused him to miss the final five games of the season, as well as the first game of the next. It was during this suspension that Fuller would sign a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins worth $10.6 million. He would be listed as inactive in week two before making his first appearance in week three where Fuller would finish with just three receptions and 20 yards. That next week, Fuller broke his thumb and was placed on the injured reserve list where he spent the rest of the 2021 season. Will Fuller has not signed an NFL contract since.




 

Quenton Nelson (2018)


OT, Pick 6, Indianapolis Colts


The Notre Dame offensive line in 2018 was a force to be reckoned with largely in part to Quenton Nelson. From Red Bank Catholic High School in New Jersey, Nelson was a two-sport athlete in high school playing both basketball and football, while also brushing up on his taekwondo skills. Nelson was a four-star prospect and ranked as the number six offensive tackle in the 2014 class. He signed his letter of intent with Notre Dame in February of 2014 and was on campus in August of that year.


Nelson would redshirt his freshman season with Ronnie Stanley holding down the tackle position but would switch to left guard in 2015 which allowed him to find a role on the line. In 2016, Nelson was named to the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated All-American second team. There were plenty of familiar names on that offensive line in 2016 that are playing in the NFL currently, and Quenton Nelson fit right in with the bunch.


That following season, Nelson once again found himself on an All-American team, except this time it was the First team; Unanimously. And while Notre Dame fans will always remember the magic of the Notre Dame offensive line in 2017, Nelson would forgo his final year of eligibility, and enter the NFL Draft.


Going into the draft there was plenty of speculation and mock drafts that had Nelson staying home in the Hoosier state and playing for the Indianapolis Colts. Surely enough, with the sixth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Quenton Nelson.


It didn’t take long for Nelson to make history in the NFL, winning Offensive Rookie of the Month in October, becoming the first guard to ever do so. He would make his first Pro Bowl in his rookie season and have made six straight since entering the league before missing it this past season by one vote. He was the first player in Colts history to make the Pro Bowl in his first five seasons. This play was recognized by league voters.


After the 2018 season, Quenton Nelson received two votes for Offensive Rookie of the Year, which was ultimately won by Saquon Barkley.


Nelson also played his way into being on the All-Pro first team for the first three seasons of his career, making him the second player to ever do so in their first three seasons (Barry Sanders). He would be named second-team All-Pro in 2021 and hasn’t made either team since. In September of 2022, Nelson would sign a four-year, $80 million contract extension with the Colts, making him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.





Mike McGlinchey (2018)


OT, Pick 9, San Francisco 49ers


Quenton Nelson was not the only top-ten pick that was residing on the Notre Dame offensive line in 2017. Nelson’s teammate on the left side of the line, Mike McGlinchey, went just three picks after his teammate to the San Francisco 49ers. Out of high school, McGlinchey was a four-star prospect out of Wiliam Penn Charter High School in Philadelphia. He was ranked as the number six overall player in the state of Pennsylvania, and the number 10 offensive tackle in the 2013 class. He announced his commitment to the Irish in March of 2012.


Like Nelson, McGlinchey would redshirt his freshman season in 2013 before appearing in all 13 games that next year. It was 2015 when McGlinchey would make his mark on the Notre Dame offensive line, starting all 13 games at right tackle. However, before the 2016 season, the Irish decided to move McGlinchey to the left side of the line with Quenton Nelson, and the rest is history. He would play two seasons at that position after returning to South Bend for his fifth year of eligibility before entering the draft in 2018.


McGlinchey went ninth overall to the San Francisco 49ers, where he would move back to right tackle after the departure of former Niner Trent Brown. During his rookie season, he would start all 16 games. Following this, he was named to the PWFA, and ESPN All-Rookie teams, an acknowledgment of the impressive season that McGlinchey had.


In 2019, McGlinchey would appear in 12 games and start all of them, however he would miss four games due to a knee injury. It was during this year that the 49ers found themselves in the Super Bowl. McGlinchey found himself starting in all three postseason games, however would fall to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20.


McGlinchey would start all 16 games for San Francisco in 2020, as well as the first nine games of the 2021 season. However, he would tear his quadricep in week nine, sidelining him for the rest of the season.


He would bounce back in the 2022 season, starting all 17 games, as well as three postseason games before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. That would be McGlinchey’s final game as a 49er, as he became a free agent after the season.


He was one of the top offensive linemen in the 2023 free agent class and would sign with the Denver Broncos on a five-year, $87.5 million contract. During the first year of his contract, he would once again start in all 17 games for the Broncos, meaning he has started in every NFL game that he has appeared in. While the awards aren’t rolling in for McGlinchey like they were for Nelson, he has still had an amazing career so far.

 




Jerry Tillery (2019)


DL, Pick 28, Los Angeles Chargers


Despite Jerry Tillery playing defensive line for Notre Dame in college, he was originally recruited as an offensive lineman. , Tillery was the number six offensive tackle in the entire 2015 class.


He was a four-star prospect out of Evangel Christian Academy in Louisiana but was ultimately switched to the defensive side of the ball before his freshman season. He was instantly plugged into the Irish defense, playing in 12 games that season, including three starts. Tillery didn’t jump off the stat sheet, but he made a noticeable impact on the game, finishing with 12 tackles and a sack, as well as two tackles for loss. It allowed Notre Dame fans to learn a name that would become very familiar over the next three years.


In his sophomore season Tillery’s role expanded, starting 11 of 12 games for the Irish. His number of tackles more than tripled, seeing him finish with 37 tackles, 19 were solo. Despite not picking up a sack on the year, he would still leave his mark with 3.5 TFLs. It wasn’t until Tillery’s junior season that he elevated himself to being one of the star players on the Notre Dame defense.


2017 was arguably Tillery’s best season in college where he would start all 13 games for the first time since arriving in South Bend. He also picked up multiple sacks for the first time in his career, finishing with 4.5. Along with his sacks going up, his number of tackles and TFLs would also go up with them. His TFLs nearly tripled as he would pick up nine of them, while also collecting 56 tackles. Although he had a great season and had a chance to be taken in the NFL draft, Tillery decided to stay at Notre Dame for one more season.


The 2018 Notre Dame team is one of the fans’ all-time favorites. The Irish would go undefeated and make their first appearance in the College Football Playoff since it was created in 2014. Jerry Tillery was a massive part of those accolades, picking up the most sacks of career with seven. Although other stats would regress, those who watched Tillery play in 2018 would know that he was more of a game-wrecker in his senior season. He would still finish with 8.5 TFLs while also collecting 28 tackles.


Going into the draft that year, Tillery was being mocked as a fringe first-round pick with the potential to sneak in. The Los Angeles Chargers, who were picking at 28 that year, allowed that to happen. He would play in 15 games during his rookie season while starting in three of those. He didn’t make a ton of noise; however, he did pick up the first two sacks of his career, along with three TFLs and 17 tackles.


In year two, Tillery became more of a problem on the defensive line, hitting the quarterback 14 times, collecting three sacks, 30 total tackles, and three TFLs. He would take yet another leap in year three, which has been the best of his career thus far. He would pick up 4.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits once again, and six TFLs. He also reached his career high in tackles with 51. Despite showing hope in the 2021 season, it was announced in May of 2022 that the Chargers would decline his fifth-year option, making him a free agent at the end of the 2022 season. He would only make it to November before being waived.


While Tillery never took that next step that the Chargers expected when drafting him, he was still serviceable in his time there. After being waived by Los Angeles, he would join the division rival Las Vegas Raiders where he would play out the rest of 2022. The Raiders gave him a “prove it” two-year, $6.8 million contract at the end of that season, and would appear in all 17 games in 2023. However, the numbers weren’t jumping off the page, which caused the Raiders to not bring him back at the end of the season.


This past offseason, Jerry Tillery signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings, and is looking to finally take that leap in 2024.




 

Kyle Hamilton (2022)


S, Pick 14, Baltimore Ravens


Kyle Hamilton was by far the highest-recruited player on this list, as he was a five-star and the number-one safety in the 2019 class. He attended Marist School in Atlanta, and committed to the Irish in April of 2018, ten days after visiting the school in Ann Arbor. He was certainly worth the hype.


In fact, on his first defensive snap ever taken in Notre Dame Stadium, Kyle Hamilton picked off his first pass in the Navy and Gold and took it back 34 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of four interceptions that Hamilton would have during his freshman season, as well as the lone touchdown of his Notre Dame career. He would still deflect six passes, and collect 41 tackles, including one for a loss. He was awarded Freshman of the Year by The Athletic and Co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year by Echoes.


Because of this impressive freshman campaign, Hamilton was placed on multiple preseason All-American teams. During Notre Dame’s lone season in the ACC, Hamilton started 11 games, picking up 63 tackles (51 solo), 4.5 for a loss, and one interception that came off Trevor Lawrence in the ACC Championship game against Clemson. He would be named to multiple All-American teams, as well as All-ACC First Team by both AP and Phil Steele.


Not only was his skill and leadership recognized nationally, but also internally, as Hamilton was named a team captain before the 2021 season. He was also on just about every “award watch” that you can find on the defensive side of the ball. After picking up three more interceptions, and 34 tackles including two for a loss, Hamilton would be named to multiple All-American first teams, as well as one second team (AP).


Hamilton announced that he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft where he was being mocked highly by most publications. He would ultimately be drafted 14th overall by the Baltimore Ravens, a spot that most people considered a “steal.” Through two seasons in the NFL, that would be correct.


He would appear in 16 games during his rookie season in 2022 while starting in four of those. Hamilton was still finding his feet at times, however he appeared to be a veteran very quickly. He deflected five passes, picked up two sacks, 62 tackles, and forced one fumble. It was clear that Hamilton was tapping into his ability to stretch the field and make plays anywhere.

This past season, Hamilton started all 15 games that he appeared in where he would see improvements in every stat category outside of forced fumbles where he would once again record just one. He collected his first career interception against the Cleveland Browns during week four, the game following Hamilton’s three-sack first half against the Colts. He would collect three more interceptions throughout the season, finishing with four, including one for a touchdown. Hamilton also tallied 81 total tackles, 10 TFLs, and 13 pass deflections. He would be named First-team All-Pro and selected for his first career Pro Bowl. Hamilton is now preparing for his third season in the NFL with the Ravens.


Why Does This Matter?


For the last ten years, these seven players have made a total of $370,033,057, and that number is going to skyrocket over the next few seasons. Notre Dame has the most draft picks of all time with 525, and that number will also go up in the next few years. Year in and year out, the Fighting Irish are developing NFL players, and getting them to the league. Notre Dame has always been an attractive place to go, and Head Coach Marcus Freeman is bringing light to that once more. The amount of first-round draft picks that come out of South Bend is only going to excel moving forward.


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