Even though the Cougars have been on a little bit of a cold streak (other than Ziggy) when it comes to having players getting drafted in the NFL, they still have had plenty of fantastic players hear their name called over the past few decades. Of those players, some have had incredible careers while other didn’t succeed in the way they were projected to by their respective teams. Here is the list of the 25 most highly drafted players from BYU and how each of their careers turned out. It is important to note that the order is based on the spot each player was drafted and not the round. Some of the older drafts had few teams so there were much fewer picks each round.
Note: Steve Young doesn’t land on this list even though he is quite possibly the greatest NFL player to come out of BYU. The reason for that is because while Young was the number-1 overall pick of the 1984 supplemental draft, he wasn’t taken in the regular draft which is what this list is all about. The same can be said for Gordon Hudson who was also taken in the first round of the ’84 supplemental draft.
25. Jeff Lyman: Lyman was selected in the fourth round (82nd overall) by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 1972 draft. Lyman played for three games in his lone season in the NFL with the Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills as a linebacker.
24. Glen Titensor: Titensor was taken in the third round (81st overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 draft. Titensor played 92 games (46 starts) over seven seasons for the Cowboys on the offensive line. Included in that stretch was a two year span where Titensor started all 32 games at left guard.
23. John Hunter: Hunter was selected in the third round ( 80th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1989 draft. Even though Hunter was drafted by the Vikings, he never played a regular season game with them. Hunter ended up with the Atlanta Falcons where he went on to play 21 games (three starts) over three seasons on the offensive line. Hunter also played five games with the Seattle Seahawks in the 1992 season.
22. Mohammed Elewonibi: Elewonibi was taken in the third round (76th overall) by the Washington Redskins in the 1990 draft. Elewonibi played in the NFL for four seasons but was very solid when he was on the field. His best stretch came with the Redskins where Elewonibi started 19 of 20 games at tackle over a two year period. Elewonibi finished his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, but only appeared in six games as a reserve in 1995.
21. Wayne Baker: Baker was selected in the third round (74th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1975 draft. He played only 14 games over one season with the 49ers on the defensive line and on special teams.
20. Gifford Nielsen: Nielsen was taken in the third round (73rd overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1978 draft. Even though Nielsen appeared in 55 games (14 starts) over his six years with the Oilers, it wasn’t until his final season that Nielsen made more than a handful of starts. That year, Nielsen lost all seven of his starts while completing 5.14 percent of his passes for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns.
For his career, Nielsen completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 3,255 yards and 20 touchdowns.
19. Pete Van Valkenberg: Van Valkenberg was selected in the third round (66th overall) by the New Orleans Saints in the 1973 draft. He never played a regular season game with the Saints, but did play 24 games over two years in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. The only season he recorded any offensive stats was as a rookie with the Bills in ’73 when Van Valkenberg carried the ball two times for 20 yards and made one catch for seven yards as a running back.
18. Ryan Denney: Denney was taken in the second round (61st overall) by the Buffalo Bills. Denney spent nine years in the NFL with the Bills and the Houston Texans where he played in 101 games (26 starts) on the defensive line. One of his most impressive statistical seasons came in 2008 when Denney finished with 58 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble.
For his career, Denney registered 297 tackles, 23.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.
17. Chris Farasopoulos: Farasopoulos was selected in the third round (58th overall) by the New York Jets in the 1971 draft. He played 42 games (21 starts) over four seasons with the Jets and the New Orleans Saints on special teams and in the defensive secondary. His most impressive season came in 1972 when Farasopoulos returned 26 kickoffs for 627 yards as well as 11 punts for 179 yards and a touchdown. He also intercepted a career-high two passes that year while playing for the Jets.
16. Todd Christensen: Christensen was taken in the second round (56th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1978 draft. Christensen appeared in 137 games (90 starts) over 10 seasons with the New York Giants and Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. His best offensive season came in 1983 when Christensen made a league-leading 92 catches for 1,247 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns. That year Christensen was named to the Pro Bowl for the first of five consecutive times and also earned first-team All-Pro honors.
For his career, Christensen totaled 461 receptions for 5,872 and 41 touchdowns as one of the most prolific receiving tight ends of the 80’s.
15. Mat Mendenhall: Mendenhall was selected in the second round (55th overall) by the Washington Redskins in the 1980 draft. Mendenhall appeared in 23 games (20 starts over two seasons for Washington on the defensive line and registered two fumble recoveries and a sack along the way.
14. Doug Jolley: Jolley was taken in the second round (55th overall) by the Oakland Raiders in the 2002 draft. Jolley played 74 games (32 starts) for the Raiders, New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a tight end. His best season statistically came in his rookie year with the Raiders where Jolley caught 32 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns.
For his career, Jolley made 120 catches for 1,303 yards and six touchdowns.
13. Paul Howard: Howard was selected in the third round (54th overall) by the Denver Broncos in the 1973 draft. Howard spent All 187 games of his 14 year NFL career with the Broncos. Howard started 147 games at right guard and was very consistent. In fact, Howard started at least 13 games in 10 of his final 11 seasons in the league.
12. Clay Brown: Brown was taken in the second round (42nd overall) by the Denver Broncos in the 1981 draft. Even though Brown was drafted very highly, he played in only four games with the Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons over two seasons in the league as a tight end.
11. John Beck: Beck was selected in the second round (40th overall) by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 draft. Beck has played in nine games (seven starts) over six seasons with the Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and the Houston Texans. His most successful season came with the Redskins in 2011 when Beck completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 858 yards and two touchdown passes while also carrying the ball 10 times for 43 yards and two more scores.
For his career, Beck completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,417 yards and three touchdowns. Beck also added 55 yards and three scores on the ground in 19 carries.
10. Gordon Gravelle: Gravelle was taken in the second round (38th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1972 draft. Gravelle appeared in 96 games (68 starts) over eight seasons with the Steelers, New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams. Gravelle found the most success with the Steelers where he was a starter on back-to-back Super Bowl Champions in 1974 and ’75 as an offensive lineman.
9. Trevor Matich: Matich was selected in the first round (28th overall) by the New England Patriots in the 1985 draft. Matich appeared in 148 games (23 starts) for the Patriots, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins on the offensive line. Even though Matich was a lineman, he did record three receptions for 23 yards and a touchdown for the Jets in 1991 according to Football-reference.com
8. Rob Morris: Morris was taken in the first round (28th overall) by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2000 draft. Morris appeared in 99 games (67 starts) over eight seasons with the Colts as a linebacker. His most impressive seasons came in 2001 and ’02 when Morris recorded more than 100 tackles in back-to-back years.
For his career, Morris registered 471 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
7. Todd Shell: Shell was selected in the first round (24th overall) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1984 draft. Shell spent his entire four-year career with the 49ers and appeared in 38 games (15 starts) as a linebacker. His most noteworthy season came in 1985 when Shell registered four sacks and an interception in 13 starts.
For his career, Shell totaled seven sacks and five interceptions (including one he returned for a touchdown during his rookie season).
6. Jason Buck: Buck was taken in the first round (17th overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1987 draft. Buck played in 97 games (31 starts) over seven seasons with the Bengals and the Washington Redskins. His best year came with the Bengals in 1989 when he tied his career-high with six sacks while starting all 16 games.
For his career, Buck totaled 19 sacks while playing on the defensive line.
5. Marc Wilson: Wilson was selected in the first round (15th overall) by the Oakland Raiders in the 1980 draft. Wilson played 126 games (60 starts) over 10 seasons with the Raiders and the New England Patriots. His best season came with the Raiders in 1985 when Wilson had an 11-2 record as a starter while throwing for 2,608 yards and 16 touchdowns.
For his career, Wilson completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 14,391 yards and 86 touchdowns. He also managed 611 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
4. John Tait: Tait was taken in the first round (14th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1999 draft. Tait played 148 games (139 starts) over 10 seasons with the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears as a left and right tackle.
3. Shawn Knight: Knight was taken in the first round (11th overall) by the New Orleans Saints in the 1987 draft. Knight played 31 games over three seasons with the Saints, Denver Broncos and the Phoenix Cardinals on the defensive line and registered one fumble recovery.
2. Ezekiel Ansah: Ansah was selected with in the first round (fifth overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 2013 draft. in his first year in the league, Ansah recorded 32 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles in 14 games (12 starts) for Detroit according to NFL.com.
1. Jim McMahon: McMahon was taken in the first round (fifth overall) by the Chicago Bears in the 1982 draft. McMahon played in 119 games (97 starts) over 15 seasons with the Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers. His best season came in 1985 when McMahon won all 11 of his regular season starts as well as all three playoff games to Help the Bears win the Super Bowl. That year, McMahon threw for 2,392 yards and 15 touchdowns to earn his only Pro Bowl.
For his career, McMahon completed 58 percent of his passes for 18,148 yards and 100 touchdowns while adding 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.