Warner's future success could largely depend on who takes him and how they use him. —NFL.com draft expert Lance Zierlein
PROVO — BYU hasn't fielded multiple picks in the NFL draft since 2009, and that's not likely to change this year. With the draft beginning Thursday night, and lasting until Saturday, there's just one eligible player off of last year's team likely to hear his name called, and that's Fred Warner.
Warner was a three-year starter over his career and saw immediate playing time as a true freshman in 2014. The San Marcos, California, native ended his career as a team captain playing at one of the two outside linebacker positions.
While Warner looks to be one of the top outside linebacker prospects in this year's draft, BYU coach Kalani Sitake isn't satisfied with just one player drafted from year to year.
"I think (players) should have a goal and be at the top of their profession," Sitake said of players preparing themselves for the next level.
BYU hasn't been synonymous with producing top NFL prospects over the last decade, although Sitake believes the program can become one that regularly feeds players to the professional ranks.
"We're pushing our lifestyle here at BYU, and that it works perfectly for what teams are looking for in the NFL," Sitake said, referring to his program's unique structure and discipline. "We'll try and get our numbers up, and I think we'll get there eventually."
As for Warner, Sitake believes he'll be a great success at the next level.
"Fred is an exceptional football player and person," Sitake said. "He offers a unique skill set and rare combination of abilities. With his size and athleticism, Fred has the physicality to be an in-the-box player, but also someone who can cover and run in space."
Where Warner will be drafted is intriguing, with the most optimistic prognostications having him as a late second-round pick with others feeling he'll go as late as the fourth or even the fifth rounds.
NFL.com's draft expert Lance Zierlein projects Warner going in either the third or fourth rounds, and compares the 6-foot-3, 236-pound linebacker to former BYU linebacker Alani Fua. Fua was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 and played two years before being released in 2017.
"Warner's future success could largely depend on who takes him and how they use him," Zierlein writes. "While most will view him as an outside linebacker, Warner moves around like a big safety. With his instincts and cover skills in space, finding a hybrid role in sub-packages might be where he is best utilized."
NFLdraftscout.com senior draft analyst Dane Brugler believes Warner will be within the top 75 players drafted, which would mean going in the mid third round, at the latest. In an interview with ESPN960, he compared Warner with former BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who was drafted early in the second round by the Detroit Lions in 2014.
"I think overall (Warner) is just the better athlete," Brugler said. "I think Van Noy was the better pass-rusher, with what he could do getting up the field, but Warner is better in space, and in today's NFL there's a lot more value with a guy like that. You don't have to take him off the field. He's a three-down player."
Some analysts believe BYU receiver Jonah Trinnaman could be a late draft pick based on the standout numbers he set at BYU's Pro Day. Trinnaman was inconsistent throughout his Cougar career, although his 4.30 40 time and 40.5 vertical leap could lead to an NFL team taking a chance on the 6-0, 190-pound American Fork product.
"What he did was nothing short of amazing, with his numbers put up on Pro Day," Brugler said of Trinnaman. "He doesn't have that impressive tape, but when you look at the Pro Day numbers, it's just eye-popping."
Brugler wouldn't be surprised if a team took a chance on Trinnaman late in the draft.
The NFL draft starts Thursday night at 6 p.m. MDT and will be televised live on multiple networks. Friday's round will begin at 5 p.m. and will conclude after rounds two and three are completed. Rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.