Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell moving on up ... and moving to safety?


Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame cornerback KeiVarae Russell’s return from a broken tibia was punctuated by some impressive numbers at last Thursday’s ND Pro Day.

Apparently that’s translating into an ascending NFL Draft Profile for the 5-foot-11, 194-pounder from Everett, Wash. — but with a twist.

In NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock’s latest positional rankings, released Thursday, Russell has risen to No. 3 … at safety.

It’s a position Russell last played in high school, but one he said he’d welcome if teams were going to draft him high. Only West Virginia’s Karl Joseph and Ohio State’s Von Bell are ranked ahead of Russell on Mayock’s safety board.

Russell, who said last week he’s not expected to be 100 percent until May, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, recorded a vertical leap of 38 ½ inches and nailed a standing broad jump of 11-feet-2 — all among the best numbers at his position during the predraft testing.

Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith continues to rank at the top of Mayock’s list of top linebacker prospects, with his medical rechecks in Indianapolis coming up late next week. Smith suffered torn a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee on Jan. 1 in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

The bigger concern was nerve damage that showed up in Smith’s NFL Combine medical exam in late February. The rechecks are critical to Smith’s evaluation as a draft prospect.

Three other Irish players landed in their respective top fives — Ronnie Stanley as the No. 2 offensive tackle, Nick Martin as the No. 2 center and Will Fuller as the No. 4 wide receiver.

The 2016 NFL Draft is set for April 28-30 in Chicago.

Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell runs the 40-yard dash during Notre Dame's NFL football Pro Day in South Bend on March 31. (AP Photo/MICHAEL CONROY)