Notre Dame sent 10 players to the NFL scouting combine in February. The Irish may have that many former players -- perhaps even more, given Matthias Farley's strong pro day -- taken in this weekend’s NFL draft. The last time the program had 10 draft selections was in 1994, when 10 former Irish players were selected.
Doomsday for the 2016 Notre Dame team, right?
Not so fast.
Bill Landis of Cleveland.com compiled data of the 10 programs since 2000 that have lost 10-plus players to the draft in a given year, and the aftermath isn’t all that bad. In the season with those drafted players, those teams went a combined 115-16 (.878). In the season after, those teams went 100-29 (.775).
Landis writes: “None of the teams with the last 10 double-digit draft classes finished worse than 8-5 the following year. Five of those teams won at least 10 games after losing the big draft class.”
Among the most successful post-draft outfits was 2013 Florida State, which won the national title after saying goodbye to 11 drafted players from a 12-2 team in 2012. FSU actually makes the list twice, as last year’s team went 10-3 after losing 11 more players in that year’s draft from a 13-1 team.
Last year’s Louisville team, too, is another example of a team that recovered nicely from placing double-digits in the pros: The Cardinals went 8-5 last season after losing 10 drafted players from a 9-4 team in 2014.
The 2002 Miami team also reloaded: Those Hurricanes made the BCS title game after losing 11 drafted players from its 2001 national title team.
What that means this fall for a Notre Dame team that went 10-3 in 2015 remains to be seen. There is a whole lot of making up to do on the defensive side of the ball. Then again, the schedule may end up softening, as the Irish’s three losses in 2015 came to teams ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the final AP poll. Perhaps most importantly, Notre Dame brings back experience under center as well.
Another team that should be encouraged by these numbers is Clemson, which could have as many as nine players drafted this weekend. The Tigers, of course, went 14-1 last season, falling in the national title game. The bad news: Seven of those nine potentially drafted players are from the defensive side of the ball. The good news, of course, is that the Tigers return most of the key pieces from their high-powered offense, including Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson, who has said that his unit in 2016 has the chance to be one of the best offenses in college football history.