Three former Arizona Wildcats selected in day three of the 2021 NFL Draft


Madeleine Viceconte

Running back Gary Brightwell (23) runs toward the end zone to score a touchdown for Arizona during the game against ASU on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Arizona Stadium. ASU took home the territorial cup with a final score of 41-40. 

Ryan Wohl

Although the Arizona football team didn’t have a player projected in the first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft, some good news came on day three of the draft.

Linebacker Tony Fields II was the first former Wildcat taken in the fifth round by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 153 pick. Fields played three years at Arizona before transferring to West Virginia, where he finished up his collegiate career as he totaled 88 tackles and one interception in nine games during the 2020 season.

Fields II was named to the All-Big-12 first team and the Big-12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year. Fields also competed in the Reese’s Senior Bowl this past January.

Defensive tackle Roy Lopez was the next Wildcat taken in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Houston Texans with the No. 195 pick. Lopez played four seasons at New Mexico State before transferring to Arizona, where he played one season as a graduate student.

Lopez totaled 137 total tackles and eight sacks in 40 games as an Aggie while being recognized as an honorable mention in the All-Sun Belt Conference. In a shortened 2020 season, Lopez had 18 total tackles along with one sack in five games.

Lopez is listed at 6‘2, 318 pounds and looks to be improving his strength each time he was on the field at Arizona. Some scouts question his ability to find the holes on the offensive line while getting to the quarterback, but he should have a chance to compete early as the Texans look to be rebuilding.

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Running back Gary Brightwell was selected by the New York Giants in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Brightwell played four seasons in Tucson where he totaled over 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. He got limited attempts while laying behind former Arizona running back J.J Taylor. Brightwell averaged 5.3 yards per carry while carrying the ball for over 100 yards in two out of his last five games in the 2020 short season.

Brightwell joins a running back group led by Saquon Barkley, one of the best backs in the league, and adds depth to the position as Barkley hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy throughout an entire NFL season. He likely steps in the Giants rotation as the third running back behind veteran Devontae Booker.

Brightwell projects well to the next level as he is a bigger back while maintaining his speed. Some have questioned his ability to be a consistent high-level player, but he will have time to learn behind Barkley. He was named an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention in the 2020 season and established himself as an elite running back in the Pac-12.

This was the first time since 2014 that three Wildcats were selected in the NFL Draft.

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