Four Fighting Irish players off the board on day three of NFL Draft
Four University of Notre Dame players were selected on the third day of the 2019 National Football League Draft Saturday. The Irish have now had at least six players drafted in four of the last seven years (2016, 2014 and 2013).
Cornerback Julian Love was chosen with the 108th overall pick (sixth pick of round four) by the New York Giants, linebacker Drue Tranquill was selected with the 130th overall pick (29th choice of round four) by the Los Angeles Chargers, running back Dexter Williams was selected with the 194th overall pick (22nd choice of round six) by the Green Bay Packers, tight end Alizé Mack was chosen with the 231st overall pick (17th pick of round seven) by the New Orleans Saints.
Love and Tranquill, along with first-round pick and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (Los Angeles Chargers), led Notre Dame's defense to top 25 FBS rankings in fewest touchdown passes allowed (10, 3rd), passing yards allowed per attempt (5.6, t-2nd), pass efficiency defense (105.6/6th), fewest plays of at least 30 yards (17, t-10th), fewest plays of at least 40 yards (8, t-11th), fewest total yards per play (4.72, t-14th), fewest plays of at least 20 yards (43, t-14th), fewest touchdowns allowed (28, t-10th), fewest plays of at least 50 yards (4, t-15th) and points allowed per game (18.2 13th).
The trio guided an Irish defense that also allowed: 18.0 points per game in its five matchups with AP Top 25 opponents, which ranked second-best in the FBS (among schools with at least five such games), 17.8 points per game in its four matchups with final AP Top 25 opponents, which ranked third-best in the FBS and 19.2 points/game in its six matchups against FBS teams with a winning record, which ranked seventh-best in the FBS.
Love started 34 times in his 38-game, three-year playing career. In 2018, he started all 13 games at cornerback and registered 63 tackles, including 49 stops, 16 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries — one returned for a touchdown — three tackles for loss and one interception.
Love, Notre Dame's 102nd consensus All-America selection and first consensus cornerback since Shane Walton in 2002 (who was a unanimous choice), holds the Notre Dame record for both career pass breakups (39) and single-season pass breakups (20). He shattered both of the previous marks of 32 and 13, each held by Clarence Ellis (1969-71).
A 2018 Jim Thorpe Award finalist, Love was the only defensive player in the country last season with at least 10 pass breakups (he had 16) and two fumble recoveries (he had three). He was one of two players in the country with multiple games of at least four passes broken up. According to Pro Football Focus, Love was the third-highest rated cornerback overall (24.7) and third-highest rated cornerback in pass coverage (21.3).
Love missed only four tackles in 2018 and only one player in the country had fewer missed tackles with as many defensive snaps (863). He ranked tied for sixth in the FBS in pass breakups (16) and 14th in passes defended per game (1.3).
A second-team All-American in 2017, Love became the eighth Irish player in school history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a season. He finished second in the FBS in pass breakups (20), passes defended (23) and passes defended/game (1.77). Love was the first FBS underclassman (freshman or sophomore) to average more than 1.77 passes defended/game since Aqib Talib of Kansas in 2006 (2.8).
Love becomes the 16th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the New York Giants and first since Bennett Jackson in the sixth round of the 2014 draft.
Tranquill started 41 times in his 52-game, four-year playing career. He was the only FBS player over the past two seasons to register at least 170 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, five passes defended and four fumbles recovered.
In 2018, he played through a pair of injuries to play in all 13 games, in spite of breaking his hand during the Stanford game and spraining his ankle against Navy. Tranquill finished the season third on the team with 86 tackles, 9.0 of those for loss, while adding four pass break-ups, three quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery.
Tranquill was named Notre Dame's Rockne Student-Athlete of the Year for the third consecutive season. This joined a long list of accolades for Tranquill, including 2018 Wuerffel Trophy recipient, awarded to the FBS player with exemplary community service, and finalist for the Campbell Trophy, known as the "Academic Heisman."
Tranquill graduated in May 2018 with a degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering after making the Dean's List in five of his eight undergraduate semesters. He is a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and was an Academic All-American in 2016. Tranquill was a two-time captain, was named a quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy and to the Butkus Award Watch List.
Tranquill continues a trend that has followed Kelly at his previous coaching stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. He joined the Notre Dame program as a safety, converting to rover in 2017 and then moving to inside linebacker in 2018. He joins the likes of KeiVarae Russell, C.J. Prosise, Bennett Jackson and Troy Niklas of Notre Dame, Joe Staley from Central Michigan and Jason Kelce and Connor Barwin from Cincinnati. All eight opened their respective careers under Kelly at one position before ultimately getting drafted into the NFL at another position. Staley was a first-round choice in 2007; Barwin (2009) and Niklas (2014) were second-round picks; Russell (2016) and Prosise (2016) were third-round selections; and Kelce (2011) and Jackson (2014) were sixth-round picks.
Tranquill becomes the 14th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers after Jerry Tillery was the franchise's first-round pick on Thursday night.
Williams started nine times in his 38-game, four-year playing career. In 2018, he started nine games at running back and emerged as one of the top backs in the nation, leading the team with 995 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards on four occasions, including 202 with two touchdowns against Florida State. Williams the first Notre Dame ball carrier to average 10.1 or more yards per carry with a minimum of 20 attempts in a game since Julius Jones gained a program-record 262 yards on 24 carries (10.9 yards per carry) on Oct. 11, 2003, against Pittsburgh. With a 97-yard scamper at Virginia Tech, Williams broke the longest run in the history of the Hokies' Lane Stadium.
Williams averaged 110.6 rushing yards per game, which would have ranked 15th in the FBS if he had played in the mandated amount of games. Williams became the third Notre Dame ball carrier with a 200-yard rushing game in the past two seasons, joining Brandon Wimbush (207 at Boston College on Sept. 16, 2017) and Josh Adams (229 yards at Boston College on Sept. 16, 2017; 202 yards vs. NC State on Oct. 28, 2017).
Williams becomes the 13th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the Green Bay Packers, who have now selected an Irish player back-to-back years after taking Equanimeous St. Brown a year ago in the sixth round.
Mack, a second-team All-American, started 24 times in his 36-game, three-year playing career. In 2018, he started 12 games at tight end and recorded 36 catches for 360 yards and three TDs — all career-highs.
Mack is the eighth straight Notre Dame starting tight end and 30th overall to be selected in the NFL Draft. He is the sixth Irish tight end drafted, under Kelly. Notre Dame's opening day starter at tight end has developed into an eventual NFL Draft pick in each of the past 15 seasons.
Mack is the 12th Irish tight end drafted since 2001 — more than any school in the nation.
Mack becomes the 12th Notre Dame player ever drafted by the New Orleans Saints and first since Courtney Watson in the second round of the 2004 draft.
In addition to Saturday's four draft picks and Tillery's selection during Thursday's first round, WR Miles Boykin went to the Baltimore Ravens during Friday's third round. Boykin was the 500th draft pick in Notre Dame football history and the total of 504 now trails only Southern Cal (506) for most in NFL history.