Here's a look at the top five former Notre Dame players in the NFL in 2012:
1. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings — In his second season, Rudolph hauled in 53 passes for 449 yards and helped the organization reach the playoffs with a 10-6 regular season mark following a dismal 3-13 record in 2011. For his efforts, the second-year player was selected as an alternate to the 2013 Pro Bowl, in which he was named Most Valuable Player.
2. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings — Whether it was making plays on the ball (two interceptions returned for touchdowns) or delivering crushing hits (just ask Detroit’s Calvin Johnson about that), the aggressive Smith proved he was worthy of being selected in the first round last year. He blew away rookie statistical averages of the 20 safeties taken in the first round since 2002. His 17 starts were nearly five more than the average and his 112 tackles were 44 more than the mean.
3. Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks — Entering his third year, Tate flapped his wings often in 2012. He set career highs in every category and was a favorite target of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who connected with the former Irish star from the start. Tate’s eight touchdown receptions nearly tripled his output from his first two seasons, and he averaged 15.3 yards per catch in the regular season. He threw for a touchdown on a trick play in a win over the Jets on Nov. 11.
4. Trevor Robinson, C, Cincinnati Bengals — After being asked to move from guard to center to back up Kyle Cook and fellow former Notre Dame product Jeff Faine, Robinson, who went undrafted in 2012, stepped in as a rookie due to injuries at the top of the depth chart and started seven contests at the end of the year. The Bengals already have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league, and most experts believe Robinson will be named a starter for 2013. The team went 5-2, averaged 19.3 first downs and converted 41.6 percent of its third downs in Robinsons’ seven starts. Cook returned for the final three games (including a playoff los to Houston) and those numbers dropped significantly.
5. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants — It wasn’t Tuck’s best season. In fact, it was a pretty miserable season for the Giants in general after winning a Super Bowl the previous year. New York went 9-7 and missed the postseason, and a rash of injuries undoubtedly slowed Tuck down in 2012, but he still managed to make 45 tackles and four sacks.