PROVO — BYU's first early declaration for the 2021 NFL Draft came the day before the end of the year from a former Utah high school football standout who made a big impact on the 2020 season.
Offensive tackle Brady Christensen, one of the top-rated linemen in the nation and the No. 1-rated left tackle by Pro Football Focus, announced Wednesday he was opting out of his senior season to declare for next April's draft.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Bountiful High product received seven All-American honors (and counting) during the Cougars' 11-1 season in 2020, including a first-team selection by the Associated Press. He is BYU's first AP first-team All-American since running back Luke Staley in 2001.
"I am ready to fulfill my dream of playing in the NFL," Christensen wrote in an announcement on social media. "My decision is bittersweet because I must leave my teammates, coaches, and friends at BYU. My time at BYU has been nothing short of amazing. Thank you Cougar Nation!"
While not quite unanimous (yet), Christensen secured the most round of multiple first-team All-American bids since Dennis Pitta was a consensus All-American in 2009. He leaves BYU a season after grading at 95.0 or above in pass protection and run blocking in every game of the year by PFF, the only tackle nationally with such a distinction.
THANK YOU BYU!! pic.twitter.com/Igv89VkZz1— Brady Christensen (@Brady_BYU) December 30, 2020
His 372 pass-blocking snaps and 96.4 average grade are the most since Outland Trophy winner (and Desert Hills High School product) Penei Sewell set a PFF record a year ago.
"Brady is as consistent of a player as I have been around," BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said. "I have coached several guys who have been first-round picks and played in the NFL. He is as consistent or more consistent than any of those guys."
Other coaches and teammates were equally supportive of Christensen as he takes the next step in his pro career.
"You've accomplished so much here and you will continue to be successful," BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake tweeted. "Can't wait to watch you. Nothing but the best, my man."
Added Eric Mateos, the Cougars' offensive line coach: "The work is just getting started. He's ready!"
Sewell is the projected top tackle in this year's draft after opting out of the coronavirus-affected 2020 season. Christensen was not ranked in the most recent pre-draft ratings of linemen by CBS Sports, likely because it was unclear if he would leave BYU early.
Now draft reporters know, and he's sure to receive a few phone calls from NFL scouts and executives.
The 2021 NFL draft is scheduled to begin April 29 in Cleveland.