ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 28: Coach Bronco Mendenhall of the BYU Cougars looks on during a game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Cowboys Stadium on October 28, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The TCU Horned Frogs defeated the BYU Cougars 38-28. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
At least one BYU football player has been drafted by an NFL team in 42 of the last 45 years. Two of the three shut out years have been in 2011 and 2012. Once is an anomaly. But two years in a row? That has the potential to be the beginnings of a new trend. While most of us didn't see it coming, it appears Bronco has a bit of an NFL draft problem to deal with.
Of course some BYU fans will view this post as a Bronco-hating hatchet job. But it isn't. I love Bronco as the BYU coach and love what he has done with the program. However he would surely tell you himself that there is always room for improvement.
A potential vicious cycle
The problem with not sending at least a few guys to the NFL every year is pretty simple: The best HS football players dream of playing in the NFL. So when they are choosing a college to play for they will want to choose a program that can help them fulfill their NFL dream. If the best LDS athletes stop believing BYU will adequately assist them in their goal to play in the NFL many of them will choose other schools. The more top LDS guys BYU loses for that reason the harder it will be for BYU to compete at the highest levels. It becomes a vicious cycle where BYU is losing recruits which leads to losing more games which leads to losing more recruits, etc. So in short -- BYU should help as many guys get drafted as possible every year if the program wants to be competitive.
Ideas on what can be done
While there are a lot of factors related to players getting drafted or not that the BYU football program cannot influence, there are also lots of areas where the program can have an influence. Here are some things off the top of my head that I suspect would be useful in helping guys get drafted:
Bronco and his staff should have a program goal to get at least 2-4 guys drafted every year.
I don't know if this is already in their goals but if it isn't it should be. It is a hugely important badge of honor that powers recruiting and keeps guys in the program motivated. If all the players are confident that a handful of them will get drafted every year they will think "why not me?" and hopefully mimic the work ethic and devotion of the guys ahead of them they see getting drafted.
Part of the goal should be to create a team culture where all the guys can harbor NFL dreams and don't wait until graduation to take those dreams seriously. Terence Brown losing 38 lbs. of fat this spring was an admirable feat but it could also be seen as an indictment of the BYU football program that he lacked motivation to get in shape until after he was done playing BYU football.
I can assure you that the Marriott School of Business measures its success in part by the number of students it helps land jobs at top firms. Bronco and his program should do the same.
The program should spend the money necessary to hire staff and consultants devoted to getting guys drafted.
Maybe this means an upgrade to the strength and conditioning program. Maybe it means bringing consultants in early on to be sure players are doing everything they can early on to prepare for the NFL workouts and combines. BYU football is reportedly making a lot more money as an independent program than they were in the MWC. Investing in helping guys get drafted is money well spent in my opinion.
Focusing on winning is nice but as Kellen Moore proved this week -- winning in college is not enough. And relying on kids to all be super self-motivated like Austin Collie is not a winning strategy for BYU either. Austin is an anomaly with regard to his work ethic. Most guys need much more external motivation to reach their athletic potential.
These are just two basic ideas. No doubt there are other, better ideas I haven't thought of on the fly so feel free to add additional ideas in the comments.
A potential virtuous cycle
The hope is that with BYU providing the resources and culture that leads to several players getting drafted every year more and more top LDS high school recruits will choose BYU. That in turn will lead to more winning and more draftees and more top recruits, etc. I believe that to some degree the long term health of the program is tied to this NFL draft question so hopefully BYU will take the issue seriously.
What say you?