There's still plenty of time for this to change -- just ask Manti Te'o -- but ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has both Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix in the mix for top 10 picks in next year's NFL Draft.
Kiper, holding a conference call with reporters on Thursday, raved about Tuitt's play and compared him to longtime Patriots and Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
"I love the way he plays, he hustles," Kiper said. "Unfortunately ejected in that Pitt game -- that was something, I'm not a fan of that rule and that affected Notre Dame's ability to win that football game obviously. But Stephon Tuitt is getting after it. He almost single-handedly won that USC game for Notre Dame. They had like four shots inside Notre Dame territory and four times they were stopped. And Tuitt had a lot to do with that. He was unblockable in a number of games this year."
Kiper sees Tuitt as the perfect fit for a 3-4 defense needing an end, and expects him to be a top 10 pick. That is, of course, if Tuitt enters the draft after this season -- he previously told the Notre Dame student newspaper he would return for his senior year, then recanted that declaration.
[RELATED: Nix keeping everyone guessing about draft status]
As for Nix, Kiper lauded his ability to pick up double teams and did mention his injury -- Nix will need to undergo surgery after the season to repair a slightly torn meniscus, and has dealt with knee tendinitis as well -- though still can see Nix going in the top 10 next spring.
Kiper doesn't see left tackle Zack Martin as a first-round pick nor a tackle in the NFL -- instead, he sees Martin more as a guard and being picked in the third-round range. The first and second rounds of the draft are saturated with left tackles, and coach Brian Kelly did say earlier this year he figured Martin could play guard if he needed to.
True guard Chris Wat projects as a third or fourth-round pick, according to Kiper.
Kiper has linebacker Prince Shembo as a day three pick (rounds four through seven), while wide receiver T.J. Jones and cornerback Bennett Jackson project as late-round picks if they're drafted at all.