We’re hoping we get some guys this year, not only draft choices but free agents. You want to get as many guys as you can opportunities. —Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — A year ago, the Utah Utes had a team-record eight players taken in the NFL draft — tops in the Pac-12 and fourth most in the nation.
The encore likely won’t be as great.
“First of all, judging by past history, you just never know how many you’re going to get drafted,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “It’s strange. I mean you could have a guy that gets attention from virtually every team in the league and scouts talking to you and then you go undrafted. Then guys that hardly get talked to at all and they get drafted. So I don’t think there’s any real way to tell going in.”
As such, Whittingham guesses this year’s draft class from the Utes could range from one to five.
“Probably somewhere in between would probably be the best answer,” he said. “But, like I’ve said, I gave up trying to figure out who is getting drafted years ago because there’s just no rhyme or reason to it.”
The Utes enter this week’s draft with only five prospects listed on the NFL’s official website — defensive end Kylie Fitts, defensive tackles Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi, offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe and wide receiver Darren Carrington II.
“There’s definitely interest in those guys,” Whittingham said. “I’ve fielded phone calls regarding those guys.”
Even so, Whittingham said it’s a crapshoot when it comes to who gets taken. He said the NFL is so big on measurables that you really can’t just go on college performance.
“It’s not always the biggest factor,” Whittingham continued. “It’s the upside. It’s the ceilings that they see in these guys.”
Utah’s 2017 draft class included offensive tackle Garett Bolles (first round, Denver Broncos), defensive back Marcus Williams (second round, New Orleans Saints), running back Joe Williams (fourth round, San Francisco 49ers), offensive guard Isaac Asiata (fifth round, Miami Dolphins), defensive back Brian Allen (fifth round, Pittsburgh Steelers), center J.J. Dielman (fifth round, Cincinnati Bengals), offensive tackle Sam Tevi (fifth round, Los Angeles Chargers), and linebacker Pita Taumoepenu (sixth round, San Francisco 49ers).
“That was great to see as many players as we had get opportunities to play in the league,” Whittingham said. “We’re hoping we get some guys this year, not only draft choices but free agents. You want to get as many guys as you can opportunities.”