It hasn't been an outstanding NFL draft for players from Utah colleges.
The biggest surprise is the continuing decline of regard for BYU's All-American tight end, Chris Smith. Experts had said last week that Smith, who was thought to have been the top tight end in the country before last year's draft, had lost ground because of doubts about his speed and blocking ability. He was still considered to rank anywhere from the second- to fourth-best tight end in the country, however, making him a likely fifth- or sixth-round pick.Through eight rounds Monday, 11 tight ends had been drafted, none named Smith. One of the tight ends taken ahead of Smith, seventh-rounder Ben Coates, came from tiny (enrollment: 1,761) Livingstone University in Alabama. Others taken were from such schools as Toledo and Northern Colorado.
BYU offensive tackle Neal Fort was the first local player to be chosen, in the sixth round. Some draft analysts predicted Fort would go as high as the third round, but Fort wasn't disappointed.
"I feel really good about it," he said. "They (the Rams) chose a lot of defensive players early and I was one of their first offensive players."
The Rams have made good choices of offensive linemen over the years and perennially have a strong line, so Fort feels flattered at being selected by them.
`It's an aging offensive line now," he said. "It's a good opportunity for me."
Cougar cornerback Brian Mitchell was the next local player taken, early in the seventh round by Atlanta. That means Mitchell could get a chance to play in the same secondary as the flamboyant Deion Sanders.Overall, the WAC has fared decently in this year's draft. San Diego State quarterback Dan McGwire was the 16th pick on the first round, by Seattle. The Seahawks reportedly took McGwire because of dissatisfaction with their current backup QB - another WAC product - Kelly Stouffer of Colorado State.
Another WAC player who slid somewhat was UTEP receiver Reggie Barrett, considered a first-round pick by most analysts. Barrett went in the third round to Detroit, where he'll play in the Lions' run-and-shoot offense.
Wyoming defensive end Mitch Donahue, the WAC defensive player of the year the past two seasons, was taken on the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers, where he is expected to play linebacker.
Other WAC players chosen were nose tackle Pia Sagapolutele of San Diego State, by Cleveland, fourth round; tackle Nick Subis of SDSU, by Denver, sixth round; defensive end Mike Sinclair of New Mexico, by Seattle, sixth round;
There were other names in the draft that should be familiar to local football fans. Two of BYU quarterback Ty Detmer's top Heisman Trophy competitors went in the early rounds, running back Eric Bieniemy of Colorado to San Diego in the second round and Raghib "Rocket" Ismail of Notre Dame to the Raiders in the fourth round. The Rocket, of course, agreed to a contract with the Toronto Argonauts before the draft.
Craig Erickson, the Miami quarterback who lost to BYU last September, went to Philadelphia on the fifth round, while Bill Musgrave, the Oregon QB who beat BYU that same month, was a fourth-round pick by Dallas.
And here's a name that should be painfully familiar to BYU fans: William Thomas. In case you've blotted this memory out, think about the Texas A&M linebacker who crushed Detmer in the Holiday Bowl. Yep, same guy. Next season he'll be playing for the Eagles. Two of his teammates also were picked: running back Darren Lewis, by Chicago in the sixth round, and jumbo fullback Robert Wilson, by Tampa Bay in the third round.