Opportunity Knocking For Sleeper Tight End

Notre Dame redshirt junior Alize Mack is one of the most physically gifted players on the Irish roster. His career to this point hasn’t come without turmoil, but he currently finds himself in a position to right previous wrongs and continue his ascent up draft boards.

Mack committed to Notre Dame from national football powerhouse Bishop Gorman, being named high school all-american and one of the highest ranked tight end prospects in the country. In his freshman season, Mack showed flashes of his athleticism and natural talent, averaging nearly 15 yards per reception.

Mack would undergo hardship over the next two seasons, sitting out his sophomore year in order to get back on track with his academics. Then after battling injuries and only playing in six games during his junior season, he was suspended from playing in the Citrus Bowl due to a violation of team rules.

Still, though, he would occasionally show those flashes of that raw talent he possessed. This rep against Miami was a prime example:

This season has been a bit of a revelation for Mack (and the rest of the Notre Dame pass catchers), including a mid-season stretch of 4 games with 19 receptions. Since Ian Book has taken over behind center for the Irish, Mack has produced well for a collegiate tight end.

In Book's first start against Wake Forest, Mack was targeting on three straight throws in the first quarter. Mack showed natural hands, seamless running ability and how his frame and athleticism is a constant seam threat.

Against Syracuse, Mack displayed his developing route running. More smooth than sudden, his vertical breaks are when he's at his best. His effortless transition from receiver to ball carrier and long speed to pick up extra yardage is reminiscent of Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins.

This tight end class is shaping up to be a deep one, and NFL teams will truly value those players who can separate themselves with plays in the redzone. While Mack has just four career touchdowns, it's easy to see the traits of an above the rim threat at the next level. He seems like the prototypical player destined to produce more in that regard in the pros than in college.

Look no further than his two touchdown performance against Florida State for evidence, as Mack showcased impressive body control and ball skills on both plays:

Even though Mack has had his most productive season from a receiving standpoint, NFL teams are still going to have questions. The first one will be consistency, as he's had 5 of 11 games with 2 or fewer receptions this season.

Then there is his blocking. Much like his receiving ability, Mack can have inconsistencies in this regard. He is built like a player who could be an effective in-line blocker, but he seems to prefer being flexed out in the slot and playing a receiving role. It's not that he can't be a solid run-blocker, it's just that it can come and go at times.

Lastly will be the questions about his actions off the field. While academic issues can be common at a school as prestigious as Notre Dame, combining it with the Bowl game suspension last season is worrisome.

Luckily for Mack, he is in a perfect situation to alleviate most or all of these concerns.

Notre Dame has qualified for the College Football Playoff, and Mack has an opportunity to showcase his improved play against the stout Clemson defense. Ideally for Mack, he could also have the chance to play against the incredibly talented Alabama defense. The Tide have future NFL studs at defensive end, linebacker and safety, the positions he would mostly be matched up against at his tight end spot.

No matter if Notre Dame advances past Clemson, every single NFL team will be taking note of that matchup.

Looking to the off-season, Mack has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl. This will be a chance for Mack to show NFL teams proper practice habits, and added interviews in front of front office members.

For a player who has been plagued by inconsistencies on and off the field, having the College Football Playoff and Senior Bowl lined up is an invaluable chance to put those concerns to rest.

Mack has the talent to be taken in the Top-100 picks despite the strength of the tight end class, but how he handles himself from this point forward will truly determine his draft stock.

Written By:

Brad Kelly

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Wide Receivers Coach at Salve Regina University. Salve Regina Football ‘15.