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NFL Draft

2020 NFL Draft: FBS Independent Schools Scouting Reports

2020 NFL Draft: FBS Independent Schools Scouting Reports
Credit: USA Today

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2020 NFL Draft Prospects

Asmar Bilal, OLB

Career Snapshot: Two-year starter who made 79 tackles (10 for loss) with two pass breakups as a senior in 2019. Made 50 tackles (three for loss) as a junior.

Positives: Underrated linebacker who presents himself as a three-down defender. Moves well laterally and has an explosive closing burst. Easily changes direction, breaks down well and effectively makes plays in pursuit. Gets depth on pass drops and even shows the ability to stay with receivers. Covers a lot of area on the field. Squares and wraps up tackling.

Negatives: Undersized and easily taken from the action by blocks. Turned in limited production in coverage during his college career and never recorded an interception. Lacks flat-out pursuit speed.

Analysis: Bilal was a productive linebacker at Notre Dame who showed consistent progress with the Fighting Irish. He’s effective in all three areas of the position, and if Bilal plays well on special teams this summer, he could be a roster player in the fall.

Chase Claypool, WR

Career Snapshot: Three-year starter who caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 2019. Made 50 catches for 639 yards and four TDs as a junior. Started eight games and made 29 receptions for 402 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore.

Positives: Mammoth receiver who flashes pass-catching skills and dominated during combine testing. Uses the sidelines well, plays with outstanding body control and tracks the pass in the air. Uses his frame to shield away defenders, gets vertical and high points the throw. Fights with his hands to separate, gives effort after the catch and plays big football. Works hard to become an available target. Solid hands catcher for the most part.

Negatives: Does not play fast or show a burst of speed despite his 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine. Marginal run after-catch skill. Must significantly improve his route running.

Analysis: Claypool is a big-bodied receiver who showed progress each season at Notre Dame. While he tested off the charts at the combine, Claypool must improve the nuances of the receiver position and really learn to play to his 40 time. He comes with outstanding upside, but there will be bumps in the road before Claypool realizes his NFL potential.

Jalen Elliott, S

Career Snapshot: Three-year starter who made 49 tackles with two interceptions and two pass breakups as a senior in 2019. Made 67 tackles with four INTs and seven PBUs as a junior.

Positives: Explosive, hard-hitting safety who is best up the field. Takes proper angles to the action, goes hard after opponents and violently attacks ball carriers. Strong, defeats blocks and squares into tackles to bring opponents down in the open field. Works well with cornerbacks and displays a good burst to the ball out of his plant.

Negatives: Ran horribly at the combine and plays to that speed on the field. Indecisive when the ball is in the air. Stiff.

Analysis: Elliott entered the season graded as a second-day pick by NFL scouts, and while he’s a terrific football player, he’s a limited athlete. He possesses the size and style to line up as a true strong safety and comes with special-teams ability.

Chris Finke, WR

Career Snapshot: First-year starter who caught 41 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns as a senior in 2019. Made 49 catches for 571 yards and two TDs as a junior.

Positives: Small, reliable pass catcher who consistently comes free. Knows where he is on the field, consistently finds the open space in underneath coverage and nicely tracks the pass in the air. Adjusts to the errant throw, extends his hands and makes the reception in stride. Possesses terrific short-area quickness, immediately gets to top speed and displays good route discipline. Uses the sidelines well, makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception and always works to keep the play in bounds.

Negatives: One-speed receiver who lacks deep burst and a second gear. Struggles in battles.

Analysis: Finke is a hard-working receiver who gets the most from his abilities, but he comes with limited upside. He offers potential as a fifth receiver who can line up in the slot and return punts.

Alohi Gilman, S

Career Snapshot: Transfer from Navy who started both his seasons at Notre Dame. Made 74 tackles (three for loss) with one interception, one sack, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups as a junior in 2019. Made 94 tackles (three for loss) with two INTs, two forced fumbles and five PBUs as a sophomore. Started 12 games as a freshman for Navy in 2016 and posted 76 tackles (five for loss) and five pass breakups.

Positives: Nice-sized safety with solid ball skills. Keeps the action in front of him, displays the ability to explode out of his plant and possesses a burst of closing speed. Physical, works hard to get involved in the action and drives through tackles. Effectively picks up and stays with coverage assignments, keeps the action in front of him and correctly reads plays. Has above-average instincts.

Negatives: Best between the numbers and does not display great range. Tested poorly at the combine.

Analysis: Gilman possesses solid size and toughness and decent ball skills, but he has speed limitations. He offers possibilities as a zone safety and should be able to double on special teams.

Jamir Jones, OLB

Career Snapshot: Rotational defensive end who made 26 tackles (6.5 for loss) with 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as a senior in 2019.

Positives: Pass-rushing linebacker who is swiftly moving up draft boards. Rarely off his feet, breaks down well and works his hands. Flows laterally in pursuit, keeps his feet moving and displays the ability to bend off the edge. Shows good speed up the field, relentless and plays with a violent attitude.

Negatives: Plays to one speed. Lacks bulk, gets easily removed from the action by tight ends and will be a liability against the run.

Analysis: Primarily used off the bench last year at Notre Dame, Jones was asked to make plays in the box or up the field. He displays solid pass-rush skills and could be a situational 3-4 linebacker who also plays special teams.

Tony Jones Jr, RB

Career Snapshot: First-year starter who rushed 144 times for 857 yards and six touchdowns as a senior in 2019. Carried 83 times for 392 yards and three TDs as a junior.

Positives: Nice-sized ball carrier who is also effective as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Runs with lean, has an aggressive style and falls forward when tackled. Displays short-area quickness, keeps his feet moving and effectively uses blocks. Runs with vision, nicely adjusts to the errant throw as a pass catcher and snatches the ball away from his frame. Gets out in front and blocks effectively when necessary.

Negatives: Not a quick cutback runner, gathers when he changes direction and loses a lot of momentum. One-speed back who cannot beat defenders into the open field or turn the corner.

Analysis: Jones was a solid college ball carrier, but he comes with speed deficiencies for the next level. He has enough tools to make it as a third back who can be used as a short-yardage runner, a pass catcher out of the backfield or a blocker on passing downs.

Khalid Kareem, DE

Career Snapshot: Two-year starter who made 46 tackles (10 for loss) with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a senior in 2019. Made 42 tackles (10.5 for loss) with 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and five pass breakups as a junior.

Positives: Tough, explosive defensive lineman who gets the most from his ability. Displays solid movement skills, easily changes direction and fluidly pursues down the line of scrimmage from the back side. Gets out into space and gives effort, wraps up ball carriers and brings them down at the point of attack. Plays with excellent pad level, flashes the ability to bend off the edge and fights hard to get off blocks. Gives a lot of effort.

Negatives: Possesses average size and gets easily knocked from the play. Struggled with injury as a senior and did not meet expectations. Not considered by scouts as a great athlete.

Analysis: Kareem is a try-hard defensive lineman who displays terrific explosion and intensity. He offers possibilities as a defensive end in a four-man line and should be a solid rotational player at the next level.

Cole Kmet, TE

Career Snapshot: First-year starter who caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns as a junior in 2019. Missed the first two games of the 2019 season due to a broken collarbone suffered in the offseason.

Positives: Terrific pass-catching tight end who elevated his game last season. Natural receiver who fires off the snap, quickly gets into routes and shows excellent football instincts. Displays tremendous focus and concentration, makes the difficult reception with defenders draped on his back and lays out to come away with the catch. Tracks the ball in the air, extends his hands and snatches the pass away from his frame. Follows the quarterback across the field to make himself an available target and plays smart, heads-up football. Stays square and gives effort as a blocker.

Negatives: Possesses average strength as a blocker. Not quick or explosive off the snap into blocks. Doesn’t really play to his timed speed.

Analysis: Kmet possesses outstanding size and pass-catching skill and surprised everyone with his athleticism at the combine. He offers bigtime ability, but he must learn to play to his 40 time and improve as a blocker before he can develop into a No. 1 tight end at the next level.

Julian Okwara, DE

Career Snapshot: Two-year starter who made 19 tackles (seven for loss) with five sacks and two forced fumbles in nine games as a senior in 2019 before an ankle injury ended his season. Made 38 tackles (12.5 for loss) with eight sacks as a junior.

Positives: Athletic pass rusher who can line up in a three-point stance or stand over tackle. Rarely off his feet, breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself. Fluid when asked to twist or stunt, easily changes direction and plays with balance. Gets depth on pass drops, covers a lot of area on the field and bends off the edge. Keeps his feet moving and wraps up tackling.

Negatives: Does not show great instincts or ball awareness. Possesses a thin build. Slow to get back to balance off the initial block. Occasionally late with his hands and must develop more moves.

Analysis: Okwara flashed dominance throughout his college career and is a versatile defender who can play in a multitude of schemes. He needs to polish his techniques and line up in a system that does not ask him to read and react, but Okwara will be a productive three-down defender at the next level if properly coached.

Troy Pride Jr, CB

Career Snapshot: Two-year starter who made 40 tackles with one interception and six pass breakups as a senior in 2019. Made 47 tackles with two interceptions and 10 pass breakups as a junior.

Positives: Athletic cornerback with bigtime potential. Physical, engages receivers at the line of scrimmage and mixes it up throughout the route. Effective when he sees the action, tracks the pass in the air and displays a nice move to the throw. Works hard to get off blocks and make plays up the field against screen passes and run plays. Ran incredibly well at the combine.

Negatives: Seemed to struggle as a senior and did not meet expectations. Late to transition with opponents off the line. Got caught out of position too often last season.

Analysis: Pride was graded as a potential top-45 pick entering the season, but he struggled through a disappointing senior campaign. He possesses the size and athleticism to be a productive nickel back and special-teams player at the next level, but Pride must get his game back to where it was in 2018.

Donte Vaughn, CB

Career Snapshot: Sub-package cornerback who made 16 tackles with five pass breakups as a senior in 2019. Started four games as a true freshman in 2016 and made 22 tackles with one interception and six PBUs.

Positives: Underrated defensive back who flashed skill the past two years. Explosive, possesses excellent size and has a burst of closing speed. Battles opponents throughout the action, easily brings down ball carriers in the open field and gives effort.

Negatives: Loses out in transition downfield and when he tries to get his head back around to locate the pass. Bites on receivers’ moves at the line of scrimmage. Lacks natural quickness.

Analysis: Though not highly regarded in the scouting community, Vaughn has shown flashes of skill and physicality the past two years. This leads me to believe he could be pushed inside to safety and play special teams on Sundays.

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