by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of 247Sports.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Notre Dame, Defensive Line, Howard Cross III
Name- Howard Cross III
Pos- Defensive Line
Team- Notre Dame
HT/WT- 6’1” 288 lbs.
Home – Paramus, NJ
Cross attended Saint Joseph Regional High School in New Jersey where he was a state champion-wrestler and two-way star football player. He was named the 2018 NJ.com State Player of the Year and as a senior, he collected 76 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He was rated a consensus 4-star recruit and committed to Notre Dame University.
His father Howard Cross Jr. played 13 games in the NFL for the New York Giants.
As a freshman, Cross played in 4 games in a cleanup role and tallied 7 tackles. During his sophomore season, he saw more snaps and played in 12 games and totaled 13 tackles for the Fighting Irish.
In 2021, he played in 11 games, and made his first 2 starts of his career as he became a part of Notre Dame’s defensive line rotation. He finished the season with 22 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Last season, he made 7 starts and played in 12 games for Notre Dame. He led all interior defensive linemen in tackles with 33 and added 2 sacks.
So far this season, Cross has taken his game to a higher level, starting all 8 games and already collecting a career high 45 tackles.
Cross plays low and is quick off the ball, making it hard for offensive linemen to engage and stick to him. He uses his hands well to swat away blocks and beat them inside. He plays with a strong base and is tough to knock off balance and uses his legs and lower body well to make him difficult to move. Cross disengages blocks quickly with his strong hands while using his pad level and leverage to roll off blocks in the direction of the ball carrier. In the run game, he is instinctive and keeps his eyes in the backfield while engaging with blockers.
On the downside, Cross needs to work on his pass rushing moves and footwork during stunts and spins. With his low base, he can easily be chop blocked, especially once a blocker realizes how hard it is to get into Cross’ chest. He has average strength, size and athleticism for the pro level, which isn’t a knock, but it does limit his upside in the eyes of scouts. His consistency is what wins him battles, but his reach limits him at times against larger centers who can hold him up, keeping him from getting into their chest.
A good comparison to Howard Cross III is Atlanta Falcons veteran Grady Jarrett who was drafted back in 2015 in the 5th round. Both have similar builds and use their strong lower bodies to lock up and become space cloggers. Jarrett has had a solid NFL career and Draft 412 thinks Cross III can get to this level.
Lower body/ legs
Pass rushing moves
Howard Cross could be an important piece of a 3-4 defense in the NFL. He can hold his own at contact and free up teammates to make plays. Offensive linemen will have trouble getting to the second level once engaged with Cross.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 5th round or 6th round