FORT WAYNE – Four college football players from the state could be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, which begins Thursday and concludes Saturday.
Former Notre Dame players Zack Martin, Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt along with former Indiana receiver Cody Latimer have been predicted to be selected at numerous spots in the first two rounds of the draft.
But while Martin and Latimer have seen their names rise on analysts’ mock drafts, Nix and Tuitt have slid down in most predictions and even into the second round.
Martin, a 6-foot-4, 308-pound offensive lineman, has been predicted to be the first player from the state selected in the draft with three analysts on NFL.com and three on CBS.com having him going as high as the No. 12 selection by the New York Giants.
What helps Martin is the fact that he projects that he can play left tackle, right tackle or guard, said ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who predicted Martin will be taken with the No. 15 pick by Pittsburgh. The kid is a reliable, consistent player. He’ll come in right away and help you. We’ve heard the word safe pick. He’s a safe pick. He could really go anywhere, if you really look at the first round, he could go anywhere in the top 17.
Latimer, a 6-2, 215-pound receiver, left IU early after catching 72 passes for 1,096 yards with nine touchdowns as a junior. He had 135 receptions for 2,152 yards and 17 touchdowns with the Hoosiers.
Kiper predicted that Latimer will be taken with the No. 27 selection by New Orleans, and ESPN analyst Todd McShay has him going No. 26 to Cleveland. Latimer has also been projected to be the No. 22 selection by Philadelphia, No. 30 by San Francisco and No. 32 by Seattle.
I think people are saying with another year, he could have been a top 10 to 15 guy. You are projecting him right now 22 to 32, Kiper said. I’d be shocked if he didn’t go in the first round.
Tuitt, a 6-5, 304-pound defensive end, and Nix, a 6-2, 331-pound nose guard, were thought to be first-round locks when they both decided to leave Notre Dame with a year of eligibility remaining.
But injuries moved them down on most projections with the linemen going from the end of the first round to early second round. Nix suffered a knee injury that cost him his final three games with the Irish, and Tuitt had a broken foot at the combine.
Both players said they have recovered from their injuries and will be fine by the time camps start.
Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said teams cooled on Tuitt and Nix because of more than injuries.
They both played better two years ago, Gruden said. I think that’s clear to everybody. They both played a lot lighter two years ago. I think it’s a mystery to everyone why they were heavier this year.
Nix, who was listed 342 pounds last season, had 27 tackles with two for loss in 2013 after recording 50 tackles with 7 1/2 for loss and two sacks while playing at 326 pounds in 2012.
Tuitt, who was listed at 312 pounds last season, had 50 tackles with nine for loss and 7 1/2 sacks last season after having 47 tackles with 13 for loss and 12 sacks while playing at 303 pounds in 2012.
When (Tuitt) is where he needs to be from a weight standpoint, he is a dynamic big man, Kiper said. It’s a rarity to see a kid his size that can do the things he can do on the football field. I could see him going in the middle-to-late first round.
Nix, I would like to see more stamina and endurance. I thought he wore out in the second half in some games I watched. But he is a 3-4 nose tackle, and there aren’t a lot of those out there. Pittsburgh, San Diego could be teams interested in him. I think more of second-round draft choice.