With all the college lists I’ve done, I get plenty of people ask me about what guys did in the NFL and how would they rank. Since that kept happening I’ve decided to rank the best BYU players according to what they did in their NFL careers.
Since the Cougars have been known for their quarterback play, that is the first position grouping I am going to cover.
BYU has only had eight quarterbacks play in a regular season NFL game with varying levels of success.
This list ranks how each player fared in their time in football’s highest league.
8. Max Hall
Hall went undrafted coming out of BYU in 2010 but, made the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent. Shockingly, Hall got on the field very soon after, making six appearances as a rookie, including three starts. The starts didn’t go all that well and Hall was out of the NFL within a year. He spent a year as a graduate assistant at the Y before venturing to the CFL for another chance to play the game.
In his six appearances as a Cardinal, he completed half his passes for 370 yards and one touchdown. He also threw six interceptions.
7. John Beck
Beck left BYU with high hopes after being drafted in the second round in 2007 by the Miami Dolphins. He only played in five games with the Dolphins however, before being released after a coaching change. In Beck’s short time in Miami, he started in four games, but had very little success. The Dolphins lost all four of his starts with Beck completing 56.1 percent of his passes for 559 yards and only one touchdown to go along with three picks. He really struggled with pressure as a Dolphin fumbling the ball seven times.
He floated around the NFL for the next few years as a third-string quarterback before getting his next opportunity to play. That chance came in 2011 as a member of the Washington Redskins when he appeared in four games, including three as a starter. He put up significantly better numbers, but still managed to lose every game he started. That year, he threw for 858 yards on 60.6 percent completions and two touchdowns. He also rushed the ball 10 times for 43 yards and two more scores.
All told, Beck has thrown for 1,417 yards and three touchdowns while getting picked off seven times in just nine career games.
6. Gifford Nielsen
Nielsen was the 73rd pick in the third round of the 1978 draft By the Houston Oilers. He spent six seasons with the Oilers and started 14 games over that time. He didn’t find much success only winning three of those starts.
For his NFL career, Nielsen completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 3255 yards and 20 touchdowns as well as 22 interceptions.
5. Virgil Carter
Carter was the 142nd pick in the sixth round by the Chicago Bears in the 1967 draft. He saw field action in seven seasons for three different teams. His best years came as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals where he won 12 of his 22 starts over three seasons. During his stretch as a Bengal, he completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 3,850 yards and 22 touchdowns.
For his career, Carter passed for more than 5,000 yards and 29 touchdowns while adding 640 rushing and eight more scores.
4. Ty Detmer
Detmer was the 230th pick in the ninth round of the 1992 draft by the Green Bay Packers. He spent 14 seasons in the NFL and saw action in eight different years.
His best seasons came as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles where he started 18 games in two years.
In 1996, he started 11 games and won seven while passing for almost 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. That was the only season of Detmer’s pro career where he started more than seven games.
For his career, he threw for 6,351 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 57.7 percent of his passes.
3. Marc Wilson
Wilson was the 15th pick in the first round of the 1980 draft by the Oakland Raiders. He saw regular season time as a backup and occasional starter. He spent most of his career as a member of the Raiders and that was where he found pretty much all of his success. He won 31 of his 50 starts in silver and black, including eight fourth quarter comebacks. His best season came in 1985, when he won 11 of his 13 starts while passing for 2,608 yards and 16 touchdowns.
For his career, he threw for 14,391 yards and 86 touchdowns while rushing for 611 yards and five scores.
2. Jim McMahon
McMahon was the fifth pick in the 1982 draft by the Chicago Bears. While never putting up huge numbers in the NFL like he did at BYU, he was an ultimate winner. In fact, McMahon’s teams won 67 of the 97 games he started. His greatest success came as a member of the Bears where he was under center for one of the best teams in NFL history in 1985. That year, he threw for career highs of 2,392 yards and 15 touchdowns while winning every game he started. In fact, McMahon didn’t lose a regular season start for two straight seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 1985 while helping to lead the Bears to their last super bowl victory.
For his career, he threw for more than 18,000 yards and 100 touchdowns as well as rushing for 1,631 yards and 16 more scores.
1. Steve Young
Young started his pro career in the USFL before being selected by the Tampa Bay Bucs with the first pick of the 1984 supplemental draft.
His career in Tampa was somewhat of a disaster as Young only won three of his 19 starts while throwing ten more picks than touchdowns.
He found new life as a member of the San Francisco Forty Niners, but only after four seasons as the backup to Joe Montana. As a starter of the Niners for most of eight seasons, he was one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has ever had. He led the league in completion percentage, touchdowns and passer rating an astounding 15 times during that stretch while leading San Francisco to their last Super Bowl win.
He was a two time NFL MVP and a first team All-Pro three straight seasons. Young made seven Pro Bowls and was named the first team quarterback of the 90’s by pro-football-reference.com.
During his historic NFL career, he passed for 33,124 yards and 232 touchdowns while completing 64.3 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 4,239 yards and 43 scores.
For his efforts in the NFL, Young was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 2005.
Not bad for a guy who appeared to be a bust after his time In Tampa Bay.