BYU, Utah Players Garnering Early First Round Buzz For 2023 NFL Draft

Apr 29, 2022, 1:24 PM
BYU Football - Utah Utes - Kyle Whittingham - Kalani Sitake...
PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 11 : Both Utah and BYU head coaches Kyle Whittingham (left) and Kalani Sitake (right) have players earning first round NFL draft buzz for 2023. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The last time BYU and Utah football had a player selected in the first round of the same NFL draft was in 2013. When Ziggy Ansah from BYU made a meteoric climb to No. 5 and Star Lotulelei was picked at No. 14.

That was the only time the top in-state schools have produced first-rounders in the same year.

But could it happen again in 2023? The buzz is already building towards that being a possibility.

Blake Freeland and Clark Phillips projected as NFL draft first-rounders

247Sports put out their way-too-early first-round predictions for next year’s draft. A player from both BYU and Utah checked into the first round.

Blake Freeland was projected to go No. 21 overall to the Baltimore Ravens from BYU. Heralded cornerback Clark Phillips III appeared at No. 29 to the Green Bay Packers for Utah.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that both of those players are pulling in first-round NFL draft buzz. But their paths to this are far different.

Clark Phillips III snapshot

Clark Phillips III is the highest-rated recruit Utah football has signed in the 21st century. Phillips was originally committed to Ohio State, a 5-foot-10, 184-pound cornerback from Lakewood, California before he flipped his pledge to the Utes.

Philipps immediately filled the void left behind by second-round NFL draft pick Jaylon Johnson. The former four-star prospect has started in all 19 games the past two years since he arrived on campus.

Freeland’s career to this point

Blake Freeland is a little bit different story. A former three-star prospect out of Herriman High School, Freeland was once a quarterback in high school and an all-around athlete.

The 6-foot-8, 305-pound Freeland didn’t play offensive line during his prep career. But former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes projected Freeland as a big-time offensive lineman in college.

Freeland’s first game action in his football career as an offensive lineman came in 2019 as a true freshman against Boise State. Through three years at BYU, Freeland has started 28 games at offensive tackle, with 13 of those starts coming last season at left tackle, replacing third-round draft pick Brady Christensen.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

  • Utah Utes Scoreboard

  • Utah Utes Team Leaders

  • Utah Utes Standings

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

College Football

BYU Football, Spring Scrimmage, Jake Retzlaff...
Mitch Harper

BYU Football Held ‘Boring’ Scrimmage For TV Cameras

BYU football held a spring scrimmage that led to coaches not wanting to show much.
2 days ago
BYU Football, Alumni Game...
Mitch Harper

BYU Football Alumni Game Comes Down To Final Play Again

BYU football Alumni Game finished with heroics again.
2 days ago
BYU Head Coach Kalani Sitake at spring practice 2023...
Matt Baiamonte

Defense Shines In BYU Football’s Spring Game

It’s only spring football, however, I do believe this defensive line will be much improved come the fall.
2 days ago
BYU Football, Kedon Slovis, Spring Game...
Mitch Harper

Live Analysis From BYU Football’s Spring Scrimmage

Analysis and insight from inside LaVell Edwards Stadium for BYU's spring scrimmage.
2 days ago
Ty Detmer, BYU Football, Alumni Game...
Mitch Harper

Ty Detmer, John Beck Highlight BYU Football Alumni Game Rosters

After the spring game concludes, BYU alums will take the field for an Alumni Game.
3 days ago
BYU Football - Big 12 Conference...
Mitch Harper

BYU Kicks Off Spring Game Schedule For Big 12 Teams In 2023

BYU will be the first Big 12 team in 2023 to have a televised spring event. Here's the schedule for the rest of the league.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
BYU, Utah Players Garnering Early First Round Buzz For 2023 NFL Draft