Four former BYU Cougars have accepted invitations to the 2021 NFL Draft Combine, with a potential for even more to be selected leading up to the event. Chris Wilcox, Khyiris Tonga, Matt Bushman, and Dax Milne have all accepted invitations to this year’s Combine. This is a tremendous opportunity for these players to form strong impressions with all 32 NFL teams leading up to the NFL Draft. Zach Wilson and Brady Christensen have yet to officially announce they were they invited although they are virtual locks.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s NFL Combine will be conducted virtually, the league announced in a memo on January 18th. All of the team interviews and psychological testing will be conducted virtually, and there will be no in-person workouts as part of the event. In lieu of that, all workouts will be part of each university’s Pro Day, and the NFL will work with the schools to provide as fair and consistent testing as possible.
This is a huge step forward for these 4 players. The average of players who participated in the combine who then get drafted is about 84%. Last year it was the highest ever, when 90% of combine participants were drafted. This is a strange year, and it’s difficult to tell if that percentage will hold true. We don’t know for sure if the NFL is inviting more players than normal because of the virtual nature of the event, or how much weight NFL teams will place on combine/pro-day performances. Still, this is a wonderful opportunity for Wilcox, Tonga, Bushman, and Milne to work their way up draft boards.
Dax Milne was BYU’s leading receiver this past year, nabbing 70 catches for 1,188 yards and 8 touchdowns. Chris Wilcox, the team’s shutdown corner, finished the year with 18 tackles and 1 pass break-up. It doesn’t look like much on paper, but that’s because he covered well enough that the other teams rarely threw the ball in his direction. Khyiris Tonga tallied 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. And perhaps the most surprising invitee is Matt Bushman, whose year finished before it could get started with a season-ending injury in practice. Without the production opportunity this year, some were beginning to question his potential draft position. This invite shows that NFL teams still consider him a legitimate option, and that is fantastic news.
This is also a big step forward for the BYU program. BYU outperformed everyone’s expectations and received national recognition for their performance this past year, it continues with the most BYU players ever invited to the Combine in the same year. When you are trying to recruit high school players who want to play in the NFL, pointing towards this year’s combine can be a massive tool. Especially in the case of Dax Milne. The coaches can point to him as a former walk-on and show they have the capability to really grow those players into NFL-caliber performers.
While the NFL Draft Combine is quickly approaching, there is still some time for more BYU Cougars to receive an invitation. Of course there is Zach Wilson, and with his draft position beginning to solidify in the Top 10 and even Top 5, it’s almost a given he will be included in the Combine. Brady Christensen is also solidly in draft projections, and he’s a potential invitee. One other name I think is worth keeping an eye on is OL Chandon Herring. He performed well at The College Gridiron Showcase in January, and may have earned himself a Combine invitation. Either way, there are now 7 BYU Cougars to look for when the NFL Draft happens in April. That’s awesome.