LOCALS IN THE NFL

State Of Utah’s All-Time NFL Draft First Round By Pick Number

Apr 24, 2023, 11:34 AM | Updated: Apr 27, 2023, 10:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITYΒ – Welcome to NFL draft week. The annual event has become a primetime spectacle on the off-season football calendar. A far different look than the 6 a.m. event it once was on a Tuesday.

Over the years, players with ties to schools in Utah have heard their names called in the top 32 picks of the NFL draft. Out of the top 32 picks, 23 of those slots have been filled at some point by a player with ties to Utah.

Here’s a look, by pick, at the players that have landed at picks 1-32 over the years in the NFL draft.

1. Alex Smith, QB, Utah

2005 NFL Draft, Pick 1 – San Francisco 49ers

Fresh off a BCS-busting season at Utah, Alex Smith emerged as one of the elite NFL draft prospects in the 2005 class. There was a big QB debate heading into that debate. It was Smith or Cal’s Aaron Rodgers. Both QBs squared off in a game in 2003 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Smith and the Utes won that game, as he did in 21 of his 22 starts at Utah.

After an impressive Pro Day performance, the former Utah star also won the top draft spot in 2005. San Francisco’s offensive coordinator in 2005 was current Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.

Smith was in the NFL from 2005-2020. He played for the 49ers until 2013, then was at Kansas City before Patrick Mahomes took over for the Chiefs. Smith concluded his pro career at Washington, where he pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history after returning to play in 2020 from a broken fibula and tibia injury.

2. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

2021 NFL Draft, Pick 2 – New York Jets

Wilson was soaring up NFL draft boards after a dazzling season at BYU in 2020. He became a blue-chip prospect after a pro day that made him easily make off-platform throws. New York Jets brass was in awe of Wilson and took him No. 2 overall.

Wilson had the tall order of finding success at a franchise with little to no history of great quarterback play.

The former BYU and Corner Canyon High star started 13 games in his rookie season, posting a 3-10 record. Then last season, he went 5-4 but struggled. A 10-3 loss at AFC East rival New England on November 20 put a target on Wilson after his comments in the postgame press conference. As a result, he was benched and hasn’t had a hold of the QB1 job since.

3. Merlin Olsen, DT, Utah State

1962 NFL Draft, Pick 3 – Los Angeles Rams

Former Utah State Aggie Merlin Olsen remains one of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history. Olsen played his entire 15-year career with the Los Angeles Rams. During those 15 seasons, he never missed a game. He played and started in all 208 games for the Rams.

Olsen was a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1982.

4. Phil Olsen, DT, Utah State

1970 NFL Draft, Pick 4 – Boston Patriots

The younger brother to Merlin Olsen, Phil, was a Consensus All-American at Utah State in 1969. He was drafted by the Boston Patriots in 1970. Olsen appeared in 79 games over his six years in the NFL.

5. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU / Jim McMahon, QB, BYU

Ansah: 2013 NFL Draft, Pick 5 – Detroit Lions

McMahon: 1982 NFL Draft, Pick 5 – Chicago Bears

Ziggy Ansah had one of the most unlikely NFL draft prospects, from a walk-on tryout player to dominate defensive end for the Cougars. Coaches such as Bronco Mendenhall and Kelly Poppinga said in practices that Ansah had the chance to be an NFL player, but he didn’t play much until his senior season in 2012.

The Lions fell in love with Ziggy at the Senior Bowl, and he racked up 50 sacks in his career. However, Ansah’s best year was in 2015, when he had 14.5 sacks and became a Pro Bowler.

After a historic BYU career that rewrote the NCAA record books for passing, the “punky QB” Jim McMahon was the second quarterback selected in the 1982 draft. So naturally, McMahon wasn’t thrilled that he was second behind Ohio State’s Art Schlichter, who went No. 4 to the Colts. But McMahon got the upper hand in the end, leading the Bears to their first Super Bowl title in 1985.

McMahon passed for 18,148 yards in his career that ran until 1996.

6. No pick with Utah ties

Bonus: Former BYU quarterback Steve Young was selected in the 1984 supplemental draft by Tampa Bay with first-round compensation.

7. Penei Sewell, OT, Desert Hills High / Bill Munson, QB, Utah State

Sewell: 2021 NFL Draft, Pick 7 – Detroit Lions

Munson: 1964 NFL Draft, Pick 7 – Los Angeles Rams

After completing a decorated career at the University of Oregon, former Desert Hills High (St. George) star Penei Sewell was viewed as a can’t-miss prospect in the 2021 draft. He’s proven that to be correct through two seasons, as he has been a starter for all 34 games in two years for the Lions. In 2022, he earned his first Pro Bowl recognition.

Munson started 66 games throughout his 16 years in the NFL. He started for the LA Rams and Detroit Lions. He racked up 12,896 yards and tossed 84 TDs in his career.

8. Jordan Gross, OT, Utah

2003 NFL Draft, Pick 8 – Carolina Panthers

From the moment Gross arrived with the Carolina Panthers in 2003, he was an instant starter at left tackle. Gross, a star during the tail end of the Ron McBride era at the University of Utah, was a three-time Pro Bowler and once an All-Pro selection. He played his entire 11-year career with the Panthers.

9. No pick

Bonus: Three high schools in Utah have produced nine NFL players: Bingham, Highland, and Logan. Bingham currently has four of the nine actively playing in the league.

10. Lee Grosscup, QB, Utah

1959 NFL Draft, Pick 10 – New York Giants

Lee Grosscup became an All-American at Utah with the shovel pass that later became the “Utah pass.” He went on to have a brief career in the NFL with the New York Giants, then New York Titans for a season.

After his playing days, he was a beloved radio broadcaster for the Cal Golden Bears football broadcasts.

11. Shawn Knight, DT, BYU

1987 NFL Draft, Pick 11 – New Orleans Saints

At BYU, Knight was a force inside the interior of the defensive line. Knight recorded 16 sacks during his senior season and had eight quarterback hurries. The New Orleans Saints took him with the 11th pick in the 1987 draft.

Knight was expected to become an instant contributor on their defensive front, but those high expectations ended after he held out of training camp entering his rookie season. He and agent Leigh Steinberg wanted a salary worth $1.625 million over four years. Instead, Knight fell out of favor with the coaching staff and was traded after one season.

Knight was in the league for three seasons with three different teams.

12. Haloti Ngata, DT, Highland High

2006 NFL Draft, Pick 12 – Baltimore Ravens

Ngata was a coveted five-star recruit out of Highland High. He lived up to all his hype with an outstanding four-year career at Oregon. Then Ngata’s dominance only continued into the NFL. Ngata was a 5-time Pro Bowler, 2-time All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion.

The former Highland High star played 180 games in his career. He’s now eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame beginning with the class of 2024. Ngata has more than enough accolades to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

13. MacArthur Lane, RB, Utah State

1968 NFL Draft, Pick 13 – St. Louis Cardinals

Lane rushed for 4,656 yards over his 11-year career with the Cardinals, Packers, and Chiefs. The former Utah State standout earned Pro Bowl honors in 1970.

14.Β Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah / John Tait, OT, BYU

Lotulelei: 2013 NFL Draft, Pick 14 – Carolina Panthers

Tait: 1999 NFL Draft, Pick 14 – Kansas City Chiefs

A pair of dominant linemen on both sides of the ball. Lotulelei was instrumental in the Utes’ early years in the Pac-12 Conference. He began his career with the Panthers, then moved to Buffalo, where he concluded his career after the 2021 season.

Lotulelei started in 115 games throughout his NFL career.

Tait left BYU after his junior season, becoming one of the best offensive tackles in school history. He was selected by the Chiefs and wrapped his career with the Chicago Bears. In 2006, he was a starter for the Bears at tackle in the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts. Tait started in 139 games during his NFL career.

15. Marc Wilson, QB, BYU

1980 NFL Draft, Pick 15 – Oakland Raiders

One of the greatest QBs in BYU history, Wilson had an up-and-down career with the Silver & Black. It didn’t help that former Raiders owner Al Davis was never a big fan of Wilson, so his seat was always hot with the Raiders. He started 50 games with the Raiders before finishing his final two years in the NFL with the New England Patriots.

16. Kevin Dyson, WR, Utah

1998 NFL Draft, Pick 16 – Tennessee Oilers

After a four-year career as a starter for the Utes, Kevin Dyson was the No. 1 wide receiver selected in the 1998 draft ahead of Hall of Famer Randy Moss. The Oilers, who later became the Titans, had instant success with Dyson.

In five years at Tennessee, Dyson finished with 2,310 receiving yards.

But whenever you talk about Kevin Dyson, two plays come to mindβ€”the Music City Miracle touchdown grab for the win against the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. Then, in Super Bowl XXXIV weeks later, Dyson was one yard short from scoring the game-winning TD again, this time against the St. Louis Rams.

17. Jason Buck, DL, BYU / Norm Thompson, CB, Utah / Lee White, RB, Weber State

Buck: 1987 NFL Draft, Pick 17 – Cincinnati Bengals

Thompson: 1971 NFL Draft, Pick 17 – St. Louis Cardinals

White: 1968 NFL Draft, Pick 17 – New York Jets

Buck came into the NFL after a decorated two-year career at BYU. He earned the Outland Trophy award in 1986. After going in the first round, Buck was a consistent contributor along the defensive front with the Bengals for four seasons. His NFL career concluded with Washington from 1991-1993 and was part of Washington’s Super XXVI title in 1991.

During Norm Thompson’s nine-year career, he hauled 33 interceptions with the Cardinals and the Baltimore Colts.

Lee White, the highest draft pick from Weber State, was part of the Jets’ Super Bowl-winning team in 1969. He played five years in the league.

18. No pick

Bonus: In the last 50 years, Weber State has produced 18 NFL draft picks.

19. No pick

Bonus: BYU (10) and Utah (9) combine for 19 first-round draft picks all-time.

20. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah / Clyde Brock, OT, Utah State / Luther Elliss, DT, Utah

Bolles: 2017 NFL Draft, Pick 20 – Denver Broncos

Brock: 1962 NFL Draft, Pick 20 – Chicago Bears

Elliss: 1995 NFL Draft, Pick 20 – Detroit Lions

A former Snow College star, Bolles played one season at Utah and was a dominant force at left tackle for the Utes. He became a first-round selection and started in all 48 games at left tackle through his first three seasons.

The 2022 season was Bolles’ first year missing extended time. He was out due to a leg injury.

Luther Elliss, his alma mater’s current defensive tackles coach, started in 119 games in his 10-year NFL career. Nine of those 10 seasons were spent with the Detroit Lions.

21. No pick

Bonus: In the 21st century, Utah State has produced 17 NFL draft picks.

22. No pick

Bonus: In the last 22 NFL drafts, Utah has produced 58 picks.

23. Mark Koncar, OT, Murray High

1976 NFL Draft, Pick 23 – Green Bay Packers

Mark “The Claw” Koncar is one of the few players from a Utah High School that didn’t go to a local college to end up in the first round of the NFL draft. A Murray High graduate, Koncar played collegiately at Colorado and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1976.

Koncar played six seasons in the NFL, five of which were for the Packers. He started in 52 games.

24. Todd Shell, LB, BYU

1984 NFL Draft, Pick 24 – San Francisco 49ers

Shell had a four-year career with the 49ers. But in one of those seasons, Shell was a starter at outside linebacker in 13 games for the 1985 Super Bowl Champs.

25. No pick

Bonus: 11 players on this list were selected in the first round of drafts since 2000.

26. Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

2020 NFL Draft, Pick 26 – Green Bay Packers

When the Green Bay Packers moved up into the first round of the 2020 draft at pick No. 26 to select Jordan Love, it was not well received by Aaron Rodgers. The Packers wanted to have their future signal-caller after Rodgers’ time was up in Green Bay. Well, time appears to have expired on Rodgers as he seeks a trade. The former Utah State Aggie Love is on the clock to be the next starting QB in Green Bay.

It’s big shoes to fill for Love, who has the tall task of trying to become the third consecutive Packer starting QB to win a Super Bowl (Favre, Rodgers).

27. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

2022 NFL Draft, Pick 27 – Jacksonville Jaguars

When Penn State transfer Manny Browen abruptly retired during the fall camp of 2019 at Utah, it opened the door for Devin Lloyd to step into a spotlight role. Lloyd was a three-year starter for the Utes and was a Pac-12 defensive player of the year. That production earned him a first-round nod last season, and he was one of the most productive defensive rookies in the league in 2022, racking up 115 tackles and two fumble recoveries for the Jags.

28. Trevor Matich, OL, BYU / Rob Morris, LB, BYU / Bill Staley, DT, Utah State

Matich: 1985 NFL Draft, Pick 28 – New England Patriots

Morris:Β 2000 NFL Draft, Pick 28 – Indianapolis Colts

Staley: 1968 NFL Draft, Pick 28 – Cincinnati Bengals

Matich was a National Champion center at BYU. He was a highly-sought after prospect coming from BYU’s offensive factory. His career in the NFL didn’t play out as the dominant center he was in college. But he found a way to stick in the league for 12 years, primarily as a long snapper.

Rob “Freight Train” Morris started 67 games in his eight-year career with Indianapolis. He was part of the Colts Super Bowl championship team in 2006.

29. Dave Costa, DT, Utah

1963 NFL Draft, Pick 29 – Los Angeles Rams

In 1963, pick No. 29 was in the third round. But still, Costa, a New York native who played for the Utes, was selected by the Rams, became a four-time Pro Bowler, and played 168 games in his NFL career.

30. George Bettridge, FB, Utah

1944 NFL Draft, Pick 30 – Detroit Lions

Bettridge, a former Utah fullback, played two seasons with the Lions. Pick No. 30 in 1944 fell in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

31. No pick

Bonus: The NFL moved from 29 first-round picks to the current 32-pick format in 1995.

32. No pick

Bonus: 32 active NFL players played at Utah high schools during their prep careers.

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State Of Utah’s All-Time NFL Draft First Round By Pick Number