Notre Dame v Stanford
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Notre Dame running back Audric Estime has declared for the 2024 NFL Draft and will not participate in the team's upcoming matchup with Oregon State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, he announced Thursday. Estime ended the regular season as the leading rusher for the Fighting Irish, starting all 12 games en route to 1,314 yards and 18 touchdowns. Estime also caught 17 passes on the season for a total of 142 yards.

"Playing in front of the best fans in the world every Saturday was a dream come true," Estime said in a statement posted to social media. "Notre Dame's high standards of excellence helped me become who I am today."

Estime had one season of eligibility remaining at the collegiate level. He ends his three-year Notre Dame career with 2,321 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns. He appeared in all 37 games during his time with the program and made 14 starts over the past two seasons. 

Estime joins a growing list of Notre Dame stars who will not be on the field for Sun Bowl as they begin preparations for the NFL Draft. Quarterback Sam Hartman and offensive linemen Blake Fisher and Joe Alt are among the other Irish players who opted out of the contest, with Fisher and Alt also forgoing their remaining NCAA eligibility. 

Estime's draft stock 

Estime figures to be a mid-round selection once the 2024 NFL Draft rolls around in late April. The Notre Dame running back, at 5-foot-10 and 227 pounds, checks in at No. 161 overall in CBS Sports' 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings. That puts Estime at No. 8 in the rankings within his position group.

Estime's rushing totals in 2023 were the best of his career, surpassing his 920 yards and 11 touchdowns from 2022. Estime saved his best for last, too, with a season-high 238 yards and four touchdowns during the team's Week 13 victory at Stanford. Estime's success in 2023 should make for a nice launching pad as he now looks to fine-tune his craft and boost his draft stock in the coming months. 

What it means for Notre Dame

The offense doesn't have a comparable rusher available against Oregon State in terms of production. Estime rushed for nearly 1,000 more yards than the Irish's second-leading rusher, Jeremiyah Love, who had 346 yards. Estime's decision to skip the bowl game should provide valuable reps for Love, a freshman, as he tracks to take on a much larger role for Notre Dame in 2024. 

Love will have reinforcements next season, too. Sophomore running back Jadarian Price tracks to return in 2024 after rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season. The Irish also hold a commitment from Kedren Young, who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 3 running back prospect in the country for the 2024 cycle. All said, Estime leaves a major void to be filled, but the pieces are there for coach Marcus Freeman and company to feel confident about maintaining a healthy rushing attack moving forward.