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How the NFL practices for the draft — and the role Puka Nacua is playing

The BYU wide receiver will be a part of the league’s dress rehearsal for the 2023 draft’s first round

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BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) runs the ball for a touchdown against Stanford.

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) runs the ball for a touchdown against Stanford during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Nov. 26, 2022.

Godofredo A. Vásquez, Associated Press

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua may not be selected in the 2023 NFL draft — he’s projected to be either a late-round pick or priority free-agent signee — but he will have a part in the first round.

Or more specifically, the league’s first-round dress rehearsal.

On Monday, ESPN’s Dianna Russini shared a script of a first-round mock draft the NFL will use for a dress rehearsal on Tuesday, and it includes Nacua.

In that script, he goes to the New England Patriots with the No. 14 overall pick.

The mock draft is far from how Thursday night’s actual first round is expected to go down. 

The dress rehearsal first-round lineup is composed of players projected to be mid- to late-round picks, including the No. 1 overall selection, Troy offensive lineman Jake Andrews, a projected late-round prospect.

There’s also not a quarterback in sight in the mock draft, and the Miami Dolphins got back their first-round pick at No. 21 that was stripped away by the league.

There is one Utah tie who is projected to be an actual first-round selection this year: Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid is rated one of the top prospects not only at his position, but in this year’s draft class.

But at least for one night, Nacua will have a hand in the first round and help the NFL prepare for one of its biggest events of the year.

The 2023 NFL draft will be held in Kansas City this year. The first round takes place Thursday, Rounds 2-3 on Friday, and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.