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NFL draft: What Utah ties are among the best available prospects heading into Day 3?

SHARE NFL draft: What Utah ties are among the best available prospects heading into Day 3?

Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga celebrates a first down in the closing minutes against the Boise State Broncos during NCAA football in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Tonga, a Granger High product, could be a Day 3 selection in the 201 NFL draft.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Another Utah connection had his name called during the 2021 NFL draft on Friday, when former BYU and Bountiful High offensive tackle Brady Christensen was selected by the Carolina Panthers during the draft’s third round.

Combine that with quarterback Zach Wilson (BYU and Corner Canyon High) and offensive tackle Penei Sewell (Desert Hills High) going in the first round, and it’s been a solid draft so far for Utah-developed talent.

It looks like Day 3 — the final four rounds of the draft — could also be a good day for Utah ties. There are 154 picks remaining on the draft’s final day — it begins at 10 a.m. MDT, on ESPN, ABC and NFL Network — and Utah guys like defensive tackle Jay Tufele (Bingham High) and wide receiver Simi Fehoko (Brighton High) are rated among the best available at their positions.

Three BYU players also show up in the draftable range going into Day 3 — defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (Granger High), wide receiver Dax Milne (Bingham High) and tight end Matt Bushman.

How many will ultimately get drafted? That’s the big question.

Jay Tufele

UPDATE: Tufele was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first pick of the fourth round (106th overall).

  • Defensive tackle
  • Utah tie: Bingham High
  • ESPN’s best available: No. 1 among defensive tackles
  • Tufele, the former USC star, was seen as a strong Day 2 possibility going into the draft. He should be an early Day 3 pick, though: Fox Sports (No. 5) and Sporting News (No. 7) both have him as a top 10 available prospect overall heading into Saturday, while ESPN has him at No. 12 overall. Bleacher Report also tabs Tufele as the best run stopper available at defensive tackle.
  • From Rob Rang, Fox Sports: “A bowling ball of butcher knives just scratching the surface of his potential, Tufele would almost surely have heard his name called in the Top 100 had he not opted out on the season. He did it for all the right reasons, however, with his sister contracting COVID and spending months in ICU, leaving her “little” brother understandably needing time with family. If teams are sure he is locked in and in shape, Tufele won’t be on the board long, as his quickness and power are starter-worthy.” 

Simi Fehoko

UPDATE: Fehoko was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round (179th overall pick).

  • Wide receiver
  • Utah tie: Brighton High
  • ESPN’s best available: No. 16 among wide receivers
  • Fehoko, who left Stanford following a standout junior season, is expected to be drafted, though where he ranks varies quite a bit from the national outlets. Fox Sports has him at No. 10 available overall on its big board, and Bleacher Report puts Fehoko as the fourth-best available wide receiver. ESPN, meanwhile, has him as the No. 81 prospect overall, which would tab Fehoko somewhere as a late fifth or early sixth-round pick.
  • From Rob Rang, Fox Sports: “Speaking of talent, in a class full of small receivers who boast blazing speed, Fehoko stands tall, boasting a Chase Claypool-like raw skillset at 6-4, 222 pounds with sub 4.4 speed. Like a lot of receivers his size, Fehoko is too straight-linish to run every route in the tree but he’s tall enough to catch over them, if necessary. Just ask former NFL head coach Chip Kelly, whose UCLA Bruins Fehoko destroyed in his final collegiate game with 16 catches for 230 yards and three scores — including the game-winner in overtime.”

Khyiris Tonga

UPDATED: Tonga was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the seventh round (250th overall).

  • Defensive tackle
  • Utah ties: BYU and Granger High
  • ESPN’s best available: No. 13 among defensive tackles
  • Tonga has his fans going into the draft’s final day. Chief among them is Bleacher Report, which rates him as the No. 3 defensive lineman available, as well as the biggest sleeper at the position and the best nose tackle available. Fox Sports lists Tonga as the No. 53 best player available, a considerable jump over his rating with ESPN (No. 178). So far, there have been five defensive tackles selected in the draft.
  • ESPN’s predraft analysis: “Tonga is a big nose tackle with excellent upper-body strength and good quickness for his size. He’s strong enough to occupy double-teams when he stays low, but his pads tend to rise, and he needs to be more consistent in this area. He flashes the ability to collapse the pocket, and he gets his hands up in passing lanes.” — Steve Muench

Matt Bushman

  • Tight end
  • Utah tie: BYU
  • ESPN’s best available: No. 10 among tight ends
  • Bushman, who missed the 2020 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, could find himself as a late-round draft pick. ESPN rates him as the No. 145 overall prospect still available heading into Saturday, and Bleacher Report has him as the seventh-best tight end remaining. There have been five tight ends taken so far in the draft’s first three rounds.
  • ESPN’s predraft analysis: “Bushman is a sure-handed target who does a good job of tracking and adjusting to the ball. He’s a crafty route runner with adequate burst. He flashes good contact balance after the catch. He’s an adequate positional blocker who would do well to fill out his frame and get stronger.” — Muench

Dax Milne

UPDATE: Milne was drafted by the Washington Football Team in the seventh round (258th overall).

  • Wide receiver
  • Utah ties: BYU and Bingham High 
  • ESPN’s best available: No. 29 among wide receivers
  • Milne was included in several mock drafts prior to the draft, and Bleacher Report has him as the No. 16 best available wide receiver. He left BYU following his junior season and is rated the No. 174 overall prospect by ESPN going into Day 3. So far, there have been 15 wide receivers taken in the 2021 draft — five in each round of the first three rounds. If he’s not selected, Milne’s path to an NFL roster would expectedly be as a priority free agent.
  • ESPN’s predraft analysis: “Milne is a savvy route runner with average burst and a good feel for how to attack zone looks. He has the toughness to make plays in traffic over the middle, and while he traps some passes, he tends to extend his hands and snatch the ball out of the air.” — Muench

Also of note

A couple of other BYU players showed up on the lists of best available players: ESPN has cornerback Chris Wilcox at No. 228 overall (UPDATE: Wilcox was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the seventh round, 251st overall), while Fox Sports includes safety Zayne Anderson at No. 129 overall. Two Cougar offensive linemen, Tristen Hoge and Chandon Herring, showed up as late-round draft picks in a pair of predraft mock drafts.