PROVO — With the NFL draft officially over, here is my breakdown of the odds that the five Cougars who have signed deals with NFL franchises will make their teams’ roster and receive playing time in 2014 and beyond.
Kyle Van Noy, drafted by the Detroit Lions, 2nd round/40th overall pick
From a potential playing time perspective, as KSL’s Kyle Spencer points out in his article, Kyle Van Noy is going to a Detroit Lions team that needs help on defense. In particular, the team’s pass rush struggled and the linebacker position added almost no value in that facet. Van Noy’s most NFL-ready skill is his ability to get to the quarterback as he had an impressive 26 sacks during his BYU career. His ability to disrupt the passing game from the linebacker position will give him a good chance to get on the field.
From a team perspective, Van Noy is likewise in a potentially good situation. The Lions finished a disappointing 7-9 last season but have a lot of pieces in place to be a good team. The defensive line is young and has athletic freaks in Ziggy Ansah, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. On the offensive side of the ball, Detroit has the careless but talented gunslinger in Matthew Stafford with potentially the best player in the game, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, catching passes. The thought around the NFL has been that the Lions could be a dangerous team if they can find a coach to put it all together. With a new coaching regime for 2014, this could be the year the Lions break out of their historic run of mediocrity.
From a personal perspective, Van Noy hit the jackpot by being drafted by Detroit. He will again be reunited with Ziggy Ansah, his teammate at the Y for three years whom he recently called his “brother.” Ansah should be able to help Van Noy adjust to the rigors of being an NFL rookie.
Analysis: Befitting of him being the only Cougar selected in the 2014 NFL draft, Van Noy is the most likely to have a long and productive career in the NFL. Being drafted by the Lions appears to be a great fit for the linebacker and it is very possible that he will be a starter sooner or later this upcoming season.
Cody Hoffman, undrafted free agent, signed with Washington Redskins
The biggest knock on Cody Hoffman going into the NFL draft is his lack of explosiveness and upper-tier speed. His new team, the Washington Redskins, has speed and explosiveness to burn at the wide receiver position with dynamic players in DeSean Jackson, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon. What those players have in speed, though, they lack in height as none is over 6-foot-0 tall.
At 6-foot-4, Hoffman can be of value to the team if he performs well in practice and shows that he can be a red zone threat. If he is given an honest chance, I can foresee him being a Plexico Burress type of player where he is used primarily as a red zone mismatch.
Analysis: The top three wide receivers (Jackson, Moss and Garcon) for Washington are basically set. All three have speed and are proven NFL players. It gets interesting after that, however, as Hoffman will be competing against a few no-name players and the team’s fifth-round draft pick, Ryan Grant. While Grant will likely receive more chances to prove himself due to Washington using a draft pick on him, he is 3 inches shorter than Hoffman with about the same 40 time. There’s a good chance Hoffman will find a spot on the roster and may even carve out a role for himself.
Daniel Sorenson, undrafted free agent, signed with Kansas City Chiefs
One major advantage of signing with the Kansas City Chiefs for Daniel Sorenson is that he will be coached by former Cougar Andy Reid. Reid has a bit of a soft spot for his fellow alums and will give Sorenson a chance to compete and make the roster.
It is very unlikely, if he makes the team, that Sorenson will see any time at the strong safety position as that position is completely locked down by the uber talented Eric Berry. The free safety position is more uncertain, however, as the team’s starter last season, Kendrick Lewis, signed with the Houston Texans. It appears that the free safety position is Sanders Commings' to lose. Commings is in just his second year and saw limited action before breaking his collarbone in his rookie season.
Analysis: While Sorenson was a very capable safety for the Cougars, he will make his living in the NFL on special teams. The Chiefs were near the top of the league last year in punt and kickoff coverage, which shows that special teams are important to them. Sorenson was terrific on special teams at BYU, particularly on punt coverage, and could very well earn himself a spot in a similar role for Kansas City.
Spencer Hadley, undrafted, signed with New Orleans Saints
After being one of the most underrated players on arguably the best defensive unit in the school’s history in 2012, Hadley had a disappointing senior season. Prior to the Utah game, Hadley was suspended for Honor Code violations. The suspension ended up lasting three games. Upon returning to the team, he played in only three games before being seriously injured. In total, Hadley only posted statistics in six games in 2013.
Still, his solid numbers in 2012 and the brief glimpses of his ability in 2013 were enough for the New Orleans Saints to give Hadley a chance to make the team. Hadley will have his work cut out for him as the Saints return three starters from their linebacker corps last year. Like Sorenson, Hadley will probably have to make a name for himself on special teams.
Analysis: Hadley’s lackluster 2013 season really hurt any chances he had of being drafted and having an easy route to an NFL roster. As a returned missionary, his age also works against him. The one thing that Hadley has going for him is that he is slightly crazy on the football field, and the Saints are known for liking aggressive and punishing players. His style of play will get him some consideration, but I do not foresee him making the team.
Eathyn Manumaleuna, undrafted, signed with New York Giants
Just a shade under a decade later, Eathyn Manumaleuna’s career at the Y is officially over. The man who saved the day in the 2007 Vegas Bowl with a blocked kick as time expired has used up all of his eligibility. Manumaleuna had a very solid (and long) career as a Cougar and was one of the primary anchors in Bronco Mendenhall’s 3-4 defense.
Manumaleuna has a few strikes against him as far as NFL teams are concerned, however. The first is that he does not have elite athleticism. The second is that he will be an old rookie after an LDS mission and a medical hardship redshirt in 2012. The Giants liked what they saw enough to give him a chance, but they have four returning starters along the defensive line.
Analysis: While both were very good players for the Cougars, it is hard to say with much confidence that Hadley or Manumaleuna will make NFL rosters and be contributors if they do. Manumaleuna has a lot going against him with his age, his own limitations and the stiff competition he will face to make the Giants’ roster. Still, don’t completely count him out as he was good enough to keep his job over the freakishly talented Ziggy Ansah in 2012.
Dylan Cannon is a regular KSL.com contributor. He can be reached by his email, email@example.com, or via Twitter @DylanCannon11.