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What the past 20 years reveal about BYU, Utah and Utah State and the NFL draft

Former Utah State wide receiver Kevin Curtis said he never really thought he'd be in the position of one day hearing his name called during the NFL draft when he first suited up for the Aggies as a junior college walk-on.

After his stock was bolstered by a standout junior season at Utah State, that idea turned into reality when he was selected in the third round of the 2003 NFL draft, becoming one of 95 draft picks from either BYU, Utah or Utah State from 1995-2014.

Whether you're one of the star athletes looking to be selected in the opening round or a player aiming to latch on somewhere in the mid-to-late rounds, the NFL draft — and the lead-up to it — is a unique type of job-seeking experience.

"I was anxious," Curtis, who was drafted by St. Louis, said of the draft process. "It's just a big wait. (You want to) get on with it and start a career."

Looking at the past 20 years of the NFL draft helps paint a picture of the perception local schools have in NFL circles, as well as what kind of talent is running through Utah, BYU and Utah State.

"Players help build the standard that is there today," said former Utah wide receiver Kevin Dyson, a 1998 first-round pick of the Tennessee Oilers (now Titans).

How have the local schools fared in the draft since 1995, and how long of careers are their athletes experiencing in the NFL?

Here's a look at how NFL draft picks from Utah, BYU and Utah State stack up against each other over the past 20 years. Keep in mind that any active players who have played three years or less will bring down the average career length.

Utah Utes

Players drafted: 44

Combined number of seasons: 204

Average career length: 4.63 years

Combined games played: 2,239

Combined games started: 1,372 (61.2 percent of games played)

BYU Cougars

Players drafted: 38 (including one in the 2010 supplemental draft)

Combined number of seasons: 150

Average career length: 3.94 years

Combined games played: 1,392

Combined games started: 679 (48.8 percent of games played)

Utah State Aggies

Players drafted: 13

Combined number of seasons: 42

Average career length: 3.23 years

Combined games played: 414

Combined games started: 679 (44.4 percent of games played)

Of BYU's nine players currently on active NFL rosters, only three were draft picks. By comparison, 14 of the Utes' 23 active players (60.8 percent) were draft picks, while seven of the Aggies' current 14 NFL players were selected in the draft.

Utes' NFL draft outlook since 1995

The numbers here start with one, as in first overall draft pick. Quarterback Alex Smith became the first Utah tie to be taken first overall in the NFL draft when San Francisco selected him No. 1 in 2005.

Utah also has had five first-round picks in the past 20 years, including defensive end Luther Elliss (1995), Dyson (1998), offensive tackle Jordan Gross (2003), Smith and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (2013). Before that, the Utes had only had two first-round draft picks.

"Elliss kind of started the trend of teams looking our direction. Then it started to grow from there," said Dyson, who also credited players like running back Jamal Anderson and his brother, cornerback Andre Dyson, for their ability to get scouts to notice Utah players. "It was more common to see not just one or two guys being drafted, you started to see three, maybe four being drafted from the University of Utah."

Of the Utes' 44 draft picks from 1995-2014, 25 were defensive players and 19 were on the offensive side. Two of the Utes' most successful position groups were the offensive line and wide receivers. Both groups had seven players drafted, with wide receivers averaging 5.4 years in the league and offensive linemen 5.0.

Four of the Utes' draft picks never played a single season in the NFL. Conversely, four of these draft picks have played at least 10 seasons in the league — Smith (10 years), wide receiver Steve Smith (14), Elliss (10) and Gross (11).

"Coaches have something to do with it, but from a personal perspective, you've got to be motivated to get to that level," Dyson said.

Cougars' NFL draft outlook since 1995

In the 1980s, the Cougars had 39 players selected in either the regular NFL draft or the 1984 NFL supplemental draft. Things have tempered since then. Of the Cougars' 38 draft picks from 1995-2014, 24 were on offense, 13 on defense and one was a special teams player.

Three of BYU's 11 all-time first-round picks came during this stretch — offensive tackle John Tait (1999), linebacker Rob Morris (2000) and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (2013).

On the flip side, six of BYU's draft picks in the past 20 years never played a season in the NFL. That included Eli Herring, who chose not to play in the NFL since games are played on Sundays.

The Cougars' best position group from 1995-2014 was at linebacker, where five BYU draftees have averaged a career length of 5.4 years and three of the five lasted six or more years in the NFL. This group also includes second-year linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

In the past 20 years, the Cougars have seen a handful of undrafted free agents find long-standing success, including tight end Chad Lewis, long snapper John Denney and safety Aaron Francisco. Lewis was a three-time Pro Bowler, Denney has played 10 years in the NFL and Francisco played in two Super Bowls.

"Once I realized that I put my uniform on just like a Pro Bowler put on his uniform, that I was a talented, deserving player, I didn’t need to be intimidated by anyone or anything and that I had great skill and a lot to offer my team," Lewis said in February. "Once I realized that, then I was a benefit to my team."

Aggies' NFL draft outlook since 1995

Utah State was in the midst of its worst draft drought in 1995 — the Aggies only had two players selected in the 1990s — and it didn’t start to get better until the mid-2000s. The past four years, the Aggies have had more players drafted, eight, than either Utah or BYU.

Utah State has had seven defenders drafted the past 20 years and six on offense. The two longest-tenured Aggies during that stretch were Curtis (eight years) and tight end Chris Cooley (nine years).

"I was very fortunate to play the amount of years I did," Curtis said. "Some of it's luck, some of the injuries I had weren't super significant. … The key is just to keep making plays and be productive and stay healthy."

Unlike BYU and Utah, every single Aggie who’s been drafted in the past 20 years has played at least one season in the league.

The career length for Utah State draftees since 1995 is lower than should be expected, since seven of the 13 draft picks are on active rosters and all have played three seasons or less. That includes All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, a two-star recruit coming out of high school.

"They've really turned that whole program around," Curtis said of Utah State's program under the tutelage of Gary Andersen from 2009-12, then Matt Wells since 2013. "They always have good talent at Utah State. I know I played with a lot of guys I felt could have been playing in the league. But I think both (Andersen and Wells) have the ability to get the best out of their players."

What this year brings

Utah is expected to have the most players drafted among the three schools, with defensive back Eric Rowe and defensive end Nate Orchard the top prospects.

BYU’s best draft option, like it has been the past two years with Ansah and Van Noy, is a defender. This year, it's outside linebacker Alani Fua.

Utah State could extend its streak of having a player drafted to five seasons. The Aggies' most likely prospect to continue the streak is linebacker Zach Vigil.

"It's one thing to get drafted, but in order to continue to get people to look at you, you've got to have success within the NFL system," Dyson said. "But perceptions can be changed, too. Once you get there, you've just got to perform."

Utah draftees since 1995

* indicates player is on an active roster

Luther Elliss, DE

1995, drafted by Detroit, first round

10 seasons, 134 games played, 119 starts

Lance Scott, OG

1995, drafted by Arizona, fifth round

6 seasons, 32 games played, 27 starts

Curtis Marsh, WR

1995, drafted by Jacksonville, seventh round

3 seasons, 15 games played, 0 starts

Bronzell Miller, DE

1995, drafted by St. Louis, seventh round

1 season, 3 games played, 0 starts

Henry Lusk, TE

1996, drafted by New Orleans, seventh round

2 seasons, 19 games played, 4 starts

Kevin Dyson, WR

1998, drafted by Tennessee, first round

6 seasons, 59 games played, 54 starts

Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala, RB

1998, drafted by Pittsburgh, sixth round

7 seasons, 73 games played, 7 starts

Phil Glover, LB

1999, drafted by Tennessee, seventh round

2 seasons, 10 games played, 0 starts

John Frank, DE

2000, drafted by Philadelphia, sixth round

0 seasons

Mike Anderson, RB

2000, drafted by Denver, sixth round

8 seasons, 98 games played, 51 starts

Richard Seals, DT

2000, drafted by New York Jets, seventh round

0 seasons

Andre Dyson, DB

2001, drafted by Tennessee, second round

7 seasons, 96 games played, 80 starts

*Steve Smith, WR

2001, drafted by Carolina, third round

14 seasons, 198 games played, 177 starts

Cliff Russell, WR

2002, drafted by Washington, third round

6 seasons, 23 games played, 1 start

Ed Ta’amu, OG

2002, drafted by Minnesota, fourth round

0 seasons

Jordan Gross, OT

2003, drafted by Carolina, first round

11 seasons, 167 games played, 167 starts

Lauvale Sape, DT

2003, drafted by Buffalo, sixth round

2 seasons, 10 games played, 0 starts

Antwoine Sanders, DB

2003, drafted by Baltimore, seventh round

0 seasons

*Alex Smith, QB

2005, drafted by San Francisco, first round (first overall pick)

10 seasons, 110 games played, 105 starts

Sione Pouha, DT

2005, drafted by New York Jets, third round

8 seasons, 106 games played, 55 starts

Chris Kemoeatu, OG

2005, drafted by Pittsburgh, sixth round

7 seasons, 75 games played, 53 starts

Paris Warren, WR

2005, drafted by Tampa Bay, seventh round

4 seasons, 8 games played, 0 starts

Jonathan Fanene, DE

2005, drafted by Cincinnati, seventh round

7 seasons, 71 games played, 17 starts

Spencer Toone, LB

2006, drafted by Tennessee, seventh round

1 season, 3 games played, 0 starts

Quinton Ganther, RB

2006, drafted by Tennessee, seventh round

5 seasons, 36 games played, 5 starts

*Eric Weddle, FS

2007, drafted by San Diego, second round

8 seasons, 124 games played, 109 starts

*Paul Soliai, DT

2007, drafted by Miami, fourth round

8 seasons, 114 games played, 76 starts

*Paul Kruger, DE

2009, drafted by Baltimore, second round

6 seasons, 83 games played, 38 starts

*Sean Smith, CB

2009, drafted by Miami, second round

6 seasons, 95 games played, 87 starts

*Brice McCain, CB

2009, drafted by Houston, sixth round

6 seasons, 86 games played, 19 starts

Freddie Brown, WR

2009, drafted by Cincinnati, seventh round

1 season, 0 of 16 games played, 0 starts

*Koa Misi, LB

2010, drafted by Miami, second round

5 seasons, 68 games played, 57 starts

*Zane Beadles, OG

2010, drafted by Denver, second round

5 seasons, 80 games played, 78 starts

Robert Johnson, SS

2010, drafted by Tennessee, fifth round

3 seasons, 15 games played, 3 starts

David Reed, WR

2010, drafted by Baltimore, fifth round

4 seasons, 36 games played, 0 starts

Stevenson Sylvester, LB

2010, drafted by Pittsburgh, fifth round (166)

5 seasons, 50 games played, 2 starts

R.J. Stanford, DB

2010, drafted by Carolina, seventh round

5 seasons, 46 games played, 1 start

Brandon Burton, DB

2011, drafted by Minnesota, fifth round

3 seasons, 19 of 48 games played, 1 start

Caleb Schlauderaff, OG

2011, drafted by Green Bay, sixth round

3 seasons, 12 games played, 1 start

*Tony Bergstrom, OG

2012, drafted by Oakland, third round

3 seasons, 9 games played, 1 start

*Star Lotulelei, DT

2013, drafted by Carolina, first round

2 seasons, 30 games played, 29 starts

*Joe Kruger, DE

2013, drafted by Philadelphia, seventh round

2 season, 0 games played, 0 starts

*Keith McGill, CB

2014, drafted by Oakland, fourth round

1 season, 12 games played, 1 start

*Trevor Reilly, LB

2014, drafted by New York Jets, seventh round

1 season, 14 games played, 0 starts

Combined 204 seasons, average 4.63 years (44 total, 14 active players); 2,239 games played; 1,372 starts

BYU draftees since 1995

* indicates player is on an active roster

Evan Pilgrim, OL

1995, drafted by Chicago, third round

6 seasons, 32 games played, 8 starts

Tim Hanshaw, OL

1995, drafted by San Francisco, fourth round

4 seasons, 30 games played, 3 starts

Travis Hall, DL

1995, drafted by Atlanta, sixth round

11 seasons, 150 games played, 93 starts

Eli Herring, OL

1995, drafted by Oakland, sixth round

0 seasons

John Walsh, QB

1995, drafted by Cincinnati, seventh round

1 season, 0 games played, 0 starts

Mike Ulufale, DL

1996, drafted by Dallas, third round

1 season, 3 games played, 0 starts

Itula Mili, TE

1997, drafted by Seattle, sixth round

10 seasons, 114 games played, 42 starts

Eric Bateman, OL

1998, drafted by New York Jets, fifth round

0 seasons

Dustin Johnson, FB

1998, drafted by New York Jets, sixth round

1 season, 1 game played, 0 starts

Jason Andersen, OL

1998, drafted by New England, seventh round

4 seasons, 19 games played, 0 starts

John Tait, OL

1999, drafted by Kansas City, first round

10 seasons, 148 games played, 139 starts

Daren Yancey, DL

1999, drafted by Oakland, sixth round

0 seasons

Joe Wong, OL

1999, drafted by Miami, seventh round

3 seasons, 2 games played, 0 starts

Rob Morris, LB

2000, drafted by Indianapolis, first round

8 seasons, 99 games played, 67 starts

Byron Frisch, DL

2000, drafted by Tennessee, third round

3 seasons, 23 games played, 0 starts

Matt Johnson, OL

2000, drafted by Indianapolis, fifth round

0 seasons

Owen Pochman, K

2001, drafted by New England, seventh round

3 seasons, 16 games played, 0 starts

Tevita Ofahengaue, TE

2001, drafted by Arizona, seventh round

0 seasons

Doug Jolley, TE

2002, drafted by Oakland, second round

5 seasons, 74 games played, 32 starts

Ryan Denney, DE

2002, drafted by Buffalo, second round

9 seasons, 113 games played, 31 starts

Brandon Doman, QB

2002, drafted by San Francisco, fifth round

2 seasons, 0 games played, 0 starts

Luke Staley, RB

2002, drafted by Detroit, seventh round

1 season, 0 games played, 0 starts

Brett Keisel, DE

2002, drafted by Pittsburgh, seventh round

13 seasons, 156 games played, 114 starts

Dustin Rykert, OL

2003, drafted by Oakland, sixth round

0 seasons

Spencer Nead, TE

2003, drafted by New England, seventh round

1 season, 10 games played, 0 starts

Colby Bockwoldt, LB

2004, drafted by New Orleans, seventh round

4 seasons, 49 games played, 24 starts

Brady Poppinga, LB

2005, drafted by Green Bay, fourth round

8 seasons, 100 games played, 57 starts

Scott Young, OL

2005, drafted by Philadelphia, fifth round

4 seasons, 14 games played, 0 starts

Shaun Nua, DE

2005, drafted by Pittsburgh, seventh round

3 seasons, 0 games played, 0 starts

Todd Watkins, WR

2006, drafted by Arizona, seventh round

5 seasons, 21 games played, 1 start

John Beck, QB

2007, drafted by Miami, second round

6 seasons, 9 games played, 7 starts

Bryan Kehl, LB

2008, drafted by New York Giants, fourth round

6 seasons, 72 games played, 5 starts

Austin Collie, WR

2009, drafted by Indianapolis, fourth round

5 seasons, 49 games played, 17 starts

Fui Vakapuna, RB

2009, drafted by Cincinnati, seventh round

3 seasons, 0 games played, 0 starts

*Dennis Pitta, TE

2010, drafted by Baltimore, fourth round

5 seasons, 50 games played, 11 starts

Harvey Unga, RB

2010 supplemental draft, drafted by Chicago, seventh round

2 seasons, 0 games played, 0 starts

*Ezekiel Ansah, DE

2013, drafted by Detroit, first round

2 seasons, 30 games played, 28 starts

*Kyle Van Noy, LB

2014, drafted by Detroit, second round

1 season, 8 games played, 0 starts

Combined 150 seasons, average 3.94 years (38 total, three active players); 1,392 games played; 679 starts

Utah State draftees since 1995

* indicates player is on an active roster

JohnDale Carty, DB

1999, drafted by Atlanta, fourth round

4 seasons, 59 games played, 3 starts

Kevin Curtis, WR

2003, drafted by St. Louis, third round

8 seasons, 81 games played, 36 starts

Chris Cooley, TE

2004, drafted by Washington, third round

9 seasons, 117 games played, 102 starts

Shawn Murphy, G

2008, drafted by Miami, fourth round

3 seasons, 1 game played, 0 starts

Kevin Robinson, WR/KR

2008, drafted by Kansas City, sixth round

1 seasons, 8 games played, 0 starts

*Curtis Marsh, CB

2011, drafted by Philadelphia, third round

3 seasons, 26 games played, 0 starts

*Bobby Wagner, LB

2012, drafted by Seattle, second round

3 seasons, 41 games played, 40 starts

*Robert Turbin, RB

2012, drafted by Seattle, fourth round

3 seasons, 48 games played, 3 starts

Michael Smith, RB

2012, drafted by Tampa Bay, seventh round

2 seasons, 1 game played, 0 starts

*Will Davis, CB

2013, drafted by Miami, third round

2 seasons, 15 games played, 0 starts

*Kerwynn Williams, RB

2013, drafted by Indianapolis, seventh round

2 seasons, 6 games played, 0 starts

*Maurice Alexander, S

2014, drafted by St. Louis, fourth round

1 season, 9 games played, 0 starts

*Nevin Lawson, CB

2014, drafted by Detroit, fourth round

1 season, 2 games played, 0 starts

Combined 42 seasons, average 3.23 years (13 total, seven active players); 414 games played; 184 starts

Email: bjudd@deseretdigital.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd