BYU's NFL draft fortunes expected to change in the near future

Will Cobin Kaufusi be the player who breaks BYU's current NFL draft trend? (Getty Images, Icon Sportswire)

The BYU Cougars football program has a strong tradition in many ways. The forward pass, bowl games, and even alumni success in the NFL. BYU is one of just a handful of schools that can brag that it has more than one quarterback go on to start and win the Super Bowl. Andy Reid is one of the most successful coaches in the NFL.

In many regards, however, this decade has not lived up to the lofty standards that Cougar fans have come to expect. That includes the NFL, and in particular, the annual draft. From 1967 to 2010, BYU had at least one player drafted every year, except 1994. From 2011 to 2017, BYU went three years without a single player being drafted (2011, 2012, and 2015). BYU hasn't had more than one player drafted in the same draft since 2009 when Austin Collie went to the Indianapolis Colts in round four, and Fui Vakapuna went to the Cincinnati Bengals in round seven.

Editor's Note: In 2010, BYU had Dennis Pitta and Harvey Unga drafted, but Unga was part of the Supplemental Draft.

That trend of having one player or fewer drafted is very, very likely to continue in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is just days away. Fred Warner is a near lock to be taken, but there is virtually no chance that another Cougar gets selected. There is a feeling, though, that BYU's NFL draft fortunes will be changing in the near future.

Maybe it is just optimism from the back-to-back Super Bowl appearances of former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy, or from Ezekiel Ansah being tagged as the Detroit Lions' franchise player. After what felt like a significant lull, Cougars are making headlines in the NFL again. The more success BYU alumni have on NFL rosters, the more likely NFL scouts and executives are going to want BYU players on their teams.

When will BYU have two or more players drafted in the same NFL draft? No one has a crystal ball that is providing the exact year, but a majority of site visitors and Twitter followers think it will happen in the next two years. This was the question asked in the Blue Cougar Football weekly opinion poll. The official results are below.
Official Results
35% 2019
26% 2020
16% 2021
23% 2022 or later 
In light of these results, let's take a look at BYU's draft hopefuls for future years to see who might be the two players drafted.

From this year's seniors, there are four players who could get drafted. Some would need to play their way in, but it happens every year. Players who are off the radar attract attention and end up being drafted. Jamaal Williams was one of those players.

The four players, in order of most likely to be drafted, are: Sione Takitaki, Corbin Kaufusi, Tanner Mangum, and Squally Canada.

1. Sione Takitaki: He has good measurables (6-foot-2, 231 lbs.) for an NFL linebacker. He has adequate athleticism, and has demonstrated the ability to disrupt on the field.

2. Corbin Kaufusi: Size is, literally and figuratively, the biggest thing he has going for him to get drafted. His NFL pedigree helps, too, but it would be better if his brother Bronson was getting more playing time with the Baltimore Ravens. However, with a good season this year, it isn't unreasonable to expect that an NFL coach will look at Kaufusi's potential and believe he can develop it. That mindset would translate into Kaufusi being a sixth or seventh round draft pick.

3. Tanner Mangum: Mangum's draft stock has definitely fallen since 2015, but with a monster season and because he plays quarterback, he can work his way back into the late rounds of the draft.

4. Squally Canada: Like Mangum, Canada will need to turn a lot of heads with some game-changing performances this fall. That coupled with a strong endorsement from new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes could get a team to scoop up Canada late in the draft. Grimes has been coaching in the SEC and has seen up close guys like Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice. If there are NFL decision makers who trust Grimes, and he tells them Canada is cut from the same cloth, then that could get Canada drafted.

A 2019 wild card scenario would involve sophomore tight end Matt Bushman having a very productive year. He is already draft eligible since he served a mission before playing last season. If something crazy happens and he becomes a hot commodity, he could declare early and give BYU an added draft pick.

Butch Pau'u is too small. He will get an undrafted free agent deal, like Brandon Ogletree, but Pau'u will be fighting an uphill battle. Ului Lapuaho has too much medical history. None of the other seniors have enough name recognition and game experience at this point to be labelled as potential draft picks.

Of BYU's current juniors, a few names standout as potential NFL draft picks: Dayan Ghanwoloku, Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Troy Warner, Tevita Mo'unga, Thomas Shoaf, and Jacob Jimenez.

1. Dayan Ghanwoloku: He has been starting since his freshman season and has shown a knack for being a playmaker. If he continues to improve each of the next two seasons, then he could get drafted.

2. Moroni Laulu-Pututau: He has good size. As a junior, he has two years to build a strong resume at tight end. The combination of measurables and production could lead to his name being called during the 2020 NFL Draft.

3. Troy Warner: Like Ghanwoloku, he has been starting since his true freshman season. Having older brother Fred in the league is going to get him some extra looks from scouts. Steady improvement his final two seasons will be key to beginning his NFL career as a draftee.

4. Thomas Shoaf: He has started over 20 games on the offensive line already. He has good size (6-foot-5). If he tests well, and looks good on film, then his chances of being drafted could be pretty high.

Tevita Mo'unga and Jacob Jimenez are two guys without much experience, but they have good size, which if you hadn't noticed, plays a huge role in whether a guy gets drafted.

Beau Hoge has a father who played in the NFL and has a high profile position with ESPN, but his health issues and lack of playing time, at this point in time, will probably land him just a free agent contract.

Looking this far off into the future it becomes a lot more difficult to gauge who has NFL potential. It is basically looking at measurables and high school star rating. As noted, Matt Bushman could use all his eligibility and be a member of this draft class. Should he put together four good seasons at BYU, then he is probably a lock to be drafted.

Joe Critchlow is a big quarterback. If he wins the starting job and has a nice career, then he could be BYU's first starting quarterback drafted since John Beck.

Khyiris Tonga showed awesome potential on the defensive line last season. It is conceivable that he turns into a draft pick.

A few other guys, mostly offensive linemen, have good size: Chandon Herring, Kieffer Longson, and Tristen Hoge.

Wayne Tei-Kirby is a hyped transfer from Oregon. Based on that, he can be viewed as a currently BYU player who is an NFL hopeful.

2022 or later 
Voting for this option is essentially saying, "I don't know when, but I don't have faith that it will happen soon." It is ridiculous to look at a list of freshman who haven't played college football yet and predict whether or not they will be NFL draft picks.

As for my vote, I am going to put the blue goggles on and go with 2019. I like Takitaki's chances, and I think Kaufusi is the right mix of potential, performance, and size to get BYU that second draft pick. If it doesn't happen then, I would say 2021. There is already a strong nucleus of potential draft picks, and there is still time for someone else to rise out of obscurity to give one more potential pick.

Thank you to everyone who voted. A breakdown of the votes from each polling source is below. Please vote in this week's poll: How do you feel about Kyle Van Noy saying "Brigham" in his NFL player introduction on TV?

 Vote Breakdown 
22% (3)
41% (12)
57% (8)
10% (3)
 7% (1)
 21% (6) 
 14% (2) 
 2022 or later 
28% (8)
 100% (14)
 100% (29) 

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