The 2021 NFL Draft came to a close on Saturday and the BYU football program was well represented as the program had five players selected — the most since 2002.
The Cougars also finished tied for 11th in the country for players selected in the NFL Draft.
Zach Wilson was the first BYU player taken as the All-American was selected by the New York Jets with the No. 2 pick in the first round. The pick made Wilson BYU’s highest-ever NFL draft selection.
RT if someone from your school got picked in the 2021 NFL Draft! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/AWF6OLkm6f
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) May 2, 2021
Brady Christensen was the next Cougar taken in the draft as the Carolina Panthers selected the 2020 Consensus All-American with the fifth pick of the third round (70th overall). The selection gave the BYU football program two selections in the opening two rounds of the draft since 2002. Christensen also became the first Cougar to be drafted by the Panthers.
Khyiris Tonga (No. 250) and Chris Wilcox (No. 251) were drafted back-to-back and wide receiver Dax Milne (No. 258) rounded things out by being the second-to-last player selected in the draft.
Shortly after the NFL Draft was over, six players signed free agent deals. Tristen Hoge signed with the New York Jets, Troy Warner is joining the LA Rams, Matt Bushman signed with the Las Vegas Raiders, Isaiah Kaufusi is joining the Indianapolis Colts, Chandon Herring signed with the Tennessee Titans and Zayne Anderson is joining the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here’s a breakdown of all the picks.
Zach Wilson (1st Round, No. 2 pick)
After setting so many records last season, Wilson added another one as he became BYU’s highest-ever NFL draft selection. Former Cougar greats Jim McMahon and Ezekiel Ansah held the previously record as both went No. 5 overall picks in their respective NFL Draft classes.
Wilson is expected to start in his rookie season for the Jets, as New York traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers, clearing the way for Wilson. Most sites are giving the Jets a B+ for taking Wilson with the No. 2 pick.
Wilson is the 10th player in program history to get picked in the first round. Prior to Wilson, the last BYU quarterback to be drafted was John Beck in 2007 (2nd Round, Dolphins). Beck, worked with Wilson in the offseason at his quarterback camp (3DQB), attended the draft with Wilson on Thursday along with BYU coaches Kalani Sitake, Aaron Roderick and Fesi Sitake.
A three-year starter before declaring early for the NFL Draft, Wilson played in 30 career games for BYU, including 28 starts. He was the youngest freshman quarterback to ever start for the Cougars and finished his throwing for 7,652 yards and 56 touchdowns. He also rushed for 642 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Brady Christensen (3rd Round, No. 70 Pick)
Christensen is the 33rd Cougar offensive lineman to be drafted. The last BYU offensive lineman drafted was Scott Young, who was a fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005.
The 6-foot-5, 302-pound left tackle was a huge priority for the Carolina Panthers as they look to shore up their offensive line. Christensen will be tasked with keeping the pass rush off newly acquired quarterback Sam Darnold, and opening lanes for all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey.
The Panthers liked Christensen as they traded up to get him, giving up a third and sixth round pick to move up. Carolina will hope he’s the answer after going through eight different starting tackles in the past eight seasons.
Khyiris Tonga (7th Round, No. 250 Pick)
The Chicago Bears got one of the biggest steals in the draft by getting Khyiris Tonga in the seventh round. Most draft sites had Tonga as a fifth round pick.
The defensive lineman finished his college career with 130 total tackles, 69 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, five quarterback hits, and 12 pass breakups.
The pick was much-needed for the Bears and added depth on the defensive line. Tonga is a powerful lineman who can get through the gaps at will. He’s a player that can stand his ground and make tackles at the point of attack. The only issue for him will be if he can be a three-down player.
Chris Wilcox (7th Round, No. 251 Pick)
Wilcox broke the streak as the 6-foot-2, 200-pound defensive back became the first BYU corner to be drafted since Dewey Grey did so in 1993. Scouts took notice of Wilcox during his pro-day as the speedster ran a 4.31 40-yard dash and posted a 37.5-inch vertical jump.
The only issue for Wilcox is staying healthy as he was often in and out of the lineup. But when he was in the game, teams rarely threw his way. However, if Wilcox wants to make the team, he’ll have to make a splash on special teams and show his versatility.
Dax Milne (7th Round, No. 258 Pick)
Going from a walk-on at BYU to being drafted in the NFL, there isn’t a better story than Dax Milne who had a breakout season last year for the Cougars. The junior had one of the best years ever at wide receiver for the program as he hauled in 70 catches for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns.
He was Wilson’s top target all season and always came through with big plays when the Cougars needed it. Milne had over 100 yards receiving in six games last year, including his monster game at Houston in which he had nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Milne is BYU’s first wide receiver drafted since Austin Collie in 2009 (4th round, 127).
Undrafted Free Agent Signings
Isaiah Kaufusi: It didn’t take long for the BYU captain to get picked up as the linebacker signed with the Indianapolis Colts. Throughout his BYU career, Kaufusi had 204 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 5 interceptions, 5 fumble recoveries and 4 forced fumbles. Kaufusi, one of many in his extended family to play for BYU, is the cousin of former BYU and NFL players Bronson and Corbin Kaufusi.
— Corbin Kaufusi (@CorbinKaufusi) May 1, 2021
Matt Bushman: If it wasn’t for a season-ending injury, Bushman would have been drafted as the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder was one of the best catchers in college football. During his first year at BYU, Bushman was named a Freshman All American as he led all FBS freshmen tight ends with 49 receptions for 520 receiving yards. He finished the season No. 5 among all tight ends in receptions and No. 6 in receiving yards.
— Matt Bushman (@mbush89) May 2, 2021
Zayne Anderson: The BYU safety is joining the Kansas City Chiefs, coached by former BYU player Andy Reid. During his career at BYU, Anderson had 41 tackles and broke up two passes last season. Anderson was a starter when healthy, but was often injury prone. Anderson will also team up with former BYU star safety Daniel Sorensen.
— Hunter Miller (@MillerHHunter) May 1, 2021
Troy Warner: The versatile defensive back who played both cornerback and safety at BYU is taking his talents to Los Angeles to play for the Rams. Warner played in 47 games during his time at BYU and recorded 29 total tackles and had two interceptions. Troy, who now joins his brother in the NFL, was a highly recruited 4-star recruit coming out of high school and chose BYU over many other high-profile P5 schools.
— Troy Warner (@TroWarner) May 2, 2021
Chandon Herring: The 6-foot-7, 310 pound lineman signed with the Tennessee Titans. Herring played in 49 games in 4 seasons and started at right guard this year for BYU. Herring is athletic for his size and will push for a spot.
— United Athlete Sports Agency (@UASportsAgency) May 1, 2021
Tristen Hoge: The 6-foot-5, 310 pound offensive lineman could be back to protecting Zach Wilson as he signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets. Hoge came out of high school as the No. 1 center in 2015. After spending two seasons at Notre Dame, the versatile lineman came to BYU to finish his college career. Hoge started in every game when he was healthy, missing several games last year due to COVID-19 and pneumonia. His talent and athleticism will help him compete for a spot.
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) May 1, 2021
Zac Dawe: The local kid from Pleasant Grove and former state champion high school wrestler is headed to Atlanta to play for the Falcons. Dawe had a great senior season with 43 tackles and two sacks.
— BYU FOOTBALL (@BYUfootball) May 2, 2021