Today, we find ourselves two weeks away from the 2023 NFL Draft. The excitement and anticipation of NFL fans everywhere is in the air, as well as the wonder of many college football fans of where their favorite players will be heading next.
BYU has few players that fans expect to have their name called later this month. The question is which teams will be the ones selecting them?
Over the next couple weeks leading up to the draft, we will do our best to try and answer the question of who, where, and when players will be drafted. For this weeks’ draft we will be focusing on the best case scenario for each of these players based on team needs and how much success the players could see early on.
Pick 99-San Francisco 49ers
Blake Freeland, OT
Blake Freeland continues to be mocked as BYU’s first player off the board. Right now, he seems to be in the range of rounds three and four according to NFL draft analysts. There will be several suitors within that range taking a look. The San Francisco 49ers stick out as a team that not only would be interested in Freeland, but also a great fit for him in their offense.
The 49ers lost five year starter, Mike McGlinchey, who signed a contract with the Denver Broncos in free agency. While rostered players Colton McKivitz and Jaylon Moore will compete for the starting spot it is still very likely the 49ers will look to improve the spot in the draft.
The trouble they run into is their lack of early draft capital. Their first pick comes at pick 99 in the third round. If there is a spot they will take Freeland this is it. All of the top end tackles of this class will go within the first 50 picks and the 49ers will look to Freeland to improve their line as one of the most athletic tackles there has been in the pre-draft process.
There will be teams that look at Freeland before pick 99, but for best case scenarios it would be hard to beat the 49ers situationally as a landing spot. Freeland would come into an offensive line room with no incumbent right tackle. With improvement to his pass-pro this off season he could compete for the starting spot right away.
The 49ers are in their window of contention having played in the AFC championship just a few months ago. The offense itself is full of weapons such as Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. Freeland would also have the opportunity to learn from Trent Williams, the best left tackle in the NFL. Being drafted by San Francisco would set Freeland up to have success from day one.
Pick 117-Minnesota Vikings
Jaren Hall, QB
Jaren Hall is a tricky player to evaluate when he will be drafted. Various draft analyst have mock drafts of Hall being selected anywhere from rounds three to six.
There are a few factors that go into what would be the best case scenario for Hall. What does the QB room look like? Is the head coach offensive or defensive minded? What offensive weapons does the team have? What is the current team culture? All of these are questions to ask when analyzing how promising a landing spot is for a quarterback.
Enter the Minnesota Vikings.
Offensive minded Head Coach? Check. Offensive weapons? Check. Good culture? Check. And as for the QB room, Kirk Cousins is on the last year of his contract with no quarterback pushing to be the next starter behind him.
The Vikings check every box that could put Jaren Hall in the best situation right away. It seems like the Vikings have no plans to retain Kirk Cousins after this season. That would give Hall a year to develop behind Cousins while adjusting to the NFL and become the starter in year two. The best way Hall can be set up for success is by learning an offense and adjusting to the higher level of play as the back up for a year before taking on the starting responsibilities.
Second year Head Coach Kevin O’Connell is a perfect fit for Hall. Not to mention Wes Phillips as offensive coordinator, as well. Both played quarterback in college and both have experience coaching quarterbacks as well as passing game coordinators. O’Connell was OC and Phillips the tight ends coach/passing game coordinator for the Rams in 2021 and helped lead them to a Super Bowl championship.
Hall was developed under the tandem of BYU OC Aaron Roderick and Fesi Sitake as the passing game coordinator. Having a similar duo at the NFL level, who have have NFL experience and success, would do wonders for Hall as he makes the transition to the NFL.
The Vikings also have no shortage of offensive talent. A backfield led my Dalvin Cook and backed up by Alexander Mattison is a fantastic safety net for any young quarterback. And throwing to targets like Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, and TJ Hockenson isn’t too shabby either. Wether it comes to players or coaching staff, Hall would be surrounded by an abundance of NFL talent in Minnesota.
Pick 170-Green Bay Packers
Puka Nacua, WR
Puka Nacua is the third draft hopeful for BYU this year. If he could have remained healthier in his two years with the Cougars we would be talking about huge career numbers and potentially a day two pick. However, Nacua is looking like he will be a day three selection in this years draft and could be picked by a number of teams in rounds four through seven.
In order for Nacua to come in and not only make the team, but fight for playing time as well, it will need to be a team that has need for wide receivers.
The Green Bay Packers have had the need for wide receiver help for the better part of a decade. That continues to be the case this off season with Allen Lazard, the Packers leading receiver, leaving for New York in free agency. They are left with second year receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to lead the way in 2023.
There is a good chance that the Packers will take a wide receiver before pick 170, but it is likely they could double dip at the position seeing how bare the receiving room is. Nacua would come in and compete for potential playing time right away with no clear wide receiver three on the roster.
It seems almost certain that 4th year QB Jordan Love will be the starter for the Packers this season.
Is Aaron Rodgers a Jet yet? Yes? No?
Anyway, it would be smart to surround Love with as much help as he can get taking over the starting role.
Nacua brings talent that could fill multiple roles for the Packers. He played in both the outside and the slot at BYU. Having experience in both areas, Green Bay could move him around to be utilized to their needs. He showed the ability on jet sweeps to be good in open space despite not having the break away speed of other receivers. Perhaps he could play in the slot with Watson and Doubs on the outside. Regardless, Nacua would bring versatility that could aid the young receiving room in Green Bay and their new starter.
Pick 250-Kansas City Chiefs
Kaleb Hayes, CB
This is best case scenario, right?
Best case scenario is Kaleb Hayes turned himself into a draft selection after his performance at BYU’s pro day.
All 32 NFL teams were in attendance to witness Hayes’ showcase of athleticism. In several drills he would have ranked within the Top 5 corners at the combine. The drill that may have earned him a spot in the draft was the 40 yard dash running a 4.31. Not only is that fast, that’s NFL fast.
In the later rounds of the draft teams have a tendency to draft based on athleticism and upside rather than just production. A RAS score of 9.89 might have done just enough to show the athletic upside Hayes could bring to a team.
The Chiefs do not have a ton of depth at corner. Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed are set to return as the starters but after that there is not a lot of experience amongst the other corners. The Chiefs could look to add one late that has the athletic upside and could be developed into a depth piece for the defense.
Also, Andy Reid is the head coach. With that BYU connection there is a chance Big Red may be one of the ones willing to take a chance on Hayes.