Utah is an incubator for NFL talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Once again, the Utes have no shortage of players ready to make the leap to the pro ranks when the 2017 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday night. Many former Utes are currently on NFL team rosters and several others from Utah are likely to join that group from the 2017 draft pool.
Which former Utes will hear their names called during the 2017 NFL Draft? Here's a look at five Utah alumni with the best chance for getting selected in one of the seven rounds:
Garett Bolles, OL
Bolles only spent one season with the Utes, but he didn't need more time than that to make a name for himself. He started 13 games at left tackles and surrendered just two sacks all season.
The junior had some early struggles with holding and false start penalties as he adjusted to the speed of FBS-level college football. Once he got some experience, Bolles demonstrated a knack for being a ferocious blocker. His skill set is coveted by many teams and has elevated Bolles' stock in a draft class thin on quality linemen.
Bolles has a realistic shot to be the first Utah player drafted in the first round since defensive lineman Star Lotulelei went 13th overall to the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
NFL Draft Projection: 1st Round
Marcus Williams, S
If you're looking for the next Utah player to make an immediate impact in the NFL, Williams fits the bill. He is a true ball hawk who disrupts all sorts of pass plays in the secondary.
Williams possesses incredible speed and athleticism. He has good instincts as a safety and even better hands. His vision made it easy for him to not only be a productive tackler, but it also allowed him to get a good read on plays and consistently force turnovers. Williams totaled 10 interceptions and eight pass breakups over his final two seasons at Utah.
NFL Draft Projection: 2nd or 3rd Round
Isaac Asiata, OL
While he didn't draw as much of the spotlight as other Utah players, Asiata was a true leader up front for the Utes. He was a full-time starter over his final three seasons and made starts at right tackle, left guard and right guard.
Asiata's versatility will appeal to many NFL teams. He is a tenacious and powerful blocker and has good speed when it comes to picking up blitzes. His toughness is one of his biggest strengths as a lineman. He has enough power to knock opposing linemen out of the way and create huge lanes for running backs to attack. His large frame and a strong work ethic have helped Asiata climb up the ladder in mock drafts as draft day approaches.
NFL Draft Projection: 3rd or 4th Round
Brian Allen, CB
Allen enjoyed a breakout season in his senior campaign at Utah. He made seven starts in the secondary and tallied four interceptions during his final year with the Utes.
His speed, size and length helps Allen perform well in bump-and-run coverage. Allen made a transition from wide receiver to defensive back while playing for the Utes. He struggles with finishing tackles at times and is slow to make adjustments on deep routes. Still, Allen has enough athletic tools to become a solid NFL corner with enough polishing.
NFL Draft Projection: 5th or 6th Round
Joe Williams, RB
Few players enjoyed a better comeback story last season than Williams. He returned from a four-game retirement to rush for 1,420 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Williams set a single-game school record when he ran for 333 yards and four touchdowns against UCLA.
Blinding speed is one of Williams' biggest advantages as a running back. When he hits a hole and finds daylight, he has enough quickness to break away from would-be tacklers. Williams possesses good lateral quickness and is hard to bring down. He makes a defender earn every tackle and will scrap for yards an average back can't get.
Ball security is one issue that could cause NFL teams to hesitate using a pick on Williams. He struggled to hold onto the ball at Utah and lost multiple fumbles at critical times. Williams was only an average pass blocker and pass catcher. Questions also linger about his long-term commitment to football after having already retired from the sport once.
NFL Draft Projection: 6th or 7th Round
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.