The University of Utah has clearly gained a reputation for churning out quality NFL talent. In fact, Utah has the most players in the NFL of any other school in the state with 29 (BYU 20, USU 11). With the NFL regular season officially over, now is a great time to look over our beloved Utes in the NFL and how their individual seasons have come together. Players will be sorted in alphabetical order by the teams they play for. Each week we will continue to follow any Utes still competing in the playoffs along with their updated stats so stay tuned. But first, let’s take a look at a positional breakdown of our Utes in the NFL.
The Utes are getting very close to being able to field their own NFL team. The only positions without Utah representation are tight end and center. The Tight end group will have representatives starting in 2023 with Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. The Center position could have a representative as soon as this year depending on how NFL teams view Nick Ford (14 of his 39 career starts were at center). Utah is most represented at the linebacker position with 6 Utes followed by the cornerbacks (4) and safeties (2 FS, 2 SS).
Kylie Fitts, LB/DE - 6 games played, 2 total tackles, 2 solo tackles
Kylie Fitts played in each of the first 6 games for the Cardinals before being placed on the Injured Reserve with a concussion. Fitts was primarily a special teams player for the Cardinals this year as he saw his number of defensive snaps in games he played drop significantly from about 16% of defensive snaps in 2020 to only 6% of defensive snaps in 2021. Fitts recorded 2 tackles in his limited action on defense before being sidelined with injury.
Leki Fotu, DT - 17 games played, 19 total tackles, 8 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 3 pass deflections, 4.5 stuffs, 1 QB hurry, 1 QB pressure
Leki Fotu played in all 17 regular-season games, starting 3, for the Cardinals during his second year in the league. Fotu made his first start of his career this year when the Cardinals traveled to Cleveland to take on the Browns. He has made 2 other starts since then. He played in 34% of the team's defensive snaps (roughly the same as his rookie season) and doubled his special teams snaps from 16% to 32%. He also randomly played in one offensive snap.
Tyler Huntley, QB - 7 games played, 1,081 passing yards, 64.9% completion rate, 3 TD, 4 interceptions, 18 sacks, 76.6 passer rating, 48.3 QBR, 294 rushing yards, 2 TD, 4 fumbles
Tyler Huntley has had an impressive season. He got the first NFL start and win of his career in November against the Bears. He was the starting QB for the Ravens after Lamar Jackson sustained an injury in week 14. Huntley drew a lot of attention with some of the performances he put up and a lot of analysts around the country are talking about him being a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. His overall stats are solid, but not great. What makes them impressive is that he did it with an injury-depleted Ravens squad with terrible pass protection. Huntley played himself into some money this year. Now it’s just a waiting game to see if he will make that money as the backup for the Ravens, or as a starter on a different team.
Star Lotulelei, DT - 11 games played, 17 total tackles, 11 solo tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 stuffs, 4 QB pressures
Star Lotulelei started 8 games for the Bills, finishing his eighth year in the league. He was a key defensive starter for the Bills’ defensive line. For the first time in his career, Lotulelei missed significant time. He missed week 1 due to a personal matter, weeks 10-12 with Covid-19, week 14 with a toe injury, and week 16 for personal reasons.
Zack Moss, RB - 13 games played, 345 rushing yards, 4 rushing TD, 3.6 yards per carry, 2 fumbles, 23 receptions, 197 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
In his second year in the league, Moss contributed 542 yards of total offense this season. Moss only averaged 3.6 yards per game with an average of 7.4 carries per game. However, Moss continued to demonstrate his effectiveness as a receiving back adding 23 receptions for 197 yards (8.6 yards per catch). In games he played, Moss received solid playing time (42% of offensive snaps in games played), but Moss was a healthy scratch in 4 games. In those games, the Bill’s opted for veteran Matt Breida as the Bills reportedly preferred Breida’s speed to Moss’ size and blocking ability.
Jaylon Johnson, CB - 15 games played, 1 interception, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 46 total tackles, 37 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 stuffs
Jaylon Johnson was a day one starter in the NFL as soon as he was drafted in 2020 but ended the year on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Fortunately, he didn’t need surgery and was able to pick up where he left off on the field. Johnson missed only two games this season while on the Covid list. Johnson has established himself as the team’s best cornerback and one of the few bright spots on the Bears. Johnson made headlines for calling out parts of the Bear’s locker room for quitting. This claim was disputed by the defensive coordinator. Johnson also voiced his displeasure with the since dismissed head coach Matt Nagy.
Brian Allen, CB - 3 games played
Brian Allen saw very limited playing time this year. The Cleveland Browns signed him off of the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad in January of 2021. Allen only saw action in 3 games on special teams.
Bradlee Anae, DE - 4 games played, 2 total tackles, 2 solo tackles
Bradlee Anae saw action in 4 games early in the season on both defense and special teams before being waived and placed on the practice squad. Anae still has upside and untapped potential. It’s possible another team short on edge defenders could take a chance on Anae and sign him off of the Cowboy’s practice squad.
Francis Bernard, LB - 8 games played, 4 total tackles, 1 solo tackle
Francis Bernard sustained a hamstring injury early in September and was not activated until November. Once activated, Bernard played almost exclusively on special teams.
Garett Bolles, OT - 14 games played, 3 holdings, 1 false start, 5 sacks allowed, 76.6 PFF grade
Garett Bolles signed a 4 year $68m ($21m guaranteed) in 2020 and this was the first year under that new contract. He is the starting left tackle for the Broncos and missed 3 consecutive games due to injury and Covid-19. Unfortunately, Bolles’ play regressed from his elite 2020 but is still providing above-average production from the tackle position.
Tim Patrick, WR - 16 games played, 53 receptions, 734 receiving yards, 5 TD, 2 drops
In November, Tim Patrick signed a 3-year, $30m contract extension. This is his second year as a starter for the Broncos. Patrick has demonstrated to be a reliable target with just a 2.4% drop rate, a reception in every game he’s played, and 3 or more receptions in 11 of his 16 games this season.
Pita Taumoepenu, LB - 4 games played
Pita Taumoepenu has been on and off the practice squad all season but saw playing time almost exclusively on special teams.
John Penisini, DT - 16 games played, 14 total tackles, 4 solo tackles, 2 QB pressures, 2 QB hurries, 3 stuffs
John Penisini changed his number from 91 to 98 this year. After a solid rookie year in which he played all 16 games (12 starts), Penisini saw his playing time cut in half this year with no starts. Unfortunately, he has also missed more tackles than he did last year even with the reduced playing time this year.
Julian Blackmon, FS - 6 games played, 34 total tackles, 27 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 stuffs
Julian Blackmon started the first 6 games for the Colts before tearing his Achilles tendon in practice. Blackmon missed the remainder of the season. Before the injury, Blackmon was on pace to shatter his previous career records in total tackles, solo tackles, and tackles for loss.
Sam Tevi, OG
Sam Tevi suffered a torn ACL in August and missed the 2021 season.
Los Angeles Rams
Terrell Burgess, SS - 16 games played, 10 total tackles, 4 solo tackles, 0.5 stuffs
Terrell Burgess saw most of his action on special teams. Burgess played in 69% of special teams snaps and only 8% of defensive snaps.
Matt Gay, K - 17 games played, 48/49 extra points made, 32/34 field goals made, 144 points
After landing with the Rams in 2020, Gay has been nothing short of dominant. Gay was named to the 2021 Pro Bowl. His 94.118% field goal percentage is 2nd best this season and the 41st best ever. His 144 points scored are good for 3rd best in 2021 and 39th best all-time. An incredible season from an all-time Ute.
Las Vegas Raiders
Jackson Barton, OT - 2 games played
The Las Vegas Raiders signed Jackson Barton off of the New York Giants’ practice squad in September. Barton made his NFL debut in December playing 3 snaps against the Washington Football team. He played an additional 3 snaps the following week against the Chiefs.
Jeremiah Poutasi, OG
Unfortunately, Jeremiah Poutasi was waived by the Raiders at the end of August and did not play a snap this year. No other team picked him up, so at the moment his future in the NFL is uncertain.
Eric Rowe, CB - 17 games played, 71 total tackles, 43 solo tackles, 1 QB pressure, 1 QB knockdown, 4 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 2.5 stuffs
Eric Rowe played in all 17 games, starting 4, for the Miami Dolphins. Rowe was a steady presence in the Miami backfield playing in 57% of the team’s defensive snaps. This is a reduction in the playing time he had seen the prior two seasons in Miami.
New Orleans Saints
Chase Hansen, LB - 3 games played, 1 total tackle
Chase Hansen got limited action this year, almost exclusively on special teams. He played just one snap on defense but he made it count with a tackle. Hansen tripled his playing time from last year.
Marcus Williams, FS - 16 games played, 74 total tackles, 52 solo tackles, 8 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
In March, the New Orleans Saints assigned a franchise tag to Marcus Williams. As expected, Williams continued to showcase that he is one of the premier safeties in the NFL. Williams was dominant in pass coverage, with a career-best 52.8% completion rate when targeted. Williams will be one to watch this offseason to see if the Saints will franchise tag him again or if he will test the waters of free agency for the first time in his career.
New York Giants
Devontae Booker, RB - 16 games played, 593 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD, 4.1 yards per carry, 0 fumbles, 40 receptions, 268 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Devontae Booker signed a two-year contract with the Giants back in March. In his first year with the Giants, Booker proved himself to be a reliable presence out of the backfield. Booker led the team in all-purpose yards with 861 and was tied with Saquon Barkley for most rushing yards on the team. Booker played in 50% of offensive snaps for the team, averaging 11.6 touches per game.
New York Jets
Javelin Guidry, CB - 17 games played, 48 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB knockdown, 1 QB pressure, 0.5 stuffs
Javelin Guidry played in every game for the Jets in 2021. He played both defense and special teams. Guidry was a regular in the Jets’ secondary, playing in 41% of their defensive snaps. He also picked off Zach Wilson in a preseason scrimmage.
Cody Barton, LB - 16 games played, 38 total tackles, 23 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 QB knockdown, 2 QB pressures, 1 pass defended, 2.5 stuffs
Cody Barton played in 16 games for the 3rd straight season. Barton spend most of his time on special teams but got playing time on defense in 9 games. He got an extended look on defense in the final two games of the season when filling in for All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner. In those final two games, Barton made 19 total tackles, 12 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, and 1 pass defended. This strong showing could help Barton to see more playing time on defense next year.
Marquise Blair, SS - 6 games played, 9 total tackles, 5 solo tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 passes defended, 1 stuff
Marquise Blair suffered an in-game season-ending knee injury in October and subsequently had surgery to repair a fractured patella. After a promising rookie campaign in 2019, this was Marquise Blair’s second straight season missing significant time due to injury. In 2020, his season was cut short by a torn ACL. Blair has now missed 28 games in his first 3 seasons in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers
Mitch Wishnowsky, P/K - 17 games played, 57 punts, 2,566 punting yards, 45 yards per punt, 56 kickoffs, 37.5% touchback rate, 1/2 extra points made, 0/1 field goals made, 3 tackles
Mitch Wishnowsky had a solid season in which he played every game for the 49ers. Wishnowsky handled all punting and kickoff duties. He was also called on to kick two extra points, making one, and to make a field goal attempt in the 40-49 yard range. Unfortunately, Wishnowsky missed the field goal attempt, but the made extra point means that he has now officially scored a point in the NFL. Wishnowsky was named the Week 2 NFC Special Teams Player of the Week and the September NFC Special Teams Player of the Month.
Washington Football Team
Jared Norris, LB - 5 games played, 3 total tackles, 2 solo tackles,
Jared Norris played special teams in the first 5 games of the season. Unfortunately, Norris sustained a shoulder injury which kept him out the rest of the season.
Nate Orchard, LB - 2 games played
Orchard signed with the Washington Football team on December 14 and only saw action in two games. In those two games, Orchard played almost exclusively on special teams.
Most Games Played: 17 - Leki Fotu, Matt Gay, Eric Rowe, Javelin Guidry, Mitch Wishnowsky
Most Games Started: 16 - Marcus Williams, Tim Patrick
Most Total Tackles: 74 - Marcus Williams
Most Solo Tackles: 52 - Marcus Williams
Most Tackles For Loss: 4 - Star Lotulelei
Most Sacks: 3 - Star Lotulelei
Most Forced Fumbles: 3 - Eric Rowe
Most Interceptions: 2 - Marcus Williams
Most Passes Defended: 9 - Jaylon Johnson
Most Stuffs: 4.5 - Leki Fotu
Most Touchdowns: 5 - Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, Tim Patrick
Most Passing Yards: 1,081 - Tyler Huntley
Most Rushing Yards: 593 - Devontae Booker
Most Receiving Yards: 734 - Tim Patrick
Most All-Purpose Yards: 861 - Devontae Booker