Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley announced on Monday that he intends to apply for early eligibility into the 2016 NFL Draft. One of the top left tackle prospects in college football, Stanley still plans to complete his degree at Notre Dame this spring, but will follow through with a long-term plan to enter the NFL in 2016.
"I knew if I came back this would be the last year," Stanley told Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. "It wasn't really something I thought about."
The decision comes as no surprise. Stanley is in his fourth year with the Fighting Irish, but had the option of returning for a fifth season. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly all but announced Stanley's intentions for him earlier this month, saying he had no expectation of the fourth-year junior returning to play for the Fighting Irish.
NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein ranked Stanley the No. 2 offensive tackle in college football in August, and Stanley supported that ranking with a dominant season. His pass-protection skills are the most impressive part of his game, something NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah took note of in reviewing Stanley's performance against Clemson star defensive end Shaq Lawson.
With Stanley's decision out of the way, all the more anticipation will build for the decision of Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, another talented left tackle prospect who has yet to announce whether he will apply for early draft eligibility. College underclassmen have until a Jan. 18 deadline to do so. Like Stanley, Tunsil is one of the most effective pass protectors in the college game, and is a third-year starter for the Rebels.