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Friday, November 2, 2012

Stay or go: Should Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman leave BYU early?

The Brigham Young Cougars have a bye this week, so it seems like an appropriate time to look at whether linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Cody Hoffman are having junior campaigns that would make it wise to leave BYU early for the NFL.   

The 2012 season is nine weeks old, and the Cougars have played their toughest competition. This should provide enough data, both quality and quantity, to make a solid judgment.

One thing is clear. Both Van Noy and Hoffman will have future’s at the next level. That was obvious a year ago. The question is whether the 2013 or 2014 NFL draft would be better for each player.

To gain better insight, I recently spoke with Scott Collie, former BYU wide receiver, and the father of Austin Collie. Austin also played wide receiver for BYU, and he did leave school for the NFL following his junior season.

The first thing Scott Collie told me was that the question of leaving early boiled down to two factors:

  1. Is the player capable of playing at the NFL level?
  2. Do NFL scouts think that the player is capable of playing at that level?
If the answer is not “Yes” to both of these questions, then staying in college one more year would be wise.

Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy had a fantastic sophomore season. He was the only defensive player to record a stat in all the major defensive categories. As pointed out on BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL earlier this week, he is close to repeating that rare feat this year. That will look very good on his resume and should impress a lot of teams.

As already stated, I think it is very clear that Van Noy has the skill, speed, talent, size, and ability to play in the NFL. What do the scouts think? The only concrete projection that I can find for Van Noy is as asecond round pick

The second round projection sounds good. I don’t know if that satisfies Van Noy. He may have a goal to be a first round pick. Personally, I have some reservations about trusting the projected round for BYU players. As you probably recall, both Matt Reynolds and Hebron Fangupo were considered fourth or fifth round draft picks a year ago. The 2012 NFL draft came and went without either player being selected.

I also fear that Van Noy will be “guilty by association” and have his actual draft position be worse than the projections. BYU doesn’t have a great reputation for producing quality NFL linebackers. Since the year 2000 no BYU linebacker has been drafted earlier than the fourth round. Both Brady Poppinga and Bryan Kehl were selected in the fourth round. Poppinga had a solid seven year career, but Kehl has bounced around from team to team never finding a real home and establishing himself as a contributor.

With this concern, I asked Collie how close the projections for his son mirrored reality. He considered the projections to be pretty close to reality. However, he explained that once a player was not a first round draft pick, then there wasn’t an appreciable difference whether a player was a second round, fourth round, or seventh round pick. Most any player selected after the first round had to work equally as hard to earn his spot on the team and would have to wait until his second contract to get a big payday.

That was a little reassuring to hear, but I still have concerns.

One big concern I have is that Van Noy’s stats are less impressive than a year ago. Even with four games to go, it does not appear that Van Noy will improve, or even match, some of his impressive stats from a year ago. He had 68 tackles a year ago, but just 32 this year. His interceptions are down from three to one. Personally, I think this means the BYU defense is better overall this year than last, so Van Noy is not being asked to do as much. I doubt the NFL will give him the same benefit of the doubt.

Against BYU’s quality opponents, Van Noy didn’t have any monster games. He had some high impact plays, but as far as being a constant force during the game, that was not the case. He had two tackles against Boise State, but one was on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. In the Oregon State game, Van Noy had only two tackles again, but one was a sack. In South Bend, Van Noy made four tackles, but an interception was his big highlight.

Again, with the emergence of Ezekiel Ansah and the solid play from Spencer Hadley, has afforded BYU the luxury of using several different players to attack opposing offenses. I don’t think that will cause Van Noy to drop completely out of the draft, assuming the second round grade is accurate, but it could cost him a round or two.

Looking ahead to next year, if Van Noy stays for his senior season, it seems reasonable to assume that with the entire starting defensive line and both middle linebackers gone Bronco Mendenhall would lean more heavily on Van Noy, which would boost his stats. Given the “murderer’s row” schedule that BYU has next year, Van Noy could have some impressive games against highly respected opponents. That could move him up to the first round.

Should he stay or go? I say it is a toss up. Basically it all boils down to what Van Noy wants. I think he has a legitimate shot to move up to the first round if he stays one more year. He would also have the peace of mind knowing he did everything possible to maximize his attractiveness to NFL teams. As long as he has a strong combine, I think he is safe leaving this year, meaning he will be drafted. It would be a shame if he left this year and was not drafted.

Cody Hoffman
For Hoffman, the question should he stay or go is a little simpler. BYU fans are enamored by Hoffman. Receivers with his abilities don’t cycle through Provo on a regular basis. The NFL, however, doesn’t seem to think the Hoff is such a rare commodity.

Another great point that Collie made in our conversation is that the NFL has lots of big, talented receivers like Hoffman. (The same can be said about Van Noy. Many NFL linebackers are just as athletic.)

Hoffman may be a big fish in a small pond now, but that doesn’t mean he will go to the NFL and do the same thing. Being 6-foot-4 will only get him so far. I think Hoffman possesses many intangibles that will help him thrive in the NFL, just like he has at BYU. He has strong hands. His rarely drops a pass, and makes many seemingly impossible one handed grabs. As long as the ball is in his vicinity, it is almost a guarantee that he will come down with it. Hoffman can make big plays downfield, and he can be a possession receiver who can be relied on to get a first down. He is flat out uncoverable.

I am convinced, and most BYU fans are as well, that Hoffman is capable of playing in the NFL, but, remember, that is only half of the equation. What do scouts think?

In the same report that projected Van Noy to go in the second round, Hoffman was not listed as top-90 selection. That concerns me. All the concerns that I mentioned above about Van Noy’s draft stock falling apply to Hoffman. If the fourth round is his best case scenario at this point, it seems too risky to leave.

Draft prospects are just like any other commodity. Their value is determined by supply and demand. As much as the NFL is entertaining, it is serious, big business. Each team has a pretty good grasp on how much demand there is for the players that interest them. They will wait until the last possible moment to select a player in an effort to pay a little as possible and maximize the return on their investment.

Just as Hoffman went unnoticed out of high school and had just one scholarship offer from a FBS school, he has yet to get the attention he deserves from NFL scouts. There may be an NFL team out there that sees Hoffman’s potential, but knowing there isn’t a lot of buzz about him, they would not reach to draft him early. They would even wait and get him as a free agent if they knew that was possible.

BYU’s passing game this year hasn’t helped. Whether it has been Riley Nelson’s weak arm made even weaker by a bad back, poor offensive line play, or starting a true freshman quarterback, Hoffman’s numbers have taken a hit.

Hoffman currently has 56 receptions for 689 yards and 3 touchdowns. While a 1,000 yard receiving season is still possible, scouts are probably turned off by Hoffman’s 12.3 yards per reception average. That is over three yards less than last year. After having 10 touchdown receptions a year ago, it doesn’t look good that Hoffman has just three through nine games this season (although six of Hoffman’s 10 touchdowns came in the final four games a year ago).

Austin Collie was the nation’s leading receiver with 1,538 yards receiving in 2008 when he declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. He averaged approximately 15 yards per reception and had 15 touchdown catches. He ended up going in the fourth round. Although Hoffman and Collie are not two identical players, it is hard to imagine that Hoffman would be drafted just as high without similar numbers.

Should he stay or go? Staying for his senior season seems much more prudent than leaving this year. Hopefully, the offensive line issues will be resolved and a change in quarterback will get the Cougar offense, particularly the passing element, producing at a much better rate and Hoffman can have some nice number against some very good competition and secure a spot in the top half of the 2014 draft.

Final Thoughts
As fans, the knee jerk reaction is to not want either player to leave early. Clearly, BYU would be better off in 2013 with Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman on the roster. There is not another player on the roster who can replace them. However, in the long run, BYU may be better off if one or both of them are drafted after their junior season.

Scott Collie said his opinion was that BYU needed to have talented juniors leave early and get drafted if the school was ever going to become a football powerhouse. Playing in the NFL matters to most high school recruits, especially the best ones. If BYU can point to Van Noy as an example of not just getting him to the NFL, but doing it after his junior season, that makes BYU more attractive.

While it may appear to have a detrimental effect in the present, the long term consequences could be an overall upgrade in talent at BYU.

Additionally, Collie raised the point that what team a player is drafted by may be more important than which round he is selected. His son was selected by the Indianapolis Colts where Payton Manning was quarterback. As a rookie, he got to play in the Super Bowl. Would you trade that to be drafted a round higher by a team that only wins half as many games? 

Editor’s note: Scott Collie recently founded Receiver Tech. For complete information about Receiver Tech and what it offers, click here to be directed to home page.

Receiver Tech focuses on two goals: Skills training and competition for wide receivers. While coaches have limited time to emphasize training so they can focus on game planning, Receiver Tech doesn’t. This allows time for players to receive elite training on the intricacies of playing the wide receiver position correctly.

Receiver Tech participants also have the opportunity to compete one-on-one and showcase their talents. Last year the top 25 receivers were given the opportunity to catch passes at the ESPN Elite 11 competition for quarterbacks.

Scott Collie’s techniques and training methods have resulted in his three sons playing college football at the FBS level, and one has been a successful receiver with the Indianapolis Colts.

Receiver Tech has been endorsed by Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, and Super Bowl Champion Jim McMahon.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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