NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Nine Irish players selected during 2021 NFL Draft

Notre Dame offensive linemen, from left, Tommy Kraemer, Robert Hainsey, Liam Eichenberg and Aaron Banks get ready to line up for a play in this 2019 file photo.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame had one of the biggest draft classes at the conclusion of this year’s NFL Draft.

Nine Irish players were drafted, which was the most ever under 12th-year head coach Brian Kelly. The last time Notre Dame saw at least nine players get their names called during the NFL Draft was in 1994, when 10 were selected.

OWUSU-KORAMOAH FALLS

Although the Irish had a very successful draft, none of the nine ended up being selected in the first round.

That honor should’ve belonged to linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who was projected to be a mid-first round pick by most draft analysts.

Unfortunately for the 2020 Butkus Award winner, teams shied away from him due to his smaller size (6-1, 216 pounds) and lack of stability from a scheme standpoint.

Owusu-Koramoah is a freakish athlete and saw plenty of success during his time with the Irish. He played in 27 games, accumulating 142 total tackles, six sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception.

The All-American slipped all the way down to the 52nd overall pick, going to the Cleveland Browns in the second round on Friday night.

“It’s a glorious feeling. A monumental feeling,” said Owusu-Koramoah during his Browns conference call on Friday. “It’s all love that the (Cleveland) coaches would take a chance on me. … This has to be something that’ll motivate me. But my motivations lie strictly within the game of football. I’m not going to use something that’s external in terms of the draft or people not picking me.

“I see those linebackers going in front of me, and I see those defenders going in front of me, but you have to take certain things and add energy to them. What you put your thoughts to, that’s what you put your energy to. So if I think too much on (falling in the draft), I’ll be prompted by the past and right now we’re in the future.”

BOOK SELECTED ON DAY 3

The winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history found a professional home on Saturday afternoon.

With the 133rd pick of the NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints took the signal-caller in the fourth round.

Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees hung up his cleats after 20 seasons in the NFL this offseason, and now the Saints may have their answer for the future in Book. Currently, New Orleans has Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston on the roster at QB. Book should have a great opportunity to potentially jump to the top of the depth chart over the next couple of years based on both Hill and Winston’s inconsistencies at the position so far in their NFL careers.

While Book isn’t going to blow anybody away with his size (6-0, 206) and arm strength, he’s shown the ability to be accurate with his arm and use his legs when needed. He threw for nearly 9,000 yards and ran for an additional 1,518 yards during his Irish career while scoring 89 total touchdowns (72 pass, 17 rush).

Book has been praised for his high-football IQ and decision making, and he shares a lot of the similarities that made Brees so good during his NFL career.

“That’s always been the story of my whole entire life,” said Book when asked about his size during his Saints conference call on Saturday. “You know, I’m not getting any taller, and it’s the same thing every single time. Drew Brees was able to do it; you can go down the list, there’s been many other quarterbacks that have been able to do it. … I feel like the league’s changing. You don’t have to be 6-5 anymore, and you can make it work. That’s what I’m planning on doing. Once you’re out there, it doesn’t matter. You’re as tall as you’re going to be, and you’re out there playing football the way you’ve been playing it your entire life.”

THREE O-LINEMAN DRAFTED

"Offensive Line University" struck again during this year’s rendition of the NFL Draft.

The Irish saw three players along the offensive line get selected during Day 2 of the draft, making it now nine total ND offensive lineman picked since 2014. Tackle Liam Eichenberg was the first Irish player off the board after he was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 42nd overall pick in the second round. Six picks later, guard Aaron Banks got picked up by the San Francisco 49ers. The last of the three — Robert Hainsey — will be a member of the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he was selected with the 95th overall pick in the third round.

Eichenberg will have a shot to start right away for the Dolphins with his size (6-6, 305) and with what he accomplished during his time in an Irish uniform. During his final two seasons with Notre Dame, Eichenberg didn’t surrender a single sack.

For Banks, heading to San Francisco is a bit of a homecoming for him. The 6-5, 325-pound guard grew up in Alameda, California, which is about 40 minutes from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The consensus All-American is ridiculously strong, which complements his solid balance and footwork which should help him battle for a starting spot as a rookie.

Hainsey’s versatility is what likely caught the eyes of Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht. Hainsey started as a tackle primarily during his career at Notre Dame but worked inside at the Senior Bowl in January. He was impressive, and at 6-4, 306 pounds, the Pittsburgh native will almost certainly be a guard or center when his NFL career gets started. Hainsey’s projected to be a developmental-type player early for the Bucs, with all five positions along the offensive line returning their starters from a season ago.


NOTRE DAME’S FULL 2021 DRAFT CLASS

Liam Eichenberg, OL, Miami Dolphins – Round 2 (42)

Aaron Banks, OL, San Francisco 49ers – Round 2 (48)

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns – Round 2 (52)

Tommy Tremble, TE, Carolina Panthers – Round 3 (83)

Robert Hainsey, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Round 3 (95)

Ian Book, QB, New Orleans Saints – Round 4 (133)

Daelin Hayes, DL, Baltimore Ravens – Round 5 (171)

Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DL, Atlanta Falcons – Round 5 (182)

Ben Skowronek, WR, Los Angeles Rams – Round 7 (249)

Evan Lepak can be reached at evan.lepak@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240326. Follow him on Twitter @EvanMPLepak.

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