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Notre Dame Football: 5 2023 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for the Fighting Irish

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

Tight end Michael Mayer leads an exciting group of Notre Dame playmakers with 2023 NFL Draft potential

Notre Dame saw at least four players selected in the NFL Draft each year from 2018 to 2021 — a total of 25 during that span — but just two were picked in this year's event: safety Kyle Hamilton and running back Kyren Williams. The program's 522 total draft picks continue to lead all of college football, with only three other programs (USC, Ohio State and Oklahoma) even above 400.

The Baltimore Ravens selected Hamilton with the 14th overall pick, rendering the consensus All-American safety the 70th first-round selection from Notre Dame and the first since 2019. Hamilton going 14th to Baltimore is the highest a Notre Dame defensive back has been selected since Todd Lyght was the fifth overall pick in 1991.

With their fifth-round pick of Kyren Williams, the Los Angeles Rams took the first Notre Dame running back drafted since 2019, with Williams just the third Irish player from the position selected in the last nine drafts.

2023 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch: ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC

With head coach Marcus Freeman getting set to embark on what will be his first full season at the helm of the Fighting Irish, here are five Notre Dame players (in alphabetical order) to watch as potential prospects to be taken in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Avery Davis, WR (Sr., 5-11, 202)

Versatility is a prevalent calling card for Davis, for whom the 2022 season will be his sixth — yes, sixth! — year on Notre Dame’s roster. Joining the Irish after a tremendous high school career as a dual-threat quarterback, Davis has seen time all over the field, including at running back, cornerback and receiver. Although periodic injuries have somewhat limited his time on the field, Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees undoubtedly will lean on Davis’ experience and familiarity with the Irish’s play-calling tendencies. Furthermore, the record-breaking 28 wide receivers selected during the 2022 NFL Draft emphasizes teams’ increased focus on reliable playmakers at the position, a label which — if healthy — Davis can certainly fulfill.

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Isaiah Foskey, Edge (Sr., 6-5, 260)

The climb in Foskey's trajectory during his three seasons with Notre Dame has truly been remarkable, and all signs point to that trend continuing this season in advance of the 2023 NFL Draft. Foskey saw the field in just four games as a freshman in 2019 before playing in all 12 games the following season and starting in all 13 as a junior. His five tackles as a freshman jumped to 20 (alongside five TFLs and 4.5 sacks) as a sophomore in 2020, before his illustrious '21 campaign saw him lead the team with 11 sacks — the third-highest single-season total in Notre Dame history — and a team-high 12.5 tackles for a loss among his 52 total stops (fourth on the team). Furthermore, he tied for the FBS lead with six forced fumbles along with two fumbles recovered. All this to say that Foskey has grown substantially during his time at Notre Dame, and his performance in 2021 with Freeman as his defensive coordinator ought to be a sign that continued success will likely be in store this fall.

Brandon Joseph, S (Sr., 6-1, 192)

After three seasons just 90 miles to the west at Northwestern, Notre Dame welcomes safety Brandon Joseph to the team. Joseph first burst on the national scene when he tied for the national lead with six interceptions as a redshirt freshman during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He followed that up by being named a team captain entering last season, picked off three more passes, and showed off his other abilities, including 111 yards on two punt returns in a win over FCS Indiana State. The Irish will certainly miss Hamilton's range and playmaking ability but Joseph’s versatility and ball-hawking tendencies should help soften the blow somewhat.

Michael Mayer, TE (Jr., 6-4, 251)

Continuing the program’s tradition of attracting and developing extremely talented players at the tight end position, Mayer started strong and hasn’t looked back. Mayer was a first-team Freshman All-America selection by multiple publications in 2020, and last season he finished as a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the top tight end in the nation. His seven touchdown catches tied him with Kevin Austin for the team lead and he was second in receiving yards (840) as well. Mayer's blend of playmaking agility and size makes him a key target for Notre Dame’s passing attack, and it will certainly appeal to NFL scouts as well. Some way-too-early mocks have Mayer projected as a potential first-round pick next year.

Jarrett Patterson, C (Sr., 6-4, 307)

After his second year as a starter in 2020 helped contribute to the offensive line being a finalist for the Joe Moore Award — given annually to the top offensive line in the nation — Patterson returned to his spot and was elected a team captain for the Irish last season. He also maintained his stellar streak of not allowing a sack throughout his career, which now covers 37 games. For the season, Notre Dame finished 19th in the nation in scoring offense (35.2 ppg) and 20th in passing (282.5 ypg) with Patterson as the pivot. The reliable consistency that he continues to display and his leadership will both be critical this fall not only with a new starter (most likely Tyler Buchner) at quarterback but also working alongside inexperienced tackles in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher. You can bet that NFL teams will take notice as well.

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— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.