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2023 NFL Draft: Arizona unlikely to have anyone taken for second straight year

Next year, however ...

arizona-wildcats-football-2023-nfl-draft-christian-young-2024-roy-lopez-gary-brightwell-jedd-fisch Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona has never been considered one of the go-to places to find future NFL players, but the program usually churns out a couple every few years.

But it’s very likely no Wildcats will get selected this weekend in the 2023 NFL Draft, marking a second consecutive year without a pick. The last time that happened was 2004-05, following the final season of the John Mackovic era and the first with Mike Stoops at the helm.

Arizona’s last draft picks came in 2001, when running back Gary Brightwell (New York Giants) and defensive lineman Roy Lopez Jr. (Houston Texans) both went in the sixth round.

The lack of UA draft picks this weekend was expected, particularly after most of the program’s likeliest draftees either returned to the Wildcats (or transferred to USC) for 2023. Head coach Jedd Fisch said both offensive lineman Jordan Morgan and wide receiver Jacob Cowing were invited to the Senior Bowl but opted to come back to improve their draft stock, and in Morgan’s case it was to enable him to fully rehab left knee surgery that kept him from being the program’s first drafted OL since Eben Britton in 2009.

Quarterback Jayden de Laura, running back Michael Wiley and tight end Tanner McLachlan also could have been drafted this year had they not decided to come back.

Of the recently graduated Wildcats, the one with the best chance to have his name called this weekend is safety Christian Young. Young started 30 games at Arizona, including the last 24, and last season had 77 tackles (6.5 for loss) with a half-sack as well as two pass breakups.

Young, defensive ends Hunter Echols and Jalen Harris and offensive linemen Josh Donovan and Paiton Fears all could sign as undrafted rookie free agents, which is the path Stanley Berryhill III took last spring when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons (and later Arizona Cardinals) before making his pro debut with the Detroit Lions.