From 2017 to 2019, tight end Matt Bushman was a force to be reckoned with at BYU. At a school that boasts alums like Dennis Pitta and Chad Lewis, Bushman looked to be the next great tight end for the Cougars. He turned in three straight seasons of over 500 receiving yards despite turmoil at the quarterback position for much of his career. After 2019, many wondered how many tight ends were better than Bushman in the entire country.
Before he could join the stellar 2020 squad, he tragically severely injured his Achilles, which prematurely ended his season. After surgery, he focused on rehab with an eye towards the draft. He received an invite to the virtual NFL Combine.
Unfortunately, due to his injury, Bushman is likely a day three prospect despite his immense talent. Day three of the NFL Draft features rounds four through seven. He has the possibility of being a steal for a team looking to boost their tight end room. Coming off of a major injury has Bushman flying under the radar and he could make a team very happy.
Let’s take a look at five teams who might be interested in Bushman’s services later in the draft, where most project he will be.
The Cardinals, at times, showed they can be an explosive offense with quarterback Kyler Murray under center. Of course, they have DeAndre Hopkins as one of the best receivers in the entire league. After that, the talent drop-off is severe with the retirement of the legendary receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona will need pass catchers in droves to provide Murray with sufficient weapons.
Arizona got very little production from their tight ends as Dan Arnold led the group with 438 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Plus, Arnold will be a free agent and may not even rejoin the team, leaving yet another hole. Bushman would come into Arizona with a quality offensive-minded head coach in Kliff Kingsbury and a quarterback in Murray who can chuck it around the yard and a chance to play right away. Certainly, there are worse landing places. The Cardinals own two picks in day three, 161st overall in the fifth round and 242nd in the seventh round.
Possible pick: Cardinals select Bushman in the fifth round, 161st overall
Could Bushman team up with Zach Wilson in the pros? Wilson has been slotted by multiple experts to be selected by the Panthers at No. 8. One even had the Panthers trading up higher to snag him as he may not even last that long. Either way, Bushman and the Panthers seem like a good fit, Wilson or not. Ian Thomas is the lone returning tight end Carolina who had production of any kind last season, with a meager 145 receiving yards.
The Panthers are young and rebuilding under second-year head coach Matt Rhule. With perhaps a new quarterback in the fold, be it Bushman’s college teammate Wilson or Trey Lance from North Dakota State or another young signal caller, the franchise will want to build around him with playmakers and pass-catchers. Bushman would fit right in and join in the youth movement. Carolina has several opportunities to select Bushman late, with a fourth round pick and two picks in each of the fifth and sixth rounds.
Possible pick: Panthers select Bushman in the sixth round, 195th overall
The Jaguars went 1-15 in 2020 on their way to possessing the No. 1 overall pick in this upcoming draft. It’s almost a guarantee that they will select Clemson star Trevor Lawrence as their next franchise quarterback. Lawrence will certainly need people to throw to. Former Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert may still be on the roster if the Jaguars opt to keep him, with an option in his deal for the 2021 season. However, he will be 31 years old when the season starts and has dealt with several injuries over the years.
Jacksonville very likely wants to surround Lawrence with young talent where they can grow together under new head coach Urban Meyer. Bushman would give them a younger option at tight end that can develop a relationship with their new prize at quarterback for years to come. The Jags have six total picks in rounds four through seven.
Possible pick: Jaguars select Busman in the fifth round, 171st overall
Since 2016, the Chargers have had Hunter Henry in the fold, a solid tight end who has turned in at least 570 receiving yards in three of his five seasons thus far. However, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent, leaving the Bolts with roughly 200 receiving yards worth of production from the tight ends who are returning for 2021. Bushman would have a chance to play right away if the Chargers were to select him.
This would be an exciting fit for Bushman with the budding star at quarterback in Justin Herbert, who was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Los Angeles owns five picks in day three of the draft including two in the sixth round.
Possible pick: Chargers select Bushman in the sixth round, 200th overall
Although Tom Brady has left town and since won another Super Bowl, the Patriots remain an attractive destination under the supervision of legendary coach Bill Belichick. Like some on this list, New England is in search of that elusive next franchise quarterback. They too have shown an interest in Zach Wilson but will have to do some serious maneuvering on draft day to select him. Tight ends have flourished in the past with the Patriots, namely one Rob Gronkowski.
New England is desperate for playmakers. Only two players exceeded 400 receiving yards in 2020 and the offense at times was stale under quarterback Cam Newton, who is not set to return. Ryan Izzo is the top returning tight end after a meager 199 receiving yards. Bushman would be a welcome addition to a franchise trying hard to turn the page and look to a brighter future. New England has three fourth round picks and two in the sixth round with a total of seven picks in day three. Of the teams listed, the Patriots have the most opportunities to select Bushman.
Possible pick: Patriots select Bushman in the sixth round, 199th overall