Fred Warner could be the next BYU linebacker to make the jump to the NFL
Another NFL draft has passed and BYU’s drought of producing multiple selections in one draft continues.
BYU’s lone draftee in the 2017 NFL Draft was Jamaal Williams, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round. It’s a great landing spot for Williams, who left BYU as the school’s all-time leading rusher, and was a player last year that I mentioned as one to watch on the Cougars for the draft.
Will the 2018 NFL Draft be the year that BYU can buck the trend of no multiple picks? Right now, I’d say no. But there is a lot of time for players to get on NFL scouts’ radars. Case in point BYU’s most famous player in the NFL right now is Detroit defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, who went from not knowing how to put on his shoulder pads to a top-five pick in 2013.
Here is an early projection for BYU’s top 2018 NFL Draft prospects (listed alphabetically):
Francis Bernard, OLB (Jr., 6-1, 240)
Once a star at running back both in high school and for BYU, Bernard made the switch to linebacker in large part because he believed he could have a future in the NFL at the position. Bernard had three interceptions a year ago as part of a fairly seamless transition, and many around the team expect even better production in 2017 and beyond.
Micah Hannemann, DB (Sr., 6-0, 190)
Athleticism is the first word that comes to mind when describing Hannemann. One of the fastest players in BYU’s program, Hannemann is entering his third season as a starter in the secondary.
Hannemann started his career at cornerback but then made the switch to safety, the position he played in high school, and that’s where he projects at the next level.
Along with being a defensive starter, Hannemann also has seen significant time on special teams as a returner. Hannemann is expected to get the opportunity to return punts again this fall.
Tejan Koroma, C (Sr., 6-0, 290)
Koroma is entering his fourth year as a starter along BYU’s offensive line and is one of the strongest players on the roster. A technician in the middle of the line, Koroma was one of the best centers in college football a year ago in BYU’s new pro-style offense. The knock on Koroma will be his measurables, as he’s a tad bit undersized for the prototypical NFL center, but the production is there.
Jonny Linehan, P (Sr., 6-0, 210)
Once a star and three-time national champion on the rugby field, Linehan has been a huge asset to BYU’s special teams unit since making the switch to football in 2015.
The man known as “Jonny Rugby” around Provo averaged 42.5 yards per punt last season. His rugby-style kicks have proven effective in pinning opponents deep, as he placed five inside the 20-yard line in the close loss to Boise State.
Tanner Mangum, QB (Jr., 6-3, 223)
This season will be a big one for Magnum’s pro prospects. He will take over full-time as the starter after backing up Taysom Hill (who signed as a UDFA with Green Bay) last season. Mangum feels he’s working with the best quarterback coach around in offensive coordinator Ty Detmer, who likewise is still trying to find the identity of his offense entering year two.
With more programs switching to spread offenses that incorporate a lot of short passes, Magnum has an opportunity to stand out in a quarterback class that will not have many prospects running an offense that is tailored towards the NFL game.
Mangum will need to show a lot of improvement from a lackluster Poinsettia Bowl performance this past December if he wants to warrant any draft buzz as an underclassman.
Fred Warner, LB (Sr., 6-4, 230)
Many around the BYU program have compared Warner to former Cougars star and current New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy. The two have similar builds, are very athletic, and both have a knack for making big plays.
Warner is far and away BYU’s best prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. Last season, the weak-side linebacker led BYU with 86 tackles and was second on the team with 10.5 tackles for a loss.
An advantage for Warner is that he has thrived in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defensive scheme. Line him up in space or drop him into coverage against running backs, Warner has been able to do it all for BYU since he stepped on campus in 2014.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.