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Projecting Former Cougars in the NFL Draft

6 May 2014 Brett Richins
Cody Hoffman participates at BYU's Pro Day on March 14. (BYU photo)

Former BYU Wide Receiver Cody Hoffman participates at BYU’s Pro Day on March 14. (BYU photo)

For the first time in several years more than two former BYU football player may be selected in this week’s NFL draft.

In fact, it’s been nine years since the Cougars have had as many as three players picked in a draft.

In 2005, Brady Poppinga was selected in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers, while Scott Young went in the fifth round to the Philadelphia Eagles and Shaun Nua was taken in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

BYU has a chance to equal or surpass that number during the 2014 draft that runs this Thursday through Saturday.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy has an outside chance of being the second former Cougar in the past two years to be picked in the first round on Thursday night. His good friend and former teammate Ziggy Ansah was the fifth overall selection by the Detroit Lions in last year’s draft. The Lions have shown interest in KVN, along with several other teams.

Wide receiver Cody Hoffman and strong safety Daniel Sorensen are solid bets to be picked up in the later rounds of the draft on Saturday. Hoffman is the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards, receptions and touchdown catches, while Sorensen surprised scouts and front office execs with an outstanding performance at the NFL combine in February.

Other former players like defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna, linebackers Uani Unga and Spencer Hadley, and tight end Kaneakua Friel could also sneak into the picture late in the draft.

Here’s a look at the three former Cougars who are most likely to be selected and where they could end up:

Kyle Van Noy (6-3, 243 LB)

Van Noy is one of the most productive and explosive defensive players in the history of the program. NFL coaches and personnel folks love his versatility on the field and the fact that he has been a disruptive force as a special teams player as well.

During his fabulous career in Provo, Kyle recorded 226 tackles, 62 sacks, 32 quarterback hurries, forced 11 fumbles, recovered five fumbles and blocked three kicks. He also had seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

He may have hurt his stock just a little after he surprised everyone by coming back for his senior season in 2013. Kyle would have likely been a first-round pick along with Ansah after turning in a spectacular junior season that culminated with one of the most dominating performances ever by a defensive player in a bowl game during the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State.

Pro scouts think that he he can play outside or inside at the next level, but he’s probably more likely to flourish in the league as an outside linebacker. There is a premium in the NFL on players who can pressure the quarterback, which is why Van Noy has a chance to sneak into the bottom of the first round.

Most so-called experts expect him to go in the second round and it’s unlikely that he will be available much beyond the middle of the second round. The biggest question about his ability is how well he can stand up against the run. He does have a tendency to sometimes get swallowed up by good offensive tackles and can have problems getting off blocks.

The fact that he is relatively narrow in the waist and hips is one of the reasons that he is such a terror when rushing the passer or chasing down a ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. He’s among the very best at dipping his hips and making a beeline to the football.

However, that same build creates some leverage issues for him when taking on the kind of maulers that he’ll see in the NFL.  For that reason he’s going to have to learn how to use his hands better at the next level and not allow himself to get locked up.

For such an explosive player, Kyle had some fairly pedestrian numbers at the combine. He ran a slow 4.71 forty, bench pressed 21 reps and had a vertical jump of just 32.5 inches. For that reason it looked like he might slide into the third round. Fortunately though, his film reveals an athlete who is much more explosive than his combine numbers might indicate.

Last month, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Van Noy as his No. 25 player in the draft after going back and reviewing the film.

“Kyle Van Noy jumps onto the Big Board this week because he’s a player I simply didn’t have graded high enough.” Kiper wrote on April 10th.

“He’s so quick, with such good instincts, and sees and reacts so well, he often looks like he’s playing the game faster than everyone else. I had him as a likely second-round pick, but he’s good enough to go in Round 1 based on my evaluation.”

Kyle Van Noy Highlights:

DSB Forecast: While a team like the New England Patriots could take Van Noy late in the first round, he’s most likely to go somewhere in the first several picks of the second round. There may be a good amount of trading up and down at the bottom of the first round or top of the the second round so it’s tough to project what team may select him, however it seems unlikely that he will get by Oakland or Atlanta if the Raiders and/or Falcons hold on to their fourth and fifth picks respectively in the second round. Both franchises are looking to improve their ability to pressure the quarterback off the edge.

Cody Hoffman (6-4, 223 WR)

Cody certainly didn’t help himself at the NFL combine when he ran 4.65 forty and turned in one of the worst verticals at the event by jumping just 27.5 inches.

NFL front office people didn’t expect him to be the fastest receiver at the combine, so his time in the forty wasn’t as big of a deal as his poor vertical jump. Though 6-foot-4, Hoffman’s height advantage may be minimized by shorter NFL defensive backs with good leaping ability.

He’s also never been particularly adept at getting separation from college cornerbacks and that could be a concern for him at the next level as well. In college he didn’t need much separation because few receivers in the country were as good at using their big body to shield defenders from the football. However, it remains to be seen if he can do the same thing in the NFL.

One thing that scouts can’t deny is his incredible level of production. His assault on the BYU receiving record book is even more impressive when you consider how the Cougars have struggled at quarterback during his career and that every defense he faced knew exactly where the ball was going.

Though he isn’t a big leaper he does have great timing when going up for the football, and he has a pair of hands that are as sticky and strong as any receiver in the draft. He put together an outstanding highlight reel of circus catches during his career as a Cougar that will serve him well when decision makers put on his tape.

Although his lack of high-end athleticism means that he will likely not hear his name called until the final day of the draft, several teams are interested enough in him to use a late-round draft pick to reserve his sevices. He’s not going to come in and be a starter in the league, especially not right away, but he could develop into a third or fourth option for teams that value big, strong, physical wide receivers.

Cody Hoffman Highlights:

DSB Forecast: Hoffman has been too productive and clutch throughout his career at BYU to go undrafted. There are several teams who will be watching him as the draft draws to a close. He could go anywhere from late in the fifth round to the seventh round. A team like the Dallas Cowboys, whose owner Jerry Jones loves big receivers, could take a flyer on Cody if he’s still around late in the draft. Dallas currently has a total of six seventh-round draft picks.

Daniel Sorensen (6-1, 205 SS)

While Hoffman and Van Noy failed to wow observers at the NFL combine, former BYU KAT safety Daniel Sorensen certainly did. Although his 4.67 time in the forty was average for strong safeties, his shuttle times turned heads in Indianapolis.

Daniel’s 4.47 time in the three-cone drill was the fastest time recorded at the combine since 2006. His time of 10.8 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle was the fastest time for a safety in the last nine years and his 20-yard shuttle time of 3.95 seconds was the best for a safety at this year’s event and the fifth-best among all attendees in 2014.

At BYU’s Pro Day in March, he improved his 40-yard dash time to 4.54 seconds. All of the impressive drill numbers, combined with his very productive college career should add up to him hearing his name called from the podium at Radio City Music Hall at some point this week.

During his career Sorensen picked off eight passes and defended another 23. He amassed 211 tackles from his safety spot and had an impressive 11.5 tackles for loss. He also forced and recovered two fumbles each during his career and blocked one kick. He was a three-year starter in Bronco Mendenhall’s defense and just always seemed to be around the ball.

He also excelled on special teams and developed a knack for getting down on punt coverage and downing the ball deep inside the opponent’s territory. He’s likely to see the field early in his career as a special teams player and is the kind of guy who could have a long career as a special teams player even if he never becomes a starter at safety in the NFL.

His biggest weakness at the next level may be covering receivers with elite speed. But then again, what strong safety in the NFL doesn’t have trouble running with some of the league’s elite receivers?

Shuttle times tend to be better indicators than forty times of a defensive back’s ability to perform on the field, and Daniel has demonstrated that he has the kind of footwork and quick change of direction needed to be successful in the NFL.

“Sorensen is a nice pick,” Kiper told the media the day before BYU’s Pro Day . “I think as a Day-3 player he’s going to make a team and he’s going to help you. He could be a starter. He’s a very underrated player. I liked what I saw from him during his career.

“His overall performance on the field, plus his overall ability when you factor it in with the other drills that are necessary to determine a player’s capability at the pro level are all solid. I think he deserves to be a fifth-round pick, or in that area,” Kiper said. “I think he’ll be a surprise and a nice pick for someone.”

Daniel Sorensen’s NFL Combine Highlights:

DSB Forecast: Expect Daniel to get drafted and go late in the fifth round or somewhere in the sixth. He would be a perfect fit for a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he could be an understudy to the aging Troy Polamalu, one of the greatest strong safeties in the history of the game. The Steelers have two draft picks in both the fifth and sixth rounds and have had good success with former BYU players who have been tutored by Mendenhall.

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