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NFL draft: Beyond Zach Wilson and Penei Sewell, what other Utah ties should expect to be drafted?

A roundup of recent seven-round NFL mock drafts indicates that as many as six or seven players with Utah connections could be selected in the 2021 NFL draft

The top 2021 NFL draft prospects from the state of Utah include, clockwise from top left, quarterback Zach Wilson (Corner Canyon High and BYU), offensive tackle Penei Sewell (Desert Hills High and Oregon), defensive tackle Jay Tufele (Bingham High and USC), wide receiver Dax Milne (Bingham High and BYU), defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (Granger High and BYU), wide receiver Simi Fehoko (Brighton High and Stanford) and offensive tackle Brady Christensen (Bountiful High and BYU).
Deseret News and Associated Press photos

Trying to predict how an NFL draft will play out is a crapshoot.

Every year, thousands of mock drafts are compiled by national experts of varying expertise. The most daring experts will even attempt to predict every selection in an entire draft.

While these mock drafts ultimately will prove to have a low success rate at correctly projecting how the real draft plays out, they do serve a critical purpose of showcasing the majority of players that are likely considered draftable.

By looking at seven recent mock drafts that include all seven rounds, one thing is clear about Utah ties in the 2021 NFL draft: there are several players from Utah — as many as six or seven, perhaps more — that could be selected in this year’s draft, which runs April 29-May 1.

While guys like quarterback Zach Wilson (Corner Canyon High and BYU) and offensive tackle Penei Sewell (Desert Hills High and Oregon) headline this year’s Utah prospects and are expected to be taken early in the first round, others like defensive tackle Jay Tufele (Bingham High and USC) and offensive tackle Brady Christensen (Bountiful High and BYU) are also expected to be mid-round selections.

Throw in other prospects like wide receivers Simi Fehoko (Brighton High and Stanford) and Dax Milne (Bingham High and BYU), along with defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (Granger High and BYU), as well as tight end Matt Bushman (BYU), and it could be a solid draft for the state, particularly for Utah prep-developed talent.

Here’s where seven seven-round mock drafts from national experts had Utah ties being selected.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated to include any other seven-round mock drafts prior to this year’s draft.


Pro Football Focus

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 8 Carolina Panthers
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 3 69 Cincinnati Bengals
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 3 103 Los Angeles Rams
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 3 104 Baltimore Ravens
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 4 127 Indianapolis Colts
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 5 145 Jacksonville Jaguars
Chandon Herring, OT, BYU 6 208 Chicago Bears
Tristen Hoge, OG, BYU 7 241 Los Angeles Chargers
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU 7 254 Pittsburgh Steelers
Pro Football Focus’ full seven-round mock draft
  • PFF’s Steve Palazzolo on Wilson: “Wilson’s breakout 2020 season sealed his spot as the No. 2 QB in the draft, as he posted the best single-season passing grade in PFF history. Wilson combines good accuracy and decision-making with the coveted natural playmaking ability that has led to recent quarterback breakouts around the league.”
  • PFF’s Ben Linsey on Sewell: “This becomes an easy decision for Carolina, with the top four quarterbacks off the board and the top tackle in the draft sliding to No. 8 overall. Sewell fills a clear area of need and gives the Panthers a better alternative to the current options of Greg Little and Cam Erving. He earned a 95.8 overall grade as the most dominant tackle in college football the last time he took the field in 2019. And Sewell should only continue to improve in the NFL, given that he doesn’t turn 21 until October.”

A busy third round for Utah ties?

  • Of note: This mock draft ties for the highest number of BYU players selected — seven (more on that in a minute).
  • The biggest takeaway from the Pro Football Focus mock is the three Utah ties taken in the third round. While Christensen to Cincinnati at 69th overall isn’t a shock having Fehoko and Milne go late in the third round — during the compensatory selections — is surprising. That’s the highest any mock draft has Milne being selected, while Fehoko is picked as a late third-rounder in two mocks.

Chad Reuter, NFL.com

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 5 Cincinnati Bengals
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 3 98 New Orleans Saints
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 3 101 Detroit Lions
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 5 148 Atlanta Falcons
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU 5 154 New York Jets
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 6 206 Indianapolis Colts
Chris Wilcox, CB, BYU 6 214 Green Bay Packers
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 7 237 Denver Broncos
Chandon Herring, OT, BYU 7 238 Dallas Cowboys
Chad Reuter’s full seven-round mock draft
  • Reuter on Wilson: “Wilson’s athleticism, precision throwing from the pocket and on the run, and confident attitude will make him a “much-watch” NFL player in no time.”
  • Reuter on Sewell: “The Bengals should not overthink this pick. Joe Burrow got hurt in the pocket last year. The offensive line has been a sore spot for years. Just pick Sewell, and let the 2020 No. 1 pick safely distribute the ball to his receivers.”

A record-setting draft for BYU?

  • Of note: Just like the Pro Football Focus mock, Reuter’s mock draft has the highest number of BYU players selected — seven. While BYU is expected to have multiple players drafted this year for the first time since 2009, having seven drafted seems unlikely yet would be history making for the Cougar program.
  • Since the NFL went to its current seven-round draft format in 1994, the most Cougars taken in a single draft is five (in 1995 and 2002). Prior to that, when there were several more rounds in the NFL draft, BYU twice had seven players drafted in a single season, in 1981 and 1986. In 1981, two of those players were picked after the seventh round, while five were drafted after the seventh round in 1986.
  • One BYU player taken in Reuter’s mock draft, cornerback Chris Wilcox, does not appear in any other mock drafts, while offensive tackle Chandon Herring shows up in both Reuter’s and Pro Football Focus’ mocks.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 7 Detroit Lions
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 3 66 New York Jets
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 3 95 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 4 127 Indianapolis Colts
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 6 203 Houston Texans
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU 6 219 Atlanta Falcons
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 6 226 New York Jets
Dane Brugler’s full seven-round mock draft
  • Brugler on Wilson: “Since my first mock draft back in November, Wilson has been the projected pick at No. 2 and nothing has happened to change that belief. The first two picks are locked in.”
  • Brugler on Sewell: “If the first six picks play out like this, the Lions’ selection likely comes down to Fields, the top offensive lineman on their board, or the Alabama receiver they prefer. As Detroit begins a rebuild, the chance to start in the trenches with a 20-year old stud tackle makes sense.”
  • Brugler on Milne: “Assuming Wilson is the pick at No. 2 overall, we can also pencil in Milne (his favorite target) to the Jets at some point in the later rounds, right?”

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 8 Carolina Panthers
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 3 100 Tennessee Titans
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 4 114 Denver Broncos
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 6 188 New England Patriots
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 6 201 New York Giants
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 7 248 Indianapolis Colts
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU 7 254 Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Wilson’s full seven-round mock draft
  • Wilson on Wilson: “It’s somewhat interesting that we’ve all just penciled Wilson in at No. 2, but this appears to be the direction the Jets are going.”
  • Wilson on Sewell: “Best-case scenario for the Panthers and Sam Darnold.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 5 Cincinnati Bengals
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 2 60 New Orleans Saints
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 5 162 Las Vegas Raiders
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 6 191 Denver Broncos
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 6 197 New England Patriots
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 6 216 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tristen Hoge, OG, BYU 7 245 Pittsburgh Steelers
Vinnie Iyer’s full seven-round mock draft
  • Iyer on Wilson: “The Jets have made this the second no-brainer in the draft, going for his attractive arm and athleticism combination in replacing traded Sam Darnold.”
  • Iyer on Sewell: “Getting Joe Burrow another big-time playmaker at wide receiver or tight end will be tempting but upgrading the pass protection is vital. Sewell still is the best all-around tackle in this class with his smooth agility for pass protection and rock-like stature for the running game.”
  • Iyer on Tufele: “The Saints had to cut Malcom Brown in free agency so they make a second straight addition to (defensive coordinator Dennis) Allen’s front four.”

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 8 Carolina Panthers
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 3 92 Green Bay Packers
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 3 95 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Simi Fehoko, WR, Brighton High 5 158 Houston Texans
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU and Granger High 7 231 Miami Dolphins
Josh Edwards’ full seven-round mock draft

Edwards on Wilson: “In the wake of the Sam Darnold and 49ers trades, I think an indirect statement was made by the Jets: they are taking Wilson.”

Edwards on Sewell: “As predicted, the Russell Okung experiment was short-lived. With (Sam) Darnold in tow, Carolina can take the best player available on offense to ensure that he has weapons he did not have in New York. Jaylen Waddle, (Ja’Marr) Chase and (Kyle) Pitts are off the board so the decision was easy.”


Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football

Player Round Overall pick Team
Player Round Overall pick Team
Zach Wilson, QB, BYU and Corner Canyon High 1 2 New York Jets
Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High 1 5 Cincinnati Bengals
Jay Tufele, DT, Bingham High 3 67 Houston Texans
Dax Milne, WR, BYU and Bingham High 4 134 Minnesota Vikings
Brady Christensen, OT, BYU and Bountiful High 6 216 Pittsburgh Steelers
Matt Bushman, TE, BYU 7 255 New Orleans Saints
Walter Cherepinsky’s full seven-round mock draft
  • Cherepinsky on Wilson: “Zach Wilson is a smart quarterback with good arm talent. However, there are some reported off-the-field and injury issues. Go here to read about Teams Having Concerns with Zach Wilson. I’ve moved Wilson up to No. 2, but the Jets could still go with Justin Fields.”
  • Cherepinsky on Sewell: “How lucky are the Bengals? They won some meaningless games at the end of the year to seemingly move themselves out of the Penei Sewell sweepstakes. However, there’s now a decent chance he’ll be available at No. 5, which is a dream come true for a team that needs to protect Joe Burrow. The Bengals signed Riley Reiff, but that won’t preclude them from selecting Sewell. Besides, Reiff played guard in Iowa and even told the Vikings he’d be willing to move to that position if needed.”
  • Cherepinsky on Tufele: “The Texans finally get to pick! They had a woeful run defense in 2020, so perhaps they’ll use this pick to fix this problem. Jay Tufele is an extremely athletic and agile 310-pound defensive tackle who could be chosen in the top half of the draft, whenever he declares.”
  • Cherepinsky on Milne: “The Vikings don’t have much at receiver beyond their two studs.”
  • Cherepinsky on Christensen: “The Steelers lost some offensive linemen this offseason, so they’ll probably have to address that area earlier than this.”
  • Cherepinsky on Bushman: “Adam Trautman is no sure thing, so the Saints may want to obtain another tight end.”

Notes

  • Wilson, no surprise, is seen as the No. 2 pick overall to the Jets, which seems to be the consensus across all mock drafts at this point. How that prediction holds up will be proven come Day 1 of the draft.
  • Brugler’s mock draft is interesting in that Wilson is joined in New York by two other BYU offensive products in Christensen and Milne. Having the trio together in the NFL would be unique. In Reuter’s mock draft, he has Wilson teaming up with Bushman.
Quarterback Zach Wilson tosses a ball during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Could BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, left, and BYU wide receiver Dax Milne, shown here at the school’s pro day on Friday, March 26, 2021, be teammates in the NFL as well? The Athletic’s Dane Brugler predicts both players, along with BYU offensive tackle Brady Christensen, will be selected by the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL draft.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Trying to figure out where Sewell is headed is one of the bigger questions right now in the draft’s top 10 picks. Three of the seven-round mocks (Reuter, Iyer and Cherepinsky) have him going to Cincinnati at No. 5, which appears to be the highest he may go if teams make a big run on quarterbacks to start the draft. Three others also have Sewell pegged for the Panthers. Both Cincinnati and Carolina could be good situations for Sewell, considering their current offensive line personnel.
  • Tufele is expected to be the third Utah tie coming off the board by most national experts, and one — Sporting News’ Iyer — has him being taken in the second round by New Orleans, while others have him going in the third round or as low as the fifth round.
  • There is a wide range of predictions where Christensen will land in the draft — anywhere from the third round to the sixth — though all expect he will be selected. One interesting prediction is Wilson has the Denver Broncos taking him in the fourth round, which would match Christensen up with former Utah Ute Garett Bolles in Denver. Bolles, a first-round pick in 2017, was a second-team All-Pro in 2020.
  • Both Fehoko and Milne show up on six of the seven mock drafts and are considered late-round possibilities, though they show up earlier in a couple mocks, like the Pro Football Focus mock draft where the duo go back-to-back late in the third round.
  • Tonga, like Fehoko and Milne, is taken in six of the seven seven-round mock drafts, and there is a consensus he’s a late-round pick. Two of the mocks (Wilson and Iyer) see the former BYU and Granger standout going to the New England Patriots.
Tight end Matt Bushman participates in the bench press during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021.
Tight end Matt Bushman participates in the bench press during BYU pro day in Provo on Friday, March 26, 2021. Bushman, who missed the 2020 season with a ruptured Achilles, is predicted to be taken in the 2021 NFL draft by three of the five national experts.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Five of the mock drafts have Bushman getting drafted, and one of the most intriguing — at least from a BYU perspective — could be New Orleans (Cherepinsky sends him there), where Bushman would be teammates with former Cougar quarterback Taysom Hill.
  • BYU guard Tristen Hoge also shows up as a seventh-rounder in a pair of mock drafts.