Looking At Utah Football’s 2022 NFL Draft Prospects
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Now that the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and with no Utah football players taken, the 2022 draft should be full of Utes.
Utah football had a few players that could’ve been drafted in 2021 but all decided to return for one more season to improve their stock and win a championship.
The COVID-19 pandemic froze college eligibility from the 2020 season and everyone coming back in 2021 didn’t lose a year.
Here is a look at the possible 2022 NFL Draft prospects that are the Utah football roster.
Devin Lloyd, Linebacker
The captain and Utah linebacker could’ve gone to the NFL in 2021. He ultimately decided to come back for one more season to try and win a championship with his teammates. Lloyd would’ve likely been a day three NFL Draft pick, especially with Utah playing just five games in 2020. If Lloyd stays healthy and is productive like we all expect him to be, he will shoot the the draft boards to a second or third round pick and potentially a first round selection.
According to Pro Football Reference, Utah has never had a linebacker taken in the first round. The last linebacker selected in the second round was Koa Misi in 2010 to the Miami Dolphins. Utah’s last linebacker taken in the draft was Cody Barton in 2019 when the Seahawks picked him in the third round.
Brant Kuithe, Tight End
Kuithe was productive in 2020, at least to certain standards. Some of his woes in the 2020 season was not his fault. Kuithe had multiple opportunities to score touchdowns in 2020 but getting him the ball in those situations were a problem. The five games in 2020 wouldn’t have been enough for NFL teams to feel comfortable to take him outside of Undrafted free agency or the sixth or seventh round. If the offense centers around him and gets him more involved in multiple ways in 2021, he could be a day two draft pick. His versatility of lining up at any receiver position and using him in the run game because of his athleticism will appeal to teams at the next level.
The last Utah tight end to go in the NFL Draft was Henry Lusk when the Saints selected him in the seventh round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Utah’s highest tight end draft pick was Kurt Haws in 1994 when Washington picked him in the fourth round. Kuithe has a chance to become the highest tight end drafted in school history.
Nick Ford, Offensive Line
Ford is the most versatile offensive lineman in the Pac-12 and maybe the country. His ability to play different positions and be just as effective will make him a strong prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Any team that picks him will have that comfort level of knowing that Ford can play any of the five positions on the offensive line and produce at a high level.
Jackson Barton was the last offensive lineman to be drafted when the Colts took him in the seventh round of the 2019 draft. Garett Bolles was the last first round pick from the offensive lineman group when the Broncos selected him with the 20th overall pick.
Viane Moala, Defensive Tackle
Viane Moala arrived on the scene in a big way in 2019 as a transfer from Hawai’i. He was in the defensive tackle rotation in 2019 with Leki Fotu and John Penisini. 2020 was his time to shine. Kyle Whittingham has said many times that Moala is the best defensive tackle in the Pac-12. His 6’6, 320 lbs. frame makes him an intriguing prospect for teams. Many think it’s another Leki Fotu coming to the program. Also, the rich history of Utah defensive tackles will make Moala even more appealing.
Penisini (6th round to DET) and Fotu (4th round to ARI) were the last defensive tackles from Utah to be drafted in 2020. Star Lotulelei was the last first round draft pick from Utah at defensive tackle when the Carolina Panthers selected him with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Mika Tafua, Defensive End
Playing on the opposite edge of Bradlee Anae in 2019 was huge for the growth and progression of Mika Tafua. In a shortened 2020 season, Tafua was very productive, earning All-Pac-12 second team honors. With a full season on the horizon in 2021, Tafua has the chance to join a long and rich history of defensive ends from Utah getting drafted.
Anae was the last Utah DE to be drafted when the Dallas Cowboys took him in the fifth round in 2020. Nate Orchard is the highest draft pick at defensive end in Utah football history. The Cleveland Browns selected Orchard in the second round with the 51st overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Charlie Brewer, Quarterback
This is somewhat of a reach to put on this list but at the same time it’s very possible. Brewer showcased his talent in the spring game and the coaches have raved about him throughout spring camp. It has the makings of a very intriguing quarterback battle with Cam Rising in the fall. Brewer has a good chance of winning the job. With a great season as the starter, Brewer could put himself in position to get drafted.
The last Utah quarterback to get drafted was Alex Smith to the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.