COUGAR TRACKS

Early Look At BYU Football’s Top Prospects For 2024 NFL Draft

May 2, 2023, 4:28 PM

BYU Football, NFL Draft 2024, Kingsley Suamataia...

BYU football offensive tackle Kingsley Suamataia projects as a potential first round prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The past three years in the NFL draft have been a success for BYU football. Over the past three drafts, BYU has produced nine draft picks.

An average of three draft picks per draft is an impressive turn of events from where BYU was before the 2020s.

The previous nine picks before 2021 were spread out from 2009 to 2019. So suddenly, BYU is again proving to be a place that can feed the NFL with talent.

So the question now becomes, who are the next wave of players BYU for the 2024 NFL draft? I’ve compiled a list of players who could be drafted or earn undrafted free-agent contracts.

Last year, I put together this list with 13 players. Out of that group, I identified all three of BYU’s draft picks (Blake Freeland, Jaren Hall, and Puka Nacua). Plus, I had two of BYU’s four undrafted free-agent signings on the list.

All but two of the players on my 2023 list were either drafted, signed UDFA contracts, or are back in college football for the 2023 fall season.

Here is my list of players to watch from BYU for the 2024 NFL draft.

BYU football players to watch for the 2024 NFL Draft

Listed alphabetically

* = denotes fewer than three years played in college football

Tyler Batty, DE

There hasn’t been a defensive end selected into the NFL Draft from BYU since Kalani Sitake became the head coach in 2016. The last BYU defensive end to get drafted was Bronson Kaufusi. Kaufusi also happens to be the last player from BYU to have double digits in sacks in a single season.

Batty is the best case for producing those numbers from BYU’s defensive ends. In addition, he has the size that NFL teams would like in their 4-3 DEs at 6-foot-5, 273 pounds. This past offseason, Batty maintained his 273 pounds while shedding his body fat percentage to a low single digit.

BYU’s new defense under defensive coordinator Jay Hill is expected to be aggressive and allow the top playmakers to make plays. Batty could be a player that benefits the most from the change.

Ben Bywater, LB

Bywater is a highly productive linebacker with 200 tackles over the past two seasons. He’s working his way back from a shoulder injury he suffered last season against Notre Dame. Bywater still managed to play through the injury. During BYU’s New Mexico Bowl win over SMU, he showcased his athleticism on a game-changing pick-six.

Caleb Etienne, OT

Etienne comes to BYU after starting 13 games at left tackle for Oklahoma State. He projects to be a starter at right tackle for the Cougars this fall. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Etienne left Stillwater after losing his starting job.

But Etienne comes into a BYU program that is becoming a pipeline of producing NFL linemen. Also, his size at 6-foot-7, 325-pounds has to intrigue NFL scouts.

Micah Harper, DB

Versatile defensive back that can play cornerback or safety. At BYU, he’s settled into the safety spot, where he had a breakout season a year ago with 62 tackles, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake once compared Harper to former BYU and LA Rams DB Dayan Lake.

Eddie Heckard, DB

Heckard comes to BYU after an All-American career at Weber State. He considered declaring for the NFL draft for the 2023 cycle but opted to sign with BYU instead. At 5-foot-10, 190-pounds, Heckard can be a traditional cornerback or a nickel.

He wanted to come to BYU to showcase his skills against high-powered offenses in the Big 12 Conference.

Connor Pay, IOL

A versatile offensive lineman that can play any spot along the line. As a high school player, Pay was an offensive tackle. Then at BYU, he kicked inside as a guard and later as a center, where he replaced James Empey.

 

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Pay has started 22 games over the last two seasons and is one of the leaders along the offensive line. However, depending on where BYU places Utah transfer Paul Maile in the starting five, he could play guard this fall.

Ryan Rehkow, P

Rehkow has a career average of 46.8 yards per punt through his first three seasons at BYU. Last year, he had a career-high average of 46.17 yards per punt. During his three seasons as BYU’s starting punter, he has had 39 punts exceed 50 yards.

 

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His career-high is an 83-yard punt that he booted in 2021, setting a BYU record. Rehkow has an NFL leg and is a good athlete at 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, to take off and run on a fake punt situation.

Isaac Rex, TE

Isaac Rex played through last season while recovering from a leg injury. He was nowhere near 100%. However, when he’s healthy, Rex has shown an ability to be one of the best tight ends in college football.

 

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In 2020, Rex had 37 receptions for 429 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even last season, while trying to recover from the injury, he still had 320 receiving yards and six touchdowns. A tight end prospect that is a factor in the receiving game but also can serve as a sixth blocker along the line.

Kedon Slovis, QB

Two years ago, Slovis was viewed as a lock to be a first-round quarterback for the 2022 NFL Draft. Then injuries and struggles at Pitt have left Slovis nowhere near that first-round projection.

He has one final year in college to repair his draft stock. That one last season will take place at BYU. A place that has produced its previous two starting QBs as draft picks.

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick is excited about the opportunity to help Slovis reach his goal of becoming an NFL QB. Slovis has said that BYU’s offense has been easy for him to learn and that he has a lot of alignment with Roderick on the visions for this offense.

An area Slovis will look to improve is taking care of the football. Over the last three seasons, BYU starting QBs have only had 14 INTs. Slovis had nine last year at Pitt. He’s had 33 total in four years as a starting QB.

Improve the ball security while also showing improved accuracy on deep passes, Slovis could work his way back onto draft boards.

Kingsley Suamataia, OT*

The potential star of BYU’s 2024 draft class. Suamataia already appears on numerous first-round mocks for the 2024 draft. Some have him as high as No. 12 overall.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Suamataia was rated as a five-star prospect by 247Sports’ rankings in the 2021 recruiting class. He began his collegiate at Oregon before transferring to BYU after one season in Eugene.

During his first year at BYU, Suamataia started in 12 games and didn’t give up a sack from the right tackle position. Coming up in 2023, Suamataia is switching over to left tackle, where he will fill the shoes left behind by Blake Freeland.

Max Tooley, LB

During his BYU career, Tooley has proven to be a playmaker at linebacker for the Cougars. Over the last four years, Tooley has had six interceptions. Three of those interceptions occurred last year, and two were pick-sixes.

Tooley has the athleticism to drop back into coverage as a rover linebacker while being stout in run support.

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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Early Look At BYU Football’s Top Prospects For 2024 NFL Draft