NFL draft: BYU’s Freeland, Hall and Nacua are selected on third day, along with Utah’s Phillips III and Daniels

Four BYU players also sign with teams as undrafted free agents

December 24, 2019 - Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Blake Freeland (71) provides protection during a game at the SoFi Hawaii Bowl between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, HI - Michael Sullivan/CSM.(Credit Image: © Michael Sullivan/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

BYU’s history of putting offensive lineman into the NFL continued on Saturday.

Blake Freeland, a four-year starter on the line, was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the NFL draft, going No. 106 overall. He became BYU’s second straight left tackle to be drafted, following Brady Christensen, who was picked by the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

Freeland played in 44 games and made 41 starts in Provo. Coming into college, Freeland was a quarterback at Herriman High School. But standing at 6-foot-8, he moved to the line and he became an immediate plug-and-play starter at BYU.

Because of his late position change, Freeland is still relatively raw in his technique at times. It is what made him a polarizing draft pick in the lead-up to the draft — with some projecting him in the second round and others thinking he was more of a fifth-round pick. But Freeland’s size and athleticism made it difficult for teams to pass on him.

Freeland set NFL Combine records when he ran a 4.98 40-yard-dash in March. He also recorded a 37-inch vertical, the best at his position. He weighed in at 305 pounds, which is on the lighter side for an offensive lineman. But scouts believe that with time and age, Freeland will fill out his frame.

Freeland was BYU’s first player off the board in 2023.

Two BYU players were selected in the fifth round. Quarterback Jaren Hall went to the Minnesota Vikings with the 164th overall pick, and receiver Puka Nacua was selected by the Los Angeles Rams with the 177th pick — the last of the round.

Around the state, Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III and Utah lineman Braeden Daniels also got the call early Saturday. Phillips went No. 113 overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Daniels was off the board at No. 118 to the Washington Commanders.

Phillips was Utah’s highest-rated recruit in program history when he came in 2020 and started every game of his college career.

On the smaller end, at 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, Phillips slipped in the draft. He was widely projected to be a second- or third-round player but wasn’t taken on Friday night. At different points in 2022, he was projected as a first-round talent.

But even for his size, Phillips is a productive player who can make an immediate impact in the NFL.

He recorded nine interceptions in the past three years, including returning four for a touchdown (a program record). According to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, Phillips projects to be more of nickel back in the league.

“He is going to be a nickel,” Jeremiah said. “He’s undersized, but he has incredible ball production and toughness and quickness. I think he would struggle holding up outside consistently, but he is somebody I think you’re probably going to see him in that third-round range when he starts coming into the conversation. But a really, really good nickel.”

Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell, from Orem High School, was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round (148th overall).

As for undrafted free agents, BYU running back Chris Brooks signed with the Miami Dolphins. BYU offensive lineman Harris LaChance agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts. Cornerbacks Kaleb Hayes and D’Angelo Mandell went to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys respectively.

For Utah, Mohamoud Diabate signed with the Cleveland Browns. Diabate was viewed as a draftable player, but fell on the final day. He is a Florida transfer who recorded 58 tackles for the Utes last season.