The NFL Draft is finally in the books, and once again, BYU football didn't have that great of a night. Bronson Kaufusi was scooped up early in the 3rd round by the Baltimore Ravens, but he was the only Cougar to hear his named announced on draft night.
That isn't a new occurrence. BYU didn't have a single played drafted in 2015. They haven't had multiple players picked in the same conventional NFL Draft since 2009 (Harvy Unga was picked in the 2010 supplemental draft). The Cougars haven't had multiple players picked outside of the 7th round since 2005. Only six Cougars have been picked in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft since 2001. That's not a great run.
This can be a bit of a source of local embarrassment, since other, inferior programs have had better luck. This year, both Utah State and Southern Utah had multiple draft picks. So did South Carolina State (an FCS program), and North Dakota State. Heck, the Aggies had multiple picks in 2014, 2013 and 2012. Utah only had one NFL pick this season, but they had four last year, and also had multiple picks in 2014 and 2013.
So yes, other programs, even those with less resources, are getting more players drafted than BYU. But I have a really HOT TAKE for you.
I'm not sure it really matters that much.
I mean, let's look at the kinds of players who get drafted in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. Surprise! They're mostly elite recruits. Blue chip prospects (four or five star players) are nearly 1,000 times more likely to be drafted in the first round than less ranked counterparts. The NFL Draft, after all, isn't a pure meritocracy based on college production, but one that places extra emphasis on measurables and physical attributes. You can be a step slow and an inch too short and be a great college player, but it will certainly impact your ability to get drafted.
BYU...doesn't recruit many of those players. They do get some of them! Bronson Kaufusi, after all, was a four-star recruit. Kyle Van Noy, another recent BYU player who went in the second round of the NFL Draft, was also a blue-chipper. There are a handful of players currently on BYU's roster, from QB Tanner Mangum to LB Fred Warner, but BYU typically only signs one or two players with that profile in each recruiting class.
Are recruiting rankings an exact science? Of course not. Many of the lesser-ranked players that end up in the draft dramatically add weight, or change positions, or just flat out overperform their expectations. BYU's signed many of these players too (sup, Taysom Hill). But they do matter, not just for predicting the success of college programs, but perhaps even more for predicting NFL draft probability.
I might be the biggest proponent of recruiting rankings along the periphery of the BYU-blogging internet. I've written a lot about how BYU needs to upgrade their talent level and overall recruiting to remain competitive in a difficult indie-scheduled world. But I'm also realistic. BYU is never going to sign six or seven blue chip kids a season, let alone the level needed to compare to the USCs and UCLAs of the world. If you're not bringing in elite talent on a regular basis, it will be hard for you to turn out NFL draftees, especially those in the early rounds, on a regular basis.
Plus, we can't forget the other elephant in the room. A lot of BYU's players are going to be older, perhaps significantly older. Per LDS PR, 88 members of the 2014 BYU football team served missions, the highest number in recent history. Those players, if they're good enough, are then hitting the NFL Draft pool at an older age, which impacts their value.
If you're really good enough, being two years older isn't the end of the world. After all, many scouts liked Kaufusi's "different maturity level". But for many position groups (like quarterback), or for more marginal prospects, those two years make a huge impact. If an NFL GM is trying to figure out whether to take a BYU player with 5th round talent or say, an Iowa player with 5th round talent but is two years younger, they'll typically go with the younger player.
That isn't likely to change much. After all, if given the choice between having dozens of RMs and dozens of NFL Draft picks, I feel pretty confident that BYU's administration would rather have the RMs. Probably a lot of BYU fans would as well.
If your player pool is likely to be older, and you aren't likely to recruit dramatically better athletes to compensate for it, how reasonable is it to expect significant chances in the NFL Draft? BYU can probably do a little bit better than their run over the last few seasons...but I'm skeptical that a dramatic improvement is possible.
Producing a lot of NFL players is a great recruiting tool, and a point of pride for your program, but for a place like BYU, it's probably never going to be the centerpiece of its recruiting package. But the point of the program is to win college football games, not necessarily produce NFL draft picks. It can do one without the other.
If you're really looking for something to get worried about, it probably wouldn't be too hard to find something. But if you're a fan of the program, I really don't think the draft is one of those things. Leave that for the Twitter trolls or the MY COLUMN: crowd. If BYU wins nine or ten games next season and only sends one more player to the draft, will you complain?