How NFL Draft Reflects Utah, Utah State, BYU Programs

May 1, 2019, 5:00 PM
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NFL Draft has come and gone with seven local players being taken from Utah, BYU, and Utah State. What does the draft really have to say about these programs? Well, a lot actually.

Each team in the state has an identity to it or as former NFL head coach Bill Parcells said, “you are what your record is.” That fits in exactly with how each local team is perceived from who was taken in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Utah is known for its defense and special teams, BYU may be known as a quarterback school but recent draft success has been on defense, and for Utah State, it is about being the underdog with usually one star player being selected from one of its really good teams.

Utah Focuses On Defense, Special Teams

The Utes being in a Power 5 conference led the way with five getting drafted and those who were selected are a carbon copy of what the Utah program has been under Kyle Whittingham which focuses on defense and special teams.

To the shock of nobody, the Utes had just one offensive player taken but they ended up having two defenders and two special teams players selected. This emphasizes that Utah is really good on the defensive side of the ball and that is what leads that team year in and year out.

KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell, who is also a former University of Utah quarterback, put it best when explaining why the Utes are sending more defenders and specialists to the NFL compared to offensive players.

“If you go into the team room of the University of Utah football facility. In a big letter in front of the team room, it talks about who the Utes are. It starts off with ‘we play great defense, we play great special teams, and we take care of the football on offense.’ There is no greatness at all what Utah does on offense,” Mitchell said on KSL’s Unrivaled.

There is nothing wrong with having most of the players that go pro from the Utes program come from a non-offensive position since that is head coach Whittingham’s expertise.

“This is the emphasis and focus of coach Whittingham which is on defense and special teams. Who gets drafted? Defense and special teams. It is not a shock or surprise to me, I think the biggest surprise to me is that these players went as high as they did.”

One of the picks was Utah punter Mitch Wishnowky in the fourth round to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers recorded its picks’ phone calls with the coaches and Wishnowky’s conversation was a little bit special, with some help from Mitchell and his co-host Alex Kirry.

BYU No Longer Quarterback U

While historically, the Cougars have been known as a quarterback factory but the last signal-caller drafted from Provo was John Beck 12 years ago.

What this says about the BYU football program is that it is in a dry spell of finding and then developing elite NFL-caliber quarterbacks, and just maybe that moniker needs to be put on hold for a bit. Perhaps sophomore-to-be Zach Wilson ends that streak and gets drafted in two years when he is eligible for the NFL Draft.

The most common player drafted from BYU over the past few years has come on the defensive side of the ball and this year’s pick was Sione Takitaki going to the Cleveland Browns in the third round.

Kirry is not exactly happy that BYU had yet another year in which just one player was drafted and it was another defender.

“This is where I get a little bit grumpy about BYU’s spot because this is basically been its draft, for I don’t know how long. This is what you get from BYU, they get a linebacker every year or two and a nice linebacker goes in the draft in the mid-round,” Kirry said.

What BYU fans really want to see is getting those skilled offensive players selected in the NFL Draft.

“I can’t wait for the day — this is where Zach Wilson is one of their only hope. I want to see these guys in the discussion as a top-10 guy in a skill offensive position group,” Kirry added. “I am happy Takitaki was picked up in the early rounds and everything that happens to him going forward I am like ‘good, he deserves it all.’ That being said, I get disappointed that getting a linebacker once a year doesn’t feel great.”

Utah State Always Has That One Guy

The Aggies had one of its best seasons ever and had just one player selected in running back Darwin Thompson who landed in a good spot to the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round. Utah State has been known to have guys that once they get into the NFL they become really good players. Just look at Robert Turbin, Bobby Wagner, Kyler Fackrell, Nick Vigil, and plenty of others.

All of those guys have gone onto have solid NFL careers, and Thompson could be that next guy since the Chiefs really seem to like him and there is an opportunity for him to run the ball in an Andy Reid offense.

Utah State may not always have the same number of players drafted like other more prestigious programs but the guys that do get drafted in the NFL more often than not make a name for themselves.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast.

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How NFL Draft Reflects Utah, Utah State, BYU Programs