The Great Debate: Who is more NFL-ready – Booker or Orchard?

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Orchard’s versatility makes him a great NFL pick

Seniors3

By Dominic Garcia
For most young football players, the dream is to one day make it as a professional athlete in the NFL. While Utah has a number of athletes who may be taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, do-it-all Nate Orchard has the best chance of making that dream a reality in the near future.
It is no secret that Utah’s success this season has had a lot to do with its defense. Orchard is one of the leaders of that unit, and for good reason. He has helped the Utes lead the nation in sacks for nearly the entire 2014 campaign and, with the help of his teammates, has changed the name of his hometown from Salt Lake City to Sack Lake City.
Additionally, Utah has had seven games this season that have been decided by a touchdown or less. In close contests, the defense is easily the most important piece of the team. Orchard has captained his defense to continually stop the opposing offenses and keep his side, the stronger side, in the game.
Orchard is no stranger to the spotlight, either. In addition to his defense, Orchard was also an offensive star at local Highland High as a receiver. He spent his high school days lighting up the gridiron on both sides of the ball, catching touchdowns at one end and turning around to sack the quarterback at the other. His experience with the media has given him a maturity that is much-needed in the NFL today.
With that maturity, he is also able to perform well in the big games. The one that sticks out most to me is the monumental win over Stanford last season, in which Orchard registered two sacks that both caused fumbles.
Orchard gets to the quarterback with ease because of his power and quickness. Speed is usually lost when a player gains weight, but that wasn’t a problem for Orchard. He came into the Utah program weighing just under 200 pounds, but he now weighs around 255. The weight gain has not slowed him down a bit, and he uses his quick feet and agility to get around his blockers with ease.
By the numbers, Orchard is having the best season of his career. Before his senior year, he only had a total of 6.5 sacks to his name. In 2014, he has nearly tripled that number with 17.5. For any defensive end who has his sights on the NFL, getting close to 20 sacks in a season is not a bad way to help your cause.
Orchard has the speed, maturity and experience needed to make a career in the NFL. I think Orchard is a bona fide first-round talent. If I was a GM of an NFL squad, I’d consider taking this guy in the first 15-20 picks.
Wherever Orchard winds up, he will not only contribute but also be a huge asset to any team.
 
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Booker’s speed and power make him NFL-ready

- Chris Samuels

By Brock Jensen
If you look up the definition of “workhorse” in the dictionary, you may just find the name of Utah running back Devontae Booker.
Booker has been an absolute stud for the team this season. He has shouldered more than his share of the offensive load and has looked good doing it. Looking at Booker’s body of work, he has shown he has the skillset and work ethic to be a solid NFL player.
Booker sat out the 2013 season before competing for the starting job at the start of this season. Yes, that’s right — if you think back to the beginning of the year, Booker was not even the clear-cut starter for the Utes.
Booker had his coming-out party against Washington State when he ran 24 times for 178 yards and a score, and he hasn’t looked back since.
His first season at Utah has been a success, and it has come against NFL-ready Pac-12 talent. He has rushed for 1,350 yards and nine touchdowns for an average of 5.1 yards per carry, and added 39 catches for 282 yards and two touchdowns. His versatility is a quality NFL teams will see as a positive part of his game. Being able to run, catch and pick up blitzes are all a part of being an NFL running back, and Booker has shown he can do them all.
The remarkable thing about Booker’s production this season was his ability to find success without having a very effective passing game. Because Utah has struggled to consistently move the ball through the air, opposing defenses have been able to key-in on Booker. The Ute running back still hasn’t been contained.
Booker has done all his damage with teams knowing he’s going to get the football. Despite going against heavy defensive fronts and eight-man boxes for much of the season, he still has found holes and lanes to get through. While Booker has the power to get tough yards, he also has the explosiveness to outrun defenders on the edge. Booker has elite vision and has a knack of knowing when to power the ball inside, or bounce it out wide and use his speed.
Booker has carried the team on his back time and time again this season. Case in point is the Oregon State game, where he rushed for a ridiculous 229 yards and three touchdowns including a game-sealing 19 yard touchdown run in double overtime. He will be able to make that same type of impact when he gets to the NFL.
Stats alone do not indicate whether a player is prepared for the NFL, but the logic behind the stats makes a strong case for Booker’s readiness for the next level. He has shown that he has the makeup of a quality NFL running back.
With his blend of speed, power and vision, Booker demonstrates all the traits and talent to be an NFL running back, and a pretty good one at that.
 
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