Could Day be primed for a breakout?

As we all know by now, it is never too early to look ahead when dealing with NFL draft matters, and Mel Kiper Jr. released a list this week that is sure to catch the eyes of many Notre Dame fans.

Kiper ranks 15 overall defensive end prospects for next spring's draftInsider, splitting the group between those who will exhaust their eligibility this fall and those who will have the chance to declare early for the NFL. All the way down at "5D" on the underclassmen list is Irish junior Sheldon Day, a player who has generated plenty of buzz after consecutive strong campaigns in South Bend, Ind.

Kiper admits this is a bit of a sleeper pick so early, but he, like many, projects big things for Day this season, as the Indianapolis native is the best of Notre Dame's returning linemen and won't be overshadowed by recent draft picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Kiper sees the 290-pound Day as an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme at the pro level.

Brian Kelly has expressed similar optimism about Day, telling FoxSports.com's Bruce Feldman last month that Day could be Notre Dame's best pass rusher even while playing inside. That versatility will undoubtedly help Day impress NFL personnel, but the Irish are in no rush to lose him before 2016.