Which Utes and Cougars could be NFL draft picks next year? Here’s what one analyst thinks right now

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s top-10 lists for each position feature plenty of names from Utah and BYU

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (3) attempts a pass in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Statesboro, Ga. (AP Photo/Paul Abell)

It’s barely been a month since Devin Lloyd walked across the stage on draft night and bear-hugged commissioner Roger Goodell.

A lot can change in the 11 months until next year’s NFL Draft.

But early projections suggest the state of Utah could be well represented. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper has about a dozen players from Utah schools, and a handful of Beehive prep products, listed on his early top 10 lists for each position.


BYU junior Jaren Hall, No. 6 — Hall could be in position to be the second BYU quarterback to be drafted into the NFL in just three years’ time (Zach Wilson was drafted No. 2 overall in 2021). Hall threw for 20 touchdowns and nearly 2,600 yards last season.

Utah junior Cam Rising — While Rising didn’t technically make Kiper’s latest big board, the ESPN analyst has been high on the Utes quarterback. On a recent podcast, Kiper twice mentioned Rising as a quarterback with first-round potential in 2023. Rising was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection last season, when he threw for 20 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 to lead the Utes to their first Rose Bowl appearance.


Utah senior Brant Kuithe, No. 7 — Kuithe decided to come back to the Utes after nearly entering the draft this offseason, citing that he “listened to the right people.” An extra season as one for the three-time an All-Pac-12 selection should give him an even bigger boost in the 2023 draft discussion after catching 50 passes for 611 yards and six touchdowns last season.

Tight ends

Utah senior Dalton Kincaid, No. 3 — Kincaid also strongly considered entering the NFL Draft earlier this year. He will return to the Utes with a team-leading eight touchdown catches to go along with 36 total catches for 510 yards.

BYU junior Isaac Rex, No. 10 — The wildcard in this year’s BYU draft class is Isaac Rex. The tight end is still recovering from a broken ankle last season. But at 6-foot-6, 247 pounds, Rex remains an enticing pass-catching weapon for NFL teams.

Rex had one of the best freshman seasons in the country in 2020, with 12 touchdowns and 429 yards receiving. However, in 2021, Rex’s production dipped before getting hurt in the bowl game. He finished with three touchdowns and 19 fewer catches.

Offensive tackles

BYU junior Blake Freeland, No. 3 — CBS Sports also lists Freeland as a top prospect for 2023 and projects he’ll get picked in the first round at No. 23. Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl, believes Freeland in particular will be a fast riser on draft boards throughout the year.

“NFL scouts will love [the] athletic profile of former TE and Utah HS javelin record-holder,” Nagy said on Twitter. “Impressive initial quicks and body control for someone listed at [6-foot-8].”


Utah junior Braeden Daniels, No. 4 — Daniels enjoyed an All-Pac-12 season in 2021, starting all 14 games. In most of those games, he played right tackle. But, as coach Kyle Whittingham said in April during spring practices, Daniels played well left tackle exclusively. That versatility could make Daniels an even more coveted target in the draft.

BYU junior Clark Barrington, No. 6 — One of the most important players for the Cougars last year made a couple of All-America lists and could’ve tried his hand at the 2022 draft. But Barrington is going to run it back at BYU, hoping to build upon his breakout season.

Inside linebackers

Noah Sewell, No. 1 — While Sewell does not play for a Utah university, he is practically a household name in the Beehive State after his tenure at Orem High School. He’s been a star at the University of Oregon, and could become a high pick in the 2023 draft.

Utah senior Mohamoud Diabate, No. 6 — Diabate transferred to Utah from Florida. He didn’t participate in spring practices because he was recovering from an injury. But he wants to win a conference championship and be developed to the point of being a potential NFL draft pick. But his 89 tackles in his final season with the Gators are enough to put him in the conversation now, and a healthy 2022 season with Utah should only help that.


Utah sophomore Clark Phillips III, No. 4 — The gregarious young cornerback who can also rollerskate quickly made an impression in the secondary for the Utes. In 2021, he recorded two interceptions and 63 total tackles. Pro Football Focus also lists him as one of the top players at his position.