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Why BYU is best in the West on this NFL draft big board

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Quarterback Zach Wilson throws during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021. Led by Wilson, an expected first-round pick, Pro Football Focus has eight BYU prospects listed on its 2021 NFL draft big board one week before the draft.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It’s been a long time — 2009, in fact — since BYU had multiple players selected in an NFL draft. This year is expected to change that.

Quarterback Zach Wilson headlines a BYU draft class that could have players selected on each day of the 2021 NFL draft, which runs April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.

Pro Football Focus is high on the Cougars’ prospects, ranking eight BYU players on PFF’s final top 300 big board in the lead-up to the draft. Those eight Cougars are more than any other team from the West this year, per @WestCoastCFB, which covers western schools and conferences at both the FBS and FCS level.

BYU players on PFF’s big board

  • No. 2: QB Zach Wilson — “Call him a one-year wonder if you want, but he earned an impressive 78.8 passing grade as a true freshman before injuries derailed his sophomore campaign. This past season, his 95.5 passing grade was the highest in the country. His off-platform arm talent and special throws make him an elite quarterback prospect,” PFF’s Michael Renner wrote.

  • No. 74: OT Brady Christensen — “Christensen broke the PFF record for overall grade by a tackle at 96.0 in 2020. While he is on the older side (24), Christensen’s dominance is difficult to ignore after allowing three pressures all last season,” Renner wrote.
  • No. 105: WR Dax Milne
  • No. 142: DT Khyiris Tonga
  • No. 176: OT Chandon Herring
  • No. 231: TE Matt Bushman
  • No. 257: OG Tristen Hoge
  • No. 285: CB Chris Wilcox

Including compensatory selections, there are 259 picks in this year’s draft. Typically, especially in the past couple decades, BYU has several players who enter the NFL as undrafted free agents each year versus actually getting drafted, and for guys lower on this list, like Herring, Bushman, Hoge and Wilcox, that appears to be the most likely path.

For reference, the last time BYU had more than two players taken in a single NFL draft was 2005, with linebacker Brady Poppinga (fourth round, Green Bay Packers), guard Scott Young (fifth, Philadelphia Eagles) and defensive end Shaun Nua (seventh, Pittsburgh Steelers) going in that year’s draft.

The last time BYU had five players taken in a draft was 2002, when tight end Doug Jolley (second round, Oakland Raiders), defensive end Ryan Denney (second, Buffalo Bills), quarterback Brandon Doman (fifth, San Francisco 49ers), running back Luke Staley (seventh, Detroit Lions) and defensive end Brett Keisel (seventh, Pittsburgh Steelers) being selected.

Other Utahns on the PFF big board

BYU’s eight players on the PFF NFL draft big board is more than any Pac-12 school had, with USC putting a conference-high seven on the list and Oregon and Stanford tied with five each. Those three Power 5 schools each have a Utah high school prospect in this year’s class as well.


  • No. 136: DT Jay Tufele, from Bingham High


  • No. 4: OT Penei Sewell, from Desert Hills High: “Sewell earned the highest single-season grade we have ever given to a college offensive tackle … as a true sophomore. We haven’t seen him play a snap since his age-19 season, and he’s still talked about as a top-five pick. That tells you everything you need to know about his dominance,” Renner wrote.


  • No. 111: WR Simi Fehoko, from Brighton High

This is setting up to be potentially the best NFL draft for Utah prep-developed talent. In 2019, five players who played high school football were drafted, an all-time high, but Sewell, Tufele and Fehoko all appear to be likely draft picks. Combine that with BYU’s Utah high school products — Wilson (Corner Canyon High), Christensen (Bountiful High), Tonga (Granger High) and Milne (Bingham High) — there is a strong contingent of Utah prep football prospects in this year’s class.