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Predicting The Pick: Perfect Fits For Notre Dame Alumni In The 2024 NFL Draft

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

Photo by The Irish Tribune

The University of Notre Dame says goodbye to some of it's brightest stars, as they get ready to start new careers in the NFL. These athletes have made a lasting impression on the Fighting Irish tradition and are now ready to display their skills on the professional stage after a very strong 2023 campaign. The departure of these Fighting Irish standouts represents the end of an era, while also ushering in a new chapter in their sports careers. Some of these standouts have been with the program since the beginning of their collegiate careers and have won the hearts of many fans. Joe Alt, Audric Estime, and others will bring with them tremendous experience and memories from their time at Notre Dame as they prepare for the 2024 NFL Draft.

Head Coach Marcus Freeman has done a tremendous job recruiting fresh talent to replace these key positions. The transfer portal has been a huge advantage for the Fighting Irish program, allowing them to recruit talent currently ready to compete. Freeman has also represented his former players well, making an appearance at the NFL combine in support of the Notre Dame draft prospects during their performances. Before we officially dive into the upcoming collegiate season, let's take a look at where some of our former stars are destined to go in the draft this April:

Audric Estime - RB

The star Running Back has been a staple of the Notre Dame offense for the last two seasons and brings an impressive collegiate resume to his draft profile. At the head of the rushing attack as a starter, Estime totaled over 2200 yards and 29 Touchdowns on the ground. An offense more focused on the rushing attack did not allow Estime to get many opportunities as a receiver, but he has proven he can do the job with 17 catches last season. Estime managed to score a 94.2 overall PFF grade in the 2023 season, ranking first among all 2024 Draft RB prospects. Estime struggled to improve his draft stock in the NFL combine with a 4.71 40 yard dash, but will look to improve that time during the Notre Dame Pro Day.

It is an interesting time to be a professional NFL RB, especially as a draft prospect. The Running Back position is ever changing in terms of position value, scheme fits, and more. Estime is projected to be selected in between the late first round and middle third round. Some standout teams that interviewed Estime at the NFL Combine are the Las Vegas Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, and Cleveland Browns. The Raiders and Cowboys are both looking to boost their offensive run game after losing their star Runnning Backs in Free Agency. Their remaining cap space is projecting them to rely on the NFL draft for a standout player like Estime who can elevate their offense. The Cleveland Browns have the remaining uncertainty of Nick Chubb. While the team and fans still cherish him while he is under contract, his future productivity remains in question after his significant knee injury. Estime is a great scheme fit who can learn from the veteran Chubb and share time with a very similar styled player as he heals.

Sam Hartman - QB

The high promised Quarterback arrived at Notre Dame after a very proven and exciting career at Wake Forest. Hartman broke both the career passing touchdown and yards record at Wake Forest before joining the bigger stage of college football. This new challenge allowed Hartman to show scouts how he performs under pressure and against professional level talent. Though Notre Dame did not achieve it's long term season goals of winning a national championship, Hartman still managed to have a winning record in a promising short career. He posted an impressive stat line of 2,689 yards and 24 passing TD's with only 8 INT's in the 2023 season. Hartman also posted a 78.6 overall PFF grade, with his best game being against his former school. He had a very solid combine performance in Indianapolis with a 70 overall grade, ranking 10th among draft prospect QB's.

Hartman has a lot of competition when it comes to being selected as a top pick in the draft this April. National Champion JJ McCarthy and Heisman winners Jayden Daniels and Caleb Williams are projected to be some of the top prospects ahead of Hartman. He is currently projected to be a Day 3 pick, which ranges between rounds 4 and 7 of the NFL draft. Hartman will look to join a team where he can learn from a solidified veteran and find an opportunity down the road. Some teams Hartman would find a similar scheme fit is the Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills.

Marist Liufau - LB

The 4 year Notre Dame Linebacker was a key piece of the defense during his time in South Bend. During the 12 games he played this season, Freeman utilized his ability to be in a position to make the tackle every play. The starting defender totaled 44 tackles, 6 of them being for a loss with 3 sacks. One of Liufau's most notable games was against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Liufau started the season hot with seven tackles and a forced fumble in the win, being named the defensive player of the game for the Irish. He also posted an impressive 74.3 PFF grade during the 2023 campaign.

While Liufau isn't the highest rated LB prospect in this draft, he is still projected to be a valuable 4-5 round selection. Notre Dame has a history of late-round Linebackers living above their potential at the professional level. Former MLB Drue Tranquil was selected in the 4th round and is now on a multi-year contract with the Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs. Liufau will be a valuable addition in the later rounds by LB needy teams such as the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, or Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens would be a tremendous fit for the Notre Dame star, who could fill the need of the former starter Patrick Queen and join his former teammate, Kyle Hamilton.

Joe Alt - OL

Joe Alt is one of, if not the best Offensive Lineman prospects in this upcoming NFL draft class. The top prospect only allowed one sack in the previous two collegiate seasons against elite talent. Alt also posted a 92.8 pass-blocking grade in 2023 which ranked second among all collegiate offensive linemen. After an impressive career, Alt has continued to impress throughout the draft process in interviews and combine drills. The Fighting Irish star managed to have 27 bench reps and an impressive 40-yard dash time of 5.05 seconds. His total combined score was 87 according to NFL Next Gen Stats, ranking first among all of the prospects in his position group.

Alt looks to be a great fit for almost any team at the next level but seems to be a lock for a top-10 selection. A few of the notable fits seem to be the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, and Atlanta Falcons. All of these teams have a very common goal that Alt can help achieve, protect the franchise Quarterback. The Tennessee Titans are coming off a strong start to their new regime with a second-year QB and many free-agent signings, Alt can be another fresh face of this rebuild. Teams like the Falcons and Jets have older Quarterbacks coming off serious season-ending injuries, making the goal of protecting them a top priority. Any of these teams would be happy to welcome a young promising player with a proven record of protecting the man under center. Alt has passed all tests to prove he can start for a professional team in week 1 with a promising future ahead of him.

Their journey from collegiate stars to professional athletes represents the culmination of years of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. While they may be leaving South Bend behind, the Fighting Irish faithful can take pride in knowing that they have left an indelible mark on the storied legacy of Notre Dame football. As they transition to the next level, all eyes will be on these talented individuals as they strive to make their mark in the NFL and continue to inspire future generations of Fighting Irish players.


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