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BYU Football's never too early 2017 NFL Draft projections

With 27 seniors on the roster for 2016, the Cougars will have plenty of players that will be eligible for the draft. Which ones have the best chance of being drafted?

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL Draft has come and gone which means one thing and one thing only.

It's time to talk about the 2017 NFL Draft.

That's right. We're going full Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay here at Vanquish the Foe and we're going to analyze the prospects of a few BYU Football players and discuss the odds of their name being called next year.

There has been a lot of discussion about BYU's ability (or lack thereof) to groom players into prime NFL draft picks. While there have been a slew of players that have made their way onto an NFL roster or practice squad via free agency, only three Cougars have been selected in the draft since 2011. Earlier this week we discussed how BYU's draft futility might not be such a bad thing and what it takes (blue chip recruits) to build a pipeline to the NFL.

When it comes to 2017 there is a good chance BYU's trend of sparse draft attendance continues. There is definitely some serious talent on the roster this coming season but injuries will most likely prevent the Cougar's best from being drafted.

Here's our list of players that have the possibility of being drafted next year with best case and realistic projection of where they could go.

ALGIE BROWN - Running Back

This next season will be an interesting one for Algie because he is making the transition from a tailback in Robert Anae's spread system to a more traditional fullback role in Ty Detmer's offense. This move actually bolsters Algie's draft stock as NFL teams will get to see him in a role that fits his body type and skill set at the next level. It's a situation very similar to that of former BYU running back Fui Vakapuna.

After playing tailback, Fui transitioned to fullback and was eventually selected in the 7th round by the Bengals. At 6-1 and a solid 245 lbs,Brown profiles nicely as a lead blocker that can handle a few touches and can catch the ball well out of the backfield.

If he can make a seamless transition to fullback this year and blow open some gaping holes for Jamal Williams and Squally Canada, I could see him getting picked up in the later rounds.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 6th round pick

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

MICHAEL DAVIS - Defensive Back

Back in 2013 when Davis made the move from wide receiver to cornerback, it wasn't exactly a seamless transition. I still remember sitting in the stands at Notre Dame, watching the Irish wide receivers blow past the BYU secondary. Since then, Davis has quietly been one of the Cougar's most consistent defensive backs. He's not exactly the ball-hawking type the NFL scouts love (he hasn't recorded a single interception in his time at BYU) but he's a solid cover guy. Cougar fans definitely noticed that in the better part of 2015 as opposing quarterbacks picked on Michah Hannemann (which was in part due to his own rocky transition to corner) and largely avoided Davis' side of the field.

If he can make some big plays throughout the year and develop a reputation as a blanket cover corner, there is a very small chance he could get drafted.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Camp invite

TAYSOM HILL - Quarterback

It almost hurts to have to write something about Taysom's draft prospects because I'm forced to think about where Taysom could go in the draft if not for his unfortunate injury past. After BYU's home victory over Virginia in the 2014 season there were quite a few people wondering if Taysom would leave school after his Junior year to pursue an NFL career.

Here we are a few years and injuries later and the possibility of seeing Taysom play on Sunday is much more of a dream than a reality. That said, if there is anyone who can bounce back from all of these freak injuries to prove us wrong, it's this guy. Injuries aside, there are a couple questions that most NFL scouts would ask about his game. One of those questions is, can he play under center and make throws from the pocket?

We've seen what Taysom can do on the run in a spread attack but can he do the same in a pro-style offense? Similar to Algie Brown, having Ty Detmer's offense in place will help Hill's draft prospects. Looking at this year's draft class I see a lot of similarities between Taysom and Dak Prescott. Both played in zone-read based offenses, are similar in size and flourished in college as a dual threat, Also, they were able to improve their completion percentage and decrease their TD-to-INT ratio each year. Prescott was taken in the 4th round by the Cowboys this year.

If (and this is a big one) Taysom plays every single game this season, proving to everyone that his previous injuries were just flukes, and flourishes in Ty's new offense I could see a team taking a risk on him. I should also mention that Michigan's Jake Rudock was picked in the 5th round which means that Jim Harbaugh is a dirty magician and teams are desperate for quarterbacks.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 5th round pick

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

NICK KURTZ - Wide Receiver

It's going to take a lot of production and a minor body transformation for Nick to get drafted. We all saw the decent numbers that Mitch Matthews put up last year and he didn't get picked. In order for Kurtz to get the attention of the scouts he can first put on a show in his senior year. We saw flashes of greatness last year from Nick as he showcased his ability to use his height to catch the ball at its highest point. He'll be one of the more experienced wide receivers next season so look for his fare share of targets.

Nick should also try to add some weight to his slender frame. As of right now he looks as if he could be knocked over by a still wind.If he can pack on some pounds and put up numbers against Michigan State, he'll turn some heads.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

HARVEY LANGI - Linebacker / Running Back

In evaluating these players I like to find comparable players and immediately I thought that Harvey is a poor man's Myles Jack. Obviously the freakish athletic ability will never be the same, but Harvey is around same size and displays similar versatility. The key with Harvey is continuing to get a feel for the linebacker position. Before BYU his focus was on offense and the transition to linebacker hasn't been exactly flawless. We've all seen Harvey make some amazing plays (see UCLA game) but there were many times last year that he looked just a step or two late.

There are many that argue that the middle linebacker position is the most difficult on the field because it requires the physicality of a lineman and the spacial awareness and instincts of a defensive back. There is no doubting that Langi has the size and strength to succeed at the next level but he needs to recognize plays at the point of attack and stay in position.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 6th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

JONNY LINEHAN - Punter

Tom Hackett was the punter of the year TWO YEARS IN A ROW and didn't get drafted. Unless Jonny starts playing defensive back and averaging 3 interceptions a game, he's not getting drafted.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: Undrafted free agent

REALISTIC PROJECTION: I'm sure he's still good at rugby!

KAI NACUA - Safety

Kai is an amazing ball hawk, and his six interceptions in 2015 (which tied a BYU single season record) serve as evidence of such. He can play multiple positions in the defensive backfield and made a noticeable difference after sitting out the first game of the season.

This year Kai needs to improve his tackling in the open field, particularly against the run. He's definitely not afraid to deliver a big hit (a certain Cincinnati wide receiver can testify) but there were a few times last year when he wasn't able to come up and stuff the run before the opposing running back made a deep break into the secondary (the Michigan game comes to mind here).

The likelihood of a BYU defensive back being drafted is very slim (the last Cougar DB to be drafted was Derwin Gray in 1993) but there is always a chance if he can finish his already solid career with an exclamation point.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 7th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

TRAVIS TUILOMA - Defensive Tackle

I might be more bulish on Tuiloma than just about anyone in the country, but I honestly think that he has what it takes to make it at the next level. In Bronco Mendenhall's 3-4 defense, Travis was tasked with plugging holes and taking on multiple defenders so the linebackers would be free to operate and make plays.

When he went down with a leg injury in the Nebraska game there was a noticeable hole in BYU's defense and it was painfully obvious against UCLA.He will have multiple games this season where he will be facing tough competition (specifically Michigan State and Mississippi State) in the trenches.

If he can come up big in both of these games and have a consistent and healthy senior season, I could see him getting drafted.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 5th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

JAMAAL WILLIAMS - Running Back

I feel like I could copy and paste what I said about Taysom and most of it would be true here. I honestly don't think that we have seen the very best that Jamaal has to offer. In his freshman season he saw limited action but showed flashes of brilliance when he had the chance. He had a stellar year in 2013, but even then he was setback by a concussion against Utah and had his touches limited after his recovery. He was having a decent year in 2014 before being sidelined with an injury and sat out all of 2015.

This year he will finally be well rested and have some offensive weapons around him that can help open up holes for him in the running game. The knock on Jamaal is that he likely doesn't have the breakaway speed that NFL teams are looking for. He might not have blazing speed but I don't know many running backs that hit the hole harder than Jamaal. If you watch carefully there are few times that Jamaal will get knocked backwards. He plays behind his pads, allowing him to run downhill and fight for extra yards.

If he continues to improve on every aspect of his game (specifically blocking and catching out of the backfield) he could find a home in the NFL.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 6th round

REALISTIC PROJECTION: Undrafted free agent

***

In a perfect world where good things happen to BYU football, all of these guys will have productive, injury-free seasons allowing NFL scouts to judge them of off their best performances. Besides Taysom Hill, there aren't any players on BYU's roster that can get drafted on measurables alone. As mentioned with just about every player on this list, they need to have a banner year in order to catch the eye of the scouts. The schedule provides many opportunities for these players to showcase their skills against quality competition.

So will 2017 be a breakthrough year for BYU in the NFL Draft? Not likely but as our good friend Lloyd Christmas would remind us, there is definitely a chance (even if it's a million-to-one).