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How BYU’s five draft picks were graded by the national media

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) takes a snap during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.
BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) takes a snap during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

There was plenty of talk about BYU during the 2021 NFL draft, with former Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson headlining the program’s best draft since 2002.

In all, five former Cougars were taken in the seven-round draft, with at least one BYU player taken each day during the three-day event.

How the players’ careers will pan out will have to be played out over the coming years. For now, though, there are numerous national experts willing to weigh in.

Here’s a look at analysis on each BYU pick from various national media, with grades where available.

Zach Wilson, quarterback

Drafted first round, No. 2 overall by New York Jets

  • Rob Rang, Fox Sports: “The most important element of quarterback play is accuracy, and Wilson — both in the pocket and on the move — is remarkably on-target. Wilson has a lightning-quick release and the zip to thread the needle through the tighter windows he’ll face in the NFL. If the Jets surround him with talent, Wilson can be the superstar this franchise has been missing at quarterback.” Grade: A.
  • Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: “I like him as a player, but I would have taken Justin Fields in this spot. Fields will be a better quarterback.” Grade: B.
  • Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: “The ultra-athletic playmaker mixes exceptional arm talent and improvisational skills as a magician from the pocket. He displays Aaron Rodgers-like playmaking ability as a passer with the capacity to play on- or off-script.”
  • Rich Cimini, ESPN: “The Joe Douglas QB Gambit is complete. His hand-picked successor to Sam Darnold is Wilson, who has plenty of talent but carries just enough risk to make this anything but a slam dunk. They made a mistake by trading Darnold, but Wilson can make everyone forget about that. Under the circumstances, he was the best fit for the Jets. He has better arm talent than the other top prospects not named Trevor Lawrence and many scouts believe his learning curve won’t be as steep as it will be for the others. This is a seminal moment for the franchise. They can’t be wrong.”
  • Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: “The Jets surprised some by locking into Wilson so soon over Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones as their replacement for Sam Darnold. But they liked Wilson’s combination of arm and athleticism with a dash of dazzle. Wilson is confident after an accurate breakout season and is a great cerebral fit for the new offense of Mike LaFleur.” Grade: A-.
  • Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “Wilson’s translatable traits are tantalizing. The ball explodes out of his hand. Still, one has to wonder if the Jets may have been better off sticking with what they had at the position and continuing to build the rest of the roster.” Grade: B.

Brady Christensen, offensive tackle

Drafted third round, No. 70 overall by Carolina Panthers

  • Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: “Hard to find more clean film in the OT class this year. Good across the board. Could maybe just use more power behind his pads. Starting LT in Round 3. Good snag by the Panthers.” Grade: B+.
  • Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: “As a mature player with experience, athleticism and a solid technical game, Christensen mixes power with finesse on the edges. The BYU product has a chance to be a solid starter in Joe Brady’s offense early in his career.”
  • David Newton, ESPN: “The Panthers must really believe in Christensen, because they passed on a lot of tackles in the second round that were rated ahead of him. That Christensen protected Zach Wilson’s blind side in BYU’s pass-happy offense does fit the mold of what Carolina wants in its pass-happy scheme run by Joe Brady. Christensen’s grade by Pro Football Focus in 2020 was an amazing 96.0. That, by the way, is a record for a PFF tackle. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he’s got room to add weight and develop into a starter. The good news is by adding Cameron Erving in free agency, the Panthers don’t have to throw Christensen right into the fire on the left side.”
  • Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “Christensen is simultaneously one of the class’ best technicians but also counted among its oldest (24 as a rookie). … Even as a third-round pick, Christensen could realistically take over at left tackle from the onset of his career. The BYU product graded higher than any other collegiate offensive lineman last season, per Pro Football Focus.” Grade: B.
  • Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: “Carolina settled for Christensen as its left tackle situation, but the problem is, he projects as a swing backup for the outside at best as the strength and power he possesses is better built for guard vs. athletically handling the NFL’s top edge rushers.” Grade: C.

Khyiris Tonga, defensive tackle

Drafted seventh round, No. 250 overall by Chicago Bears

  • Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: “Another athletic nose tackle. Rushes are high but powerful enough to displace interior blockers on a relatively routine basis. Just slower footed and doesn’t have a reliable pass-rush move arsenal.” Grade: B-.
  • Mark Dulgerian, NFL.com: “The Bears found a massive gap occupier with above average range for his size. There is a role for him in the NFL, and Bears coaches are likely to give him a legit shot at competing for a roster spot in 2021.”
  • Jeff Dickerson, ESPN: “The Bears welcome back Eddie Goldman, who opted out last year due to COVID-19 concerns, but it never hurts to add possible depth at nose tackle. Tonga is a big body (6-foot-2, 325 pounds) who can eat up space in the middle of the defensive line. Seventh-round picks always face an uphill battle to make the roster, but the Bears aren’t super deep at defensive tackle after Goldman, Mario Edwards Jr. and Akiem Hicks, who can play anywhere up front.”
  • Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “A pass-first league pushed those ambling space-eaters out of fashion. Today’s nose tackles must do more, and BYU’s Khyiris Tonga knows this. … For the 250th overall pick, the Chicago Bears know exactly what they’re getting in Tonga, and that’s far more than most teams can say about their seventh-round draft choices.” Grade: B.

Chris Wilcox, cornerback

Drafted seventh round, No. 251 overall by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: “Athletic flier who wasn’t a major producer at BYU but has the body type and twitch to become a better pro in Tampa learning from the established playmakers in that secondary.” Grade: C.
  • Mark Dulgerian, NFL.com: “Wilcox opened some eyes with his pro day testing (4.38-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds). His coverage fluidity and production are underwhelming, however, so he’ll need to stand out on special teams.”
  • Jenna Laine, ESPN: “At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Wilcox ran a 4.31 40 at his pro day and posted a 37.5-inch vertical, so he is long and fast. He likes to play press-man coverage and he likes to compete — just as the Bucs prefer with their cornerbacks. He still has to work on ball production and is still a bit raw in his technique as a corner, but they’re really eyeing him as a special teams gunner, as they lost Ryan Smith in free agency. Wilcox has a track background and played safety, which should bode well for that.”
  • Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “BYU’s Chris Wilcox will bring a rare combination of speed and physicality to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. Statements like the previous one aren’t usually made about seventh-round selections. Wilcox may be a work-in-progress, but he has legit 4.3 speed and knows how to drive on the ball and blow up underneath routes. Not much more a team can ask for near the end of the draft.” Grade: B+.

Dax Milne, wide receiver

Drafted seventh round, No. 258 overall by Washington Football Team

  • Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: “Zach Wilson’s favorite target gets selected. The Hunter Renfrow of this class. Smaller, but gets open and catches everything. Actually has some downfield juice. Overachiever.” Grade: A-.
  • Mark Dulgerian, NFL.com: “Washington takes a flyer on Zach Wilson’s favorite 2020 target. Milne won’t grab your attention with his athleticism, but he’s a reliable player from the slot and could win coaches over with his consistency as a chain mover.”
  • John Keim, ESPN: “Milne was one of Zach Wilson’s favorite targets and caught 70 passes for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s considered a strong route runner and has decent size at 6-foot-1, 193 pounds. His special teams play will dictate whether he makes the roster. Washington has enough depth at receiver that it will be tough but not impossible to win a job.”
  • Brent Sobleski, Bleacher Report: “Nothing in particular sticks out about Dax Milne’s skill set. However, he finished top-10 among draft-eligible wide receivers with an 89.6 receiving grade, 3.75 yards per route run and 2.8 percent drop rate last season, per Pro Football Focus. Milne is the antithesis of the Washington Football Team’s other incoming rookie wide receiver, Dyami Brown. But those contrasting traits create a more well-rounded receiving corps.” Grade: C.