The NFL Draft is over and though only one former Ute, Devontae Booker, heard his name called in the draft, eight other Utes were able to latch on with an NFL organization for the time being. Let's take a look at each situation and what the outlook for that player is at their destination.
Devontae Booker - Denver Broncos
We start off with Booker who was the only Ute drafted, being selected in the fourth round. Despite coming off a knee injury , which I believe caused him to fall further than he should have, Booker could have a chance to earn playing time very early in his NFL career. Booker runs with a bruising style and is a great pass catcher out of the backfield, something NFL scouts love. He will battle it out with CJ Anderson who rushed for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns last season and Ronnie Hillman who had 863 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. Both Anderson and Hillman are serviceable backs, but neither is a star. Booker should have the opportunity to play his way ahead them. Denver will also be starting over at the all important quarterback position and could very well be running the ball more this season without Peyton Manning, making their running backs even more valuable. Booker's outlook is positive in Denver as he should be able to compete for playing time early in his career and develop into a key piece of Denver's offense.
Jared Norris - Carolina Panthers
Norris, an absolute stud during his time at Utah, signed an undrafted deal with the Carolina Panthers. He will join former Utes Star Lotuleilei and Brian Blechen. The Panthers are known for their stout defense and are loaded on that side of the ball. With players like Luke Keuchly and Shaq Thompson at linebacker for the Panthers, it's going to be tough for Norris to crack the roster. Blechen was able to latch on as a practice squad player last year and Norris might do the same, or he may find an opportunity with a different team later in summer.
Jason Fanaika - San Francisco 49ers
Fanaika signed an undrafted deal with the 49ers, joining former teammate Dres Anderson in San Francisco. The 49ers are in rebuilding mode after a terrible season a year ago and several early retirements of key players. The situation could be a good one for Fanaika however, as the Niners are in need of depth at the linebacker position, a place Fanaika has experience playing and could contribute. Also new coach Chip Kelly is a huge fan of Pac-12 players, which probably contributed to Fanaika signing in San Francisco. If Fanaika has a good camp he could make the team as a depth player and work his way into some playing time.
Tevin Carter - Washington Redskins
Carter signed an undrafted deal with Washington. Carter possesses the size and speed to fit into the coveted S/LB "box safety" position NFL teams are looking to fill right now. Carter was a great value for Washington coming via the undrafted route. I think Carter makes the team, adding depth to the safety position and is a contributor for Washington on special teams.
Travis Wilson -Cincinnati Bengals
The former Utah quarterback received a tryout from the Bengals who will bring him in and take a look at the gunslinger during minicamp. Wilson has the size of an NFL quarterback at 6-7 233 lbs and is athletic, something the NFL likes to see. Cincinnati also brought in another undrafted quarterback Matt Johnson from Bowling Green as they try to add depth behind Andy Dalton. Wilson is likely just being brought in as a camp arm and if he is impressive the Bengals might bring him back in the summer for training camp. My thoughts on Wilson is he probably won't last long in an NFL program with his awkward throwing motion.
Gionni Paul - Cincinnati Bengals
Joining Wilson with a minicamp tryout is Gionni Paul. Paul was passed over by NFL teams because of his measurables. Undersized and considered slow for an NFL caliber linebacker, scouts just don't think he has the natural talent to succeed in the NFL. I believe they are wrong however and I believe Paul will find a way to make an NFL roster in some capacity this season. It may not be with the Bengals who have top notch defensive talent already on the roster, but Paul I believe will impress with his attitude, heart and play on the field. I see Paul making contributions as a special teams player for some lucky team out there this season.
Jason Whittingham - Oakland Raiders
The last of the starting linebackers from last season signed an undrafted deal with the Raiders. Whittingham will have a tough time making the Raiders roster with players like Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith in place. The Raiders are a team on the rise and Whittingham's best shot is to show his value in special teams. Even then, NFL teams generally keep only 4-5 linbackers on a roster. Whittingham will really have to shine if he wants to make a team.
Siaosi Aiono - Kansas City Chiefs
Aiono could be of good value for the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. Aiono provides quality interior lineman depth and also had serious interest from the Chiefs AFC rival the Oakland Raiders. Aiono will have a chance to play his way onto the roster as a depth guy for the guard and center positions. In the NFL there is always extreme competition for roster spots, but I believe Aiono has a chance to make the roster.
Tom Hackett - NY Jets
Hackett is heading to the Big Apple. Utah's charismatic punter will take his talents back east where he will try and earn the punting job for the Jets. Hackett has a great opportunity here as the Jets had no punter prior to the draft. Ryan Quigley, the Jets punter last season signed with the Eagles in the offseason. Hackett's main competition will come from fellow Aussie Lachlan Edwards who the Jets drafted in the seventh round from Sam Houston State. Hackett will have to beat out Edwards for the job and the Jets might bring on another punter somewhere down the line for competition purposes, but it's hard to bet against Hackett.