- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Yes, we're talking about next year's NFL draft already. The gang at CBSSports.com is previewing each FBS team's draft options for 2013, and this week they took a look at Notre Dame.
Dane Brugler says the Irish could have up to 19 draft-eligible players this season who will get looks from NFL teams in the spring, and he ranks the top five.
You can probably guess who the top two are, but who are some of the less talked about pro prospects on the roster?
5. DT Louis Nix (6-3, 325)*
Despite almost leaving the program (several times), Nix shot down rumors that he would be transferring from South Bend and appears rededicated to Notre Dame. The Florida-native comes from a tough background and is a long way from home, but the 325-pounder has a bright football future if he stays dedicated to the game. Nix was highly recruited out of high school and chose Notre Dame over several in-state programs, including Florida, Florida State and Miami (Fla). After redshirting in 2010, he started 11 games last season as a first-year player at the nose guard position, anchoring the middle of the Irish's three-man front. Nix finished with 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a half sack. Although just a redshirt sophomore, Nix is built like a full-grown man with a large frame and strong muscle definition throughout his body. He has nimble feet with the lateral quickness to explode in any direction and chase down the action in pursuit. He plays hard with a feisty motor and the emergence of back-up Kona Schwenke should allow Nix to stay fresh late in games. Nix has struggled with the pressure and expectations of playing for a high-profile program away from home, but he flashes a rare skill-set for a player his size and strength.
Nix is one of nine players on the list who will have college eligibility remaining after this season, though many of those players will be through with four years of college after 2012, with their fifth-year fates resting in the hands of the coaching staff. Nix is not one of those players, as the rising junior has only one year of college experience under his belt. The drama surrounding him this spring had Irish fans on edge, and rightfully so, but it's not out of the realm of possibility for a strong 2012 campaign from Nix to put him on NFL scouts' radar. We'll see.
At this point I would probably put Jamoris Slaughter in the No. 5 spot over Nix, given Slaughter's experience and versatility. But -- to sound like a draft expert for a second -- Nix's upside might ultimately give the nose guard the edge.
15dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf