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How the 2021 NFL draft benefits BYU football

With five players drafted, this NFL draft was best in 20 years for Cougars

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BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, right, greets fans after being selected by the New York Jets with the second pick in the NFL football draft Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. With five players drafted, this NFL draft was best in 20 years for Cougars.

David Dermer, Associated Press

This article was first published as the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

BYU had five players taken in the 2021 NFL draft, making it the best draft for the program in 20 years. Led by Zach Wilson’s No. 2 overall pick by the New York Jets, offensive lineman Brady Christensen went next in the third round (Carolina).

Here are a few links to Deseret News NFL draft coverage:

  • Flurry of late picks elevates BYU draft numbers (Jay Drew)
  • Christensen pick shows Sitake restoring pride in OL (Jay Drew)
  • Dax Milne goes to Washington in 7th round (Brandon Judd)
  • Chris Wilcox to Tampa Bay, another 7th rounder (Brandon Judd)
  • Khyiris Tonga headed to Chicago Bears (Joe Coles)
  • Brady Christensen to Carolina Panthers (Trent Wood)
  • How 5 BYU draftees graded out with national media (Brandon Judd)
  • Here’s a list of BYU’s undrafted free agent signings (Jay Drew)
  • What does Saints’ pick of Notre Dame QB mean for Taysom Hill (Brandon Judd)
  • Media chatter about Wilson’s pick by Jets (Brandon Judd)
  • Wilson signs jerseys for BYU staff members (Joe Coles)
  • Twitter reacts to Wilson pick at No. 2 (Ryan McDonald)
  • What Wilson’s draft pick means for Aaron Roderick (Dick Harmon)

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: Break down a few ways the best NFL draft of BYU players will benefit Kalani Sitake’s efforts as the Cougars head football coach.

Jay Drew: In the immediate future, BYU having its best draft since 2002 could hurt the Cougars, because the cupboard is a bit bare going into the 2021 season. The additions of the Nacua brothers — Samson and Puka — will help.

The draft class of 2021 will almost certainly give BYU a recruiting boost, as now Kalani Sitake and his coaches can point to this year as proof that the program can develop NFL talent, and that prospects can get to the league through BYU as well as almost any other program in the West.

It is especially meaningful that BYU produced an offensive lineman — Brady Christensen — and a cornerback, Chris Wilcox, for the NFL this year after long droughts of producing neither position.

Speaking of those assistant coaches, guys such as Fesi Sitake, Aaron Roderick and others who had a hand in developing Zach Wilson will get nice resume boosts as well. They might be hard to keep around if they keep it up.

Dick Harmon: The NFL draft drought for BYU — one here and another here or none at all — busted in a big way in Cleveland. It may have been the strange COVID-19 season, it could have been a lot of guys riding the shirttails for Zach Wilson’s pro day success, but the fact is having five players drafted equals any program in the West.

I think Kalani Sitake’s recruiters will use this to show prospects their NFL goals can be met, that his developmental program gets results. But more importantly, it gives credence to what Sitake has worked to do since he came, to get athlete measurables to produce big results in the weight room. It also expands contacts of his staff with NFL scouts and team personnel. And those relationships will prove valuable if these drafted players produce at the next level. 

Finally, it has lit a spark within the fan base and that doesn’t hurt heading into summer.

Cougar tales

While BYU women’s soccer team exited the NCAA tournament with a loss to Virginia, the men’s volleyball team is preparing for an NCAA national semifinal match in Columbus, Ohio. 

Former Cougar and Masters champion Mike Weir captured his first Champions Tour victory in Houston.

BYU received a commitment from big lineman Victory Vaka from California (Ryan McDonald).

Kalani Sitake has added former Colorado tight ends coach and NFL player Al Pupunu as an analyst on his staff.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

  • Wilson walking into better Jets’ situation than Sam Darnold (Jets Wire)
  • Former Jet says Wilson should bring humility to N.Y. (nj.com)
  • Radio jock gets blasted for comments on Wilson’s mom (Bleacher Report)
  • Jets building talent around Wilson for success (New York Daily News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers: 

Top 5 NFL Draft picks 2011-2021

BYU: 2

Oregon: 2

USC: 2

Stanford: 2

Cal: 1

Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Washington, Washington State: 0

— Blue&White

Zach will earn more at the starting line than most of the jealous, BYU-hating Ute fans on this blog will earn in a lifetime.

In fact, Zach will earn more at the starting line, than any former Utah player has ever earned at the starting line, including Alex Smith.

— BlueCoug

Up next

May 6 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | vs. San Diego | @San Diego, California

May 6 | 8 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | NCAA semifinal | @Columbus, Ohio

May 7 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | vs. San Diego | @San Diego, California

May 7 | TBA | Track and field | Oregon Twilight | @Eugene, Oregon

May 7 | 4 p.m. | Softball | vs. Santa Clara | @Santa Clara, California

May 8 | 8 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | NCAA finals | @Columbus, Ohio

May 8 | 1 p.m. | Baseball | vs. San Diego | @San Diego, California

May 8 | 1 p.m. | Softball | vs. Santa Clara | @Santa Clara, California

May 10 | 4 p.m. | Softball | vs. Dixie State | @Provo