Weight is an issue with Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who did not play consistently as a junior in 2013, and could be the key to whether he is selected in the first round.
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock told KBME-AM in Houston that Tuitt is "a borderline first-round guy."
Mayock saw a lot of Tuitt because he served as the analyst on Irish telecasts on NBC. Tuitt, who is 6-foot-5½, was listed at 312 pounds by Notre Dame at the end of the 2013 season and weighed in at 304 pounds at February's NFL Scouting Combine. But he was listed as a 322-pounder by Notre Dame during the season and he looked noticeably slower with the added weight.
"When he's up to 325 or 330 pounds, that's not him," Mayock said. "When he's 310 to 315, I think you see some flashes of quickness. I think you see how he can disrupt people."
While Tuitt was an end in the Irish's 3-4 defense, he also played some at nose tackle in 2013 when starter Louis Nix III was sidelined by an injury. There are some analysts who think he could be a 4-3 tackle in the NFL, and Mayock said there's a chance he could be a 4-3 defensive end. As a 4-3 tackle, his pass-rush skills would be a huge selling point.
Tuitt's injury history could give some pause. He missed four games as a freshman, had surgery for a sports hernia after the 2012 season, then had foot surgery March 1 after a small fracture was discovered during a medical exam at the combine.
He was able to work out at Notre Dame's pro day on March 20, running the 40-yard dash in 5.00 and 5.03 seconds. He has been clocked as fast as 4.78 seconds in the 40.
Tuitt led the Irish with 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss in 2013, but his sack total was down from 11 in 2012.
He does have an intriguing upside and he could fit in well with a couple of teams who pick relatively late in the first round, such as Kansas City, which uses a 3-4 and picks 23rd; New England, which runs a 3-4 and picks 29th; and Seattle, which employs a 4-3 and picks 32nd. Tuitt also could intrigue Houston, which uses a 3-4 and picks first in the second round.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.