Path to the draft: BYU’s NFL draft history

BYU football has produced notable NFL talent for decades. Ever since John Stringham became the first BYU football alum selected in the draft back in 1938, BYU has had 145 players drafted to play at the highest professional level.

2021 draft recap

BYU had five players selected in the NFL Draft in 2021, tying for the program’s most since 2002. Quarterback Zach Wilson was selected by the New York Jets as the second overall pick, dethroning former fifth overall picks Jim McMahon (1982 Chicago Bears) and Ezekiel Ansah (2013 Detroit Lions) for the highest selection in BYU program history.

Following a historic pro day showing, offensive tackle Brady Christensen was drafted in the third round by the Carolina Panthers, with Khyiris Tonga (Bears), Chris Wilcox (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dax Milne (Washington Commanders) all taken in the seventh round inside the draft’s final 10 picks.

Seven other Cougars — Zayne Anderson, Isaiah Kaufusi, Chandon Herring, Matt Bushman, Troy Warner, Tristen Hige and Zac Dawe — went undrafted but were immediately signed to free agent deals around the league.

BYU alumni currently in the NFL

There are currently 18 former BYU players listed on active NFL rosters. The majority of those players have BYU pro day and the NFL combine to thank for bringing attention to their skills to increase their draft stock.

Zach Wilson was already projected as a top-10 pick in 2021, but after his 60-yard throw at pro day, social media was buzzing. SportsCenter reposted a video of Wilson’s throw and NFL Network analyst Rhett Lewis dubbed it “the throw of the Pro Day season.” In his first NFL season, Wilson served as starting quarterback for the Jets and was named NFL Rookie of the Week three times.

Taysom Hill ran an impressive 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2017, catching the eye of NFL scouts. While going undrafted, Hill was picked up by the New Orleans Saints and thrusted into the role of “Swiss Army Knife,” displaying his versatility in playing 10 different positions over his career and becoming the Saint’s starting quarterback during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In 2018, Fred Warner was the only BYU player invited to the NFL combine, where his athleticism landed him among the combine’s top-performing linebackers. Warner was selected in the third round of the draft by the San Francisco 49ers, who made him the NFL’s richest linebacker with a five-year contract extension worth up to $95 million after being named First Team All-Pro in 2020.

2022 combine and pro day

For wide receivers Samson Nacua and Neil Pau’u, defensive end Uriah Leiataua and offensive lineman James Empey, BYU’s pro day was the biggest tryout of their life. For running back Tyler Allgeier, his big moment was the NFL Combine. 

Scouts and team personnel from 30 NFL teams came to Provo to continue their evaluations of the players as they participated in combine drills and position workouts. 

With the 2022 NFL draft just a week away, stay tuned to Daily Universe Sports to follow Allgeier, Nacua, Empey, Pau’u, and Leiataua in our “path to the draft” series.

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