Which Utes could be drafted in 2015?
Looking down the list of CBS Sports top 100 NFL Draft prospects for 2015, it's interesting to note the number of Utah players: None.
Not on SI.com's early mock. Not on Matt Miller's top-10 positional rankings for Bleacher Report. Not even on Jon Wilner's short list of draftable Pac-12 candidates.
To be fair, the Pac-12 had 34 draftees this year, and it's tough for any analyst to gauge the market in that depth a year before the draft itself. But no Utah guys? It's unthinkable. There's likely to be at least one player from the Utes drafted, and probably more given the program's track record.
But who would that be? If the national media hasn't decided yet, your Utah beat reporters offer some humble opinions on the guys who are in position to get drafted next year as long as fall goes smoothly:
Safety/cornerback Eric Rowe • A position switch could be a boon for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior. As a safety, he had good size, but as a corner, he has great size. His pro prospects could hinge on how effectively he makes an adjustment to man-to-man coverage on most downs. Everybody knows he can hit after he racked up 69 tackles last year. He's good against the run, and he's athletic. One stat that doesn't work in his favor? Zero interceptions. He'll have to find his hands this fall to show his ball skills.
Defensive end Nate Orchard • Since finding a home on the defensive line at Utah, the Highland product has bulked up in a big way: At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, he's one of the best pass rushers returning on the team. He has a knack for forcing fumbles, recovering fumbles, for tackling guys behind the line of scrimmage and he's arguably one of the team's best overall athletes. There could be a question about his position at the next level, because his frame is still skinnier than a lot of down linemen in the NFL. He could improve his sack numbers: He's gotten 6.0 in the last two seasons.
Wide receiver Dres Anderson • There's a lot for NFL scouts to like about him: good size at 6-foot-1, good speed, can make plays downfield, and his father was a steady player in the NFL. Anderson helped carry Utah's passing game last year through injuries and a quarterback switch. With a solid senior year, he could really boost his draft stock. Perhaps the biggest question he has to answer is his occasion struggle with drops, especially on plays where it's easy to catch and run. He's also not terribly evasive, with more of an emphasis on straight line speed. Production will overshadow many of his flaws, however.
Of course, there's other names who could work their way into the mix:
• At the receiver position, Kenneth Scott has the right measurables (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) to be a pro prospect, he just needs to be healthy and show what he can do across a full season. He's a junior, so he would have to declare early to be in the 2015 draft.
• He's been touted as a good pass catcher, but after bad luck with injuries, Westlee Tonga still needs to prove it when it counts.
• Jeremiah Poutasi will be counted on to return to the form that made him an all-Freshman team honoree in 2012, even though he might be a guard at the next level. He's a junior, so he would have to declare early to be in the 2015 draft.
• If he can stay healthy this year, Junior Salt could emerge as one of the Utes' top NFL candidates. Big, strong and steady up on the offensive line.
• Davion Orphey is a guy who did some nice things in spring, but can he transition that into a larger role on the defense? Time will tell.
• Brian Blechen's pure athleticism won't blow scouts away, but his football instincts and toughness may well get him looks at the next level.
Anybody missing? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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