Fighting Irish Forecast: Audric Estimé

© Jena Stopczynski / ABC57

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Standout running back Audric Estimé was the catalyst for Notre Dame's offensive attack this season. He finished the year with nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage, which was over 1,100 yards more than the next closed player on the Irish.

His 18 touchdowns tied for third amongst running backs in the nation and he ended the season on an extremely high note, running for 238 yards (on only 25 carries) and four touchdowns in a 56-23 victory over Stanford in the regular season finale.

The bruising back set career highs across multiple categories this season and established himself as one of the best running backs in college football in the process.

He was projected to be drafted in the second or third round for much of the pre-draft process leading up to the combine, but some believe the 20-year-old could be the best back in a loaded class at the position.

While Estimé may be coming off a college career to be proud of, the same cannot be said for his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.

He performed well in the jumping drills (jumps of 38" in the vertical and 10'5" in the broad ranked in the top five among running backs), but that explosiveness did not translate over to the event's preeminent drill, the 40-yard-dash, as he posted a shockingly slow time of 4.71-seconds.

Many expected Estimé to perform better in the 40-yard-dash, as he showed good burst for a player of his size and even occasionally outran defenders in the open field during his career at Notre Dame.

Nevertheless, speed was never going to be the main strength of the 5'11", 221-pound bowling ball's game. Power, however, is a vital aspect of his game, and he checked that box with 23 reps in the bench press drill, which tied for fifth-most amongst running backs.

A 40 time in his range has historically been a death knell to a running back's draft stock. In fact, he is attempting to become the first running back to get drafted despite running the drill in less than 4.65 seconds since 2015.

Interestingly, the slower-than-expected time is nothing new for Notre Dame running backs, as former Fighting Irish standout Kyren Williams was responsible for the 4.65 cut-off time two years ago.

However, he has since proven that time would not slow his progress in the NFL, as he developed into one of the league's most efficient running backs (and one of the Los Angeles Rams' most vital offensive weapons) this year.

Teams often overthink the 40-yard dash, so the poor performance in the drill will all but certainly drop his draft stock. Williams fell to the fifth round due to his slow time, and Estimé may suffer a similar fate (if not worse).

With that said, he could prove to be a massive bargain if a team gives him a chance to show what he can do, as the slower foot speed doesn't matter nearly as much when no one wants to tackle him due to his battering ram nature.

The running back position has been devalued over the years, and countless runners have vastly exceeded expectations after falling in the draft as a result.

Estimé could be next in line to do just that.

The 89th NFL Draft  will take place in Detroit, April 25–27.

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