Where once Notre Dame players were mainstays in the annual NFL Draft, in recent years there have been very few Fighting Irish players chosen in the first round. For Notre Dame fans and alumni like me, it has been a long dry spell, reflective of the team's performance on the field. This year that could change dramatically, as two Notre Dame stars are poised to have their names called in the 2012 draft's first round.
But when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the microphone at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 26 to announce the names of the players chosen in the draft, two former Irish standouts are likely to hear their names called.
Various draft analysts project Floyd to be the second or third wide receiver off the board, somewhere in the middle of the first round. There were even late indications that he might be moving up in the eyes of evaluators, and could be taken in the top ten picks as the first wide receiver chosen.
The all-time leading receiver for Notre Dame, Floyd projects to be a good All-around receiver with deep threat potential. It was the speed he showed off at the NFL Combine that really opened some eyes.
Floyd has one high-profile backer. All Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals was reportedly pushing hard for his team to take the Irish receiver with the 13th pick.
If anything depresses Floyd's draft prospects, it will be caution related to his off-field issues. But his performance in 2011 for Notre Dame proved that he had put the alcohol-related problems behind him, and he is poised to be among the first dozen or so players chosen.
At the tail end of the first round, Notre Dame might see another player get the call. If both Floyd and Smith are both chosen, it will be the first time since 1994 - when Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris were all first-round picks - that more than one Irish player has been taken in the first 32 picks.
Like his Irish teammate, Smith is viewed as one of the top two or three players at his position. He has impressed scouts with his size and ball skills, and projects as a reliable NFL strong safety.
Smith isn't counting on being a first-round selection, despite the predictions. He just wants an opportunity to play in the NFL.
"I've talked to every team, but at the end of the day, you really don't know where you're going to go and who likes you," he says. "All I can do is put my best foot forward, and however it shakes out, it shakes out."
For Notre Dame, for the first time in a long time, it might shake out really well.
Rick Blaine, and award-winning broadcaster and columnist, holds two degrees from Notre Dame.