BYU had another good season that culminated with a win in the New Mexico Bowl. They will be well-represented during the 2023 NFL Draft thanks to a long list of prospects. Here are the scouting reports for every BYU player that might hear their name called during the three-day event.
BYU 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
Blake Freeland, OT
Strengths: Athletic left tackle prospect with tremendous upside. Bends his knees, blocks with terrific lean, and stays square. Explosive at the point, keeps his head on a swivel, and shows outstanding vision. Terrific position blocker who seals defenders from the action. Quickly gets his hands into opponents, keeps his feet moving, and anchors at the point. Patient in pass protection.
Fluid pulling across the line of scrimmage from the back side and effective on the second level. Always looks for someone to hit. Turned in a tremendous Combine workout that included 4.98 seconds in the 40, 37 inches in the vertical jump, and a broad jump of 10 feet.
Weaknesses: Must be more consistent with his hand placement. Not a power blocker and gets beaten by strong defenders. Must improve his balance blocking in motion.
Overall: Freeland was a four-year starter at both right and left tackle for BYU and is an athletic blocking prospect with tremendous upside. He needs to fill out his frame as well as get stronger and complete his game to meet the expectations scouts have of him. After his Combine performance, one must believe Freeland possesses starting potential if properly developed. His draft stock has taken off since January.
Want more information on Freeland? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Blake Freeland, OT, BYU | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Christopher Brooks, RB
Strengths: Nice-sized back with a versatile game. Patient, quick-footed, and finds the running lanes. Works runs, does not go down without a fight, and keeps his feet moving. Displays a burst through the hole. Gives effort blocking. Solid pass catcher out of the backfield.
Weaknesses: Does not break a lot of tackles despite his size. Cannot run to daylight. Was more of a rotational back than the primary starter at BYU last season.
Overall: Brooks is an explosive athlete with a lot of untapped potential who shows ability carrying the ball as well as catching it. He’s a developmental prospect who could be a legitimate NFL back if he completes his game.
D’Angelo Mandell, CB
Strengths: Nice-sized cornerback who flashes ability. Keeps the action in front of him, quickly diagnoses plays, and stays with coverage assignments. Immediately recognizes routes in zone, nicely times pass defenses, and works well with safeties to bracket receivers over the middle of the field. Physical, mixes it up with receivers throughout the route and fires upfield to defend the run.
Weaknesses: Deep speed is a concern. Does a lot of trailing in coverage. Has been minimally productive in college, never intercepting a pass and breaking up just four.
Overall: Mandell possesses the physical dimensions necessary to play at the next level, yet he never developed his game or lived up to expectations.
Earl Tuioti-Mariner, DL
Strengths: Athletic and sometimes-explosive defensive lineman who fires off the snap, plays with proper pad level, and immediately gets his hands up. Keeps his feet moving, is tough to move off the point, and consistently gets leverage on opponents. Displays a closing burst of speed.
Weaknesses: Consistently controlled at the point by a single blocker. Displays limited moves disengaging from blocks. Comes off a disappointing season and totaled just 51 tackles and three sacks in five seasons at BYU.
Overall: From a size and speed perspective, Tuioti-Mariner is a draftable prospect with upside. However, he never came close to meeting expectations on the field and is a practice-squad prospect at the very best.
Gunner Romney, WR
Strengths: Reliable wideout who sells routes. Displays good short-area quickness and terrific eye/hand coordination. Tracks the pass in the air, lays out or works to make the difficult reception, and extends to grab the ball away from his frame. Uses his hands to separate from defenders and comes back to the ball out of breaks.
Weaknesses: Possesses a thin frame and struggles in battles. Stiff. Lacks a burst. Marginally productive for BYU and never progressed.
Overall: Romney was consistent at BYU from 2019 to 2021, then decided to return for a second senior season only to suffer a campaign-ending injury after two games last year. He’s a one-speed wideout who must immediately produce in camp this summer to have any chance of making a practice squad.
Harris LaChance, OL
Strengths: Large, bruising offensive lineman with experience at both guard and tackle. Sets with a wide base, bends his knees, and blocks with leverage. Fires off the snap, stays square, and keeps his feet moving. Possesses outstanding length, uses his hands well, and anchors in pass protection. Keeps his head on a swivel and always looks for someone to hit.
Weaknesses: Ineffective on the second level and cannot redirect to defenders. Stiff. Bends at the waist.
Overall: LaChance displayed a lot of ability in 2021 when he was a right tackle for BYU, yet he never seemingly progressed last season when moved inside to guard. He possesses outstanding size, comes with growth potential, and has enough ability to play in a power gap system.
Jaren Hall, QB
Strengths: Heady passer who displays outstanding poise and patience. Buys time in the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, and takes a big hit in order to get the throw away. Looks off the safety, goes through progressions, and consistently delivers passes to checkdown targets.
Displays outstanding field vision, leaves the pocket only when necessary, and brilliantly places throws where only his target can make the reception. Puts touch on screen passes, effectively times throws, and puts the ball in front of receivers to allow them to run to the pass.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Weaknesses: Lacks size and cannot withstand the rush. Lacks a big-time arm and cannot drive downfield passes. Can’t be used on designed runs. Rarely took snaps from under center at BYU and must improve his footwork dropping into the pocket.
Overall: Hall did a great job commanding the BYU offense and is a smart signal-caller who protects the ball and makes proper decisions. He lacks size as well as arm strength, but he offers possibilities as a backup in a timing offense.
Want more information on Hall? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Jaren Hall, QB, BYU | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Kaleb Hayes, CB
Strengths: Oregon State transfer who flashed ability the past two seasons. Stays in his backpedal, quickly flips his hips in transition, and battles opponents throughout the route. Quickly reads or diagnoses plays, tracks the pass in the air, and has a burst to the ball out of his plant.
Works to get his head back around, adjusts or contorts to defend throws, and high points the ball over opponents. Fires upfield and gives effort defending running plays and screen passes.
Weaknesses: Not very quick. Deep speed is a concern. Has not intercepted a pass in the past two seasons.
Overall: Formerly an offensive player at Oregon State, Hayes has shown ability at cornerback and made a lot of strides in his game. Deep speed is a concern, but he has enough potential to be kept on a practice squad and offers scheme versatility.
Lopini Katoa, RB
Strengths: Hard-charging running back with average upside. Displays good vision and solid short-area quickness and runs hard. Keeps his feet moving, bounces around piles, and displays a lot of toughness carrying the ball. Terrific pass catcher out of the backfield who adjusts to the throw and makes the reception with his hands away from his frame.
Weaknesses: Marginally productive at BYU and scored just four rushing touchdowns the past two seasons. Not a truly creative back.
Overall: Katoa is a nice-sized back who flashes the ability to be a fourth running back on Sundays. He must quickly produce this summer to have any chance of making it out of camp.
Payton Wilgar, LB
Strengths: Tough, heady linebacker with good testing numbers. Remains disciplined with assignments, quickly locates the action, and plays instinctive football. Scrapes well laterally, uses his hands to protect himself, and works hard to get involved in the action. Explosive and easily changes direction or immediately alters his angle of attack. Terrific run defender who crashes upfield and sells out to make plays.
Weaknesses: Possesses an average burst and poor long speed. Struggles taking on blocks and is easily disrupted from the action.
Overall: Wilgar looked like a star in the making as a sophomore at BYU, yet he never capitalized on his terrific 2019 season. He’s a two-down run defender who must get stronger, and he lacks upside.
Puka Nacua, WR
Strengths: Natural receiver with a smooth style and reliable hands. Plays with terrific balance and body control and nicely uses the sidelines. Adjusts to the errant throw, makes the catch in stride, and takes a pounding yet holds onto the ball. Possesses soft, quick hands and snatches the ball out of the air. On the same page as his quarterback, finds the soft spot in the defense, and consistently comes free to make himself an available target.
Tracks the pass in the air, displays outstanding eye/hand coordination, and makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception at full speed. Plays faster than his 40 time and displays a sense of timing. Smart, follows blocks after the catch, and possesses a quick burst.
Weaknesses: Lacks deep speed and a second gear. Not a great route runner.
Overall: After transferring to BYU from Washington in 2021, Nacua watched his game take off. He’s a crafty and reliable receiver who does an outstanding job finding the soft spot on underneath routes and shows the ability to break the deep one on occasion. He possesses nice length, and although he’s not a vertical threat, Nacua should do very well in a timing or West Coast offense.
Want more information on Nacua? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Puka Nacua, WR, BYU | NFL Draft Scouting Report
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