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Utah football: 2017 NFL Draft primer for Utes prospects

Published April 27, 2017 5:47 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Don't ask Kyle Whittingham for NFL Draft predictions. He's in the dark as much as anyone else.

"I gave up on speculating who is going to get drafted," he said. "Typically what you think is going to happen doesn't happen."

But that hasn't prevented some optimism about Utah's pool of NFL Draft hopefuls this year. After Devontae Booker was the only pick in the draft last season, Utah's latest class has two early entries and a number of seniors who could be in play to extend the Utes' NFL pipeline.

A quick breakdown of who the top prospects are and where they stand as the draft rolls this weekend:

OT Garett Bolles, 6-foot-5, 297 pounds

Ranked No. 34 overall by ESPN; No. 36 pick (round 2) in NFL.com mock draft

Quick pitch • He's arguably the most athletic tackle in the draft with fast 40 and shuttle times, and he was a ruthless finisher in his blocks with the Utes. He's long been touted for his athleticism, ever since he was the No. 1 overall JuCo prospect coming out of Snow College, but his age (25 next month) and limited experience against top caliber competition may give teams some pause.

Whittingham says • "The really special thing about him is his agility and his feet. He's got incredible athleticism and ability in space. He's able to get to that second level of the defense really quickly."

Prediction • With elite athletic ability, Bolles will tempt teams in the first round. He's also expected to be in the green room in Philadelphia — so he's hoping not to have a Geno Smith moment.

FS Marcus Williams, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds

Ranked No. 52 overall by ESPN; No. 110 pick (4th round) in NFL mock draft

Quick pitch • One of the biggest gamechangers on Utah's defense, Williams had 10 interceptions in the past two seasons spurring Pick Lake City. He also was one of the surest-tackling safeties in the nation last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and could stop the run. His leaps at the Combine showcased his natural explosiveness, even though he probably still could gain some weight.

Whittingham says • "I would say his number one asset is his range. He has tremendous range in the secondary and great ball skills — really plays the ball in the air really well. He's not necessarily the most physical tackler, but he's a very consistent tackler that rarely missed the tackle."

Prediction • Williams seems a likely Day 2 candidate — with his athleticism and ability to change a game with a turnover, a team should take a chance on his physical development with a second or third round pick.

OG Isaac Asiata, 6-foot-3, 323 pounds

Ranked No. 129 overall by ESPN; No. 102 pick (third round) in NFL.com mock draft

Quick pitch • Winning the Morris Trophy last year showed the respect Asiata earned from his peers for his toughness and strength. He was a key piece of Utah's dynamic running attack, pulling blocks and running over defenders to pave the way for Joe Williams. He's not as athletic as the prototypical NFL lineman and he's older than some of those he's looking for a spot against, but he has powerful leadership qualities that were quietly a huge part of Utah's success last year.

Whittingham says • "He's 325 pounds or thereabouts but surprisingly llight on his feet. He had a terrific senior year for us. He's a little bit older, but I don't think it should matter as an offensive lineman, because it's one of those few spots that where age is not really as big a factor. Great personality. His personality is one of his best qualities."

Prediction • Asiata seems to fall in that range between Day 2 and Day 3, where his body of work might draw teams in, but his age may ward some off. But consensus seems to be he won't fall too far in the late rounds.

CB Brian Allen, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds

Ranked No. 179 overall by ESPN; No. 148 pick (fifth round) in NFL.com mock draft

Quick pitch • He started only three games as a senior but got a starter's reps, accounting for four picks, 35 tackles and six pass breakups. The biggest things NFL teams see is his length and mobility: For a 6-foot-3 prospect, he's uncommonly fast. Allen has only spent three seasons in the secondary, and might stand to learn a lot with more experience under his belt and continue the Utah secondary pipeline into the NFL.

Whittingham says • "He's got great size and the wingspan at the corner position. Definite weapon there to be able to have that reach. A lot of teams were very intrigued with that. Eric Rowe is a guy who really has been successful coming out of here that has the same body type. Good ball skills as well."

Prediction • He could go higher than you think based on his physical gifts, perhaps as early as Round 3. The bottom for him might be lower since he wasn't a big standout in college, but he's probably going in the draft.

RB Joe Williams, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds

Ranked No. 184 overall by ESPN; No. 159 pick (fifth round) in NFL.com mock draft

Quick pitch • Williams' case will be a litmus test for the NFL and how cautious teams are. His retirement raised eyebrows and Williams acknowledged that he's gotten a lot of questions about it. But his talent is undeniable, running for 1,420 yards and 10 touchdowns while showing top-end speed on the field (and the Combine). He's potentially a risk, but also a reward for the team willing to gamble that he's overcome some of the issues that led him to leave football for a few weeks.

Whittingham says • "Those that have really vetted that out and understand the circumstances of his retirement, that's not a negative. It's just unique. The way he came back and what he did for the football team, how he finished his career here was obviously a big positive. I think the ones that really take time to look into will know that he's fine."

Prediction • It's tough to say: As one writer termed it, Williams has Day 2 talent but may make teams wary with his off-field concerns. Williams has said he's over his problems many times, but do teams believe him? He's probably in play on Day 3, and could go as high as Round 4, or go undrafted depending on who is willing to buy in.

DE Hunter Dimick, 6-foot-3, 269 pounds

Ranked No. 336 overall by ESPN; No. 196 pick (6th round) in NFL.com mock draft

Quick pitch • The all-time leader in sacks in school history, Dimick was dominant in the Pac-12 as a senior with 14.5 wrap-ups in the backfield. But that hasn't translated to NFL interest so far, as he was not invited to the NFL Combine. He had a standout Pro Day, but was it enough to convince NFL teams that a high-motor college star can make it in the pros? Those at Utah think so, but they aren't the ones he has to convince.

Whittingham says • "Hunter is a guy that to me, it's shocking that he didn't get a chance to go to the Combine. He tested very positive at our Pro Day and would've done well in Indianapolis. He's all about production. That's all he's been. Week-in and week-out. Whatever roster he gets on, I don't think they're going to be able to let him go."

Prediction • Dimick is probably a late-round flier at best, with NFL teams concerned about the flexibility in his hips. But even if he goes undrafted, a lot of people in his camp believe he'll make an NFL team.

Other Utah NFL hopefuls:

OL J.J. Dielman • His knee injury derailed his hopes for a great senior season. He's helped by his underclassman film, his ability to play multiple positions and being the relative of NFL lineman Kris Dielman.

LS Chase Dominguez • Specialists are a bit of a wild card — you never know exactly who wants those talents. But Dominguez was among the nation's most reliable long snappers for three straight Ray Guy award winners, which has to count for something.

WR Tim Patrick • Several scouts have tweeted about how strong his early season film, particularly against Adoree Jackson, looks, and his physical tools are very good. But his injury struggles are likely giving suitors pause. Another Ute who could go in the draft.

K Andy Phillips • Utah's all-time leading scorer and field goal leader is older than most, but for kickers, it's not as much of an issue. Phillips might not be the first kicker a team calls, but he's probably on the list of possible free agents.

DT Pasoni Tasini • A gifted defensive tackle who really only got his time to shine in his senior season, Tasini was regarded as one of the strongest members of Utah's team last year. He might get a sniff in free agency.

DE/LB Pita Taumoepenu • Throughout his college career, Taumoepenu was a bit of a tweener — at the NFL level, even more so. While his quickness is a plus, he's probably not a down lineman as a pro, so he'd have to try to play some linebacker.

OL Sam Tevi • Another candidate with a high ceiling but low floor, Tevi was one of Utah's more athletic linemen in the last few seasons. Some mocks have him projected in the draft early on Day 3.

S Jason Thompson • He had a fabulous Pro Day and was a special teams captain for the Utes this past year. With only a few seasons in the secondary, could he grow into becoming an NFL-level defender or special teams guy?

Twitter: @kylegoon






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