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Notre Dame offensive lineman Joe Alt has declared for the 2024 NFL Draft and will skip the Fighting Irish's upcoming Sun Bowl clash with Oregon State as he begins preparations for the draft. Alt is a projected top-10 pick in the draft and ranks No. 5 in CBS Sports' 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings. 

Alt has been a staple in the trenches for Notre Dame over the past three seasons, emerging as a starter during his freshman year in 2021 and maintaining that role. He finished the 2023 season as a consensus All-American and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award. He only allowed four sacks throughout his college career and was the highest-graded offensive lineman in the country during the 2023 campaign, according to Pro Football Focus. 

"What a ride it has been!" Alt said in a statement. "From wearing 45 as a tight end to 76 as a left tackle, I am truly grateful for all of the memories at this university and all of the friends made on and off the field. ...  Saturdays in Notre Dame Stadium playing for the Notre Dame fans is what I will remember the most. Truly the best fan base in America. In my heart, I know it is time for me to take the next step on this journey."

Alt is not the first notable piece of Notre Dame's offense to declare for the NFL draft and skip the Sun Bowl, which airs Dec. 29 on CBS. His announcement comes days after Irish starting quarterback Sam Hartman also opted out of the postseason as he begins the draft process. 

Alt's draft stock 

It's not surprising to see Alt forgo his remaining year of NCAA eligibility and pursue professional football given his stock exiting the 2023 regular season. He's second among all offensive lineman in CBS Sports' 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, only trailing Penn State offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu, who is two spots ahead of Alt at No. 3 overall. Chris Trapasso, in his most recent mock draft, projected Alt to the Tennessee Titans at No. 8 overall.

"Alt may not have All-Pro upside, but he's pro-ready, which is exactly what the Titans should be looking for at tackle entering 2024," Trapasso wrote.

At 6-foot-7 and 322 pounds, Alt will certainly provide protection to the quarterback no matter where he lands. His sheer size and strength proved to be invaluable for Notre Dame at the collegiate level in protecting several quarterbacks over the past three seasons, and should translate well upon his entrance into the pros. 

What it means for Notre Dame 

In the immediate, Alt's draft decision only adds to the reduced depth that Notre Dame will be facing when it heads to El Paso, Texas, for its final game of the year. Of course, that's only an exhibition game. The bigger question is how the Irish will fill the void of a three-year stater who proved to be among the most reliable pieces of the Irish offensive line in that stretch.

With offensive tackle Blake Fisher also declaring for the draft, that position is certainly one of need. That Fisher also opted out of the Sun Bowl opens the door for junior Tosh Baker and redshirt freshman Aamil Wagner to get some needed starting experience in that game before potentially taking on bigger roles in 2024. Baker has not started since 2021 – he made two starts that season — while Wagner has no previous starting experience. 

With the transfer portal being college football's great equalizer, so to speak, it wouldn't be a shock either if coach Marcus Freeman's staff takes that avenue in adding some experienced depth to the trenches. Four offensive linemen, including four-star offensive tackle Guerby Lambert, are committed to Notre Dame in the 2024 class as the early signing period approaches. The Irish have yet to add any offensive line depth via the transfer portal.