Great Debate: Will Booker Or Poeltl Have A More Succesful Pro Career?

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Great Debate: Will Booker Or Poeltl Have A More Succesful Pro Career?

Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) strides into the end zone against the Cal Bears during a Pac-12 football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015.

Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) strides into the end zone against the Cal Bears during a Pac-12 football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015.

Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) strides into the end zone against the Cal Bears during a Pac-12 football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015.

Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) strides into the end zone against the Cal Bears during a Pac-12 football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015.

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Booker’s Versatility And Experience Outweighs Poeltl’s Raw Potential

by Tyler Crum

The 2015-16 season was one of the better seasons for Utah Athletics. The U’s emergence as a force within the Pac-12 is evidenced by the recognition of basketball’s Jakob Poeltl and football’s Devontae Booker as two of the nation’s top prospects heading into draft time.

The tandem is arguably the closest Utah has come to matching the unforgettable 2005 class, which featured the Runnin’ Utes’ Andrew Bogut and Ute quarterback Alex Smith as the No. 1 picks in both NBA and NFL drafts, respectively.

After catching the eyes of pro scouts during a stellar sophomore season, Poeltl has drawn comparisons to traditional centers like Bogut, and the recipient of this season’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award is also projected to get picked up in the first round like his Australian predecessor.

In contrast, Booker is flying under the radar as a second- or third-round pick, but the workhorse of the Utah offense and semi-finalist for the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards was recently projected as the 2016 class’s third-best running back, behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot and Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

While both players possess the potential to have outstanding careers in the pros, as far as their rookie seasons are concerned, I believe Booker is more NFL-ready and will be better able to make an immediate impact on the team he winds up on.

Poeltl has improved by leaps and bounds since his freshman season, but another year at the college level could have given the 20-year-old much-needed time to mature, get stronger and shore up a few aspects of his game.

Not to say that Poeltl was wrong in declaring for the draft. In fact, his size, coachability and raw talent are all upsides, but it’s no secret that he will need to work on his perimeter skills if he hopes to keep up his offensive productivity as a pro. If the conclusion of his final season made anything clear, it is that Poeltl could also afford to spend time working on being meaner, stronger and more confident on defense.

All these improvements will definitely come in time after a season or two of working with NBA trainers and playing against professionals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Poeltl has a short stint in the developmental or European leagues before making his NBA debut.

Booker will also need to improve significantly before he’s suiting up on Sundays, but he has already found tremendous success within a pro-style offense at Utah. He has proven himself to be a tough, three-down type of running back who can pass block and haul down catches.

For Booker, his future mostly hinges on recovering from the torn meniscus that sidelined him in November, and while his relatively old age and lack of speed make him a risky pick for any team in desperate need of a running back, I can see a passing-oriented team with a solid starting RB, like the Ravens or the Broncos, taking a chance on the 23-year-old and incorporating him as a second or third-string back.

With the NFL season being a brutal gauntlet, I have no doubt that a healthy Booker on such a team will likely get to see a lot of use later on down the line.

[email protected]

@tylerfcrum

 

Poeltl’s Size, Ability To Adapt Will Lead To Immediate Contribution In Rookie Season

by Brock Jensen

It’s an exciting time for former Utah athletes, namely Devontae Booker and Jakob Poeltl, as they are about to begin their professional careers. Several Utes are in the process of transitioning from the rigors of a student-athlete life to that of a professional. Both the NBA and NFL drafts are nearing, so it is time to have this conversation.

Poeltl and Booker are the top two Utes in their respective drafts, according to nearly every mock draft that is out there. While both have clearly proven their ability to contribute to their squads at the college level, it’s time for them to show they can take their game to the professional level.

The positional value for these players is a key factor to consider in this debate. The running back position has become less valued over the last few years in the NFL, while the center position in the NBA has gone through a similar devaluing process.

That said, I believe Poeltl will be able to make his mark the quickest on the team that drafts him. Both Poeltl and Booker have made great strides in their years at Utah. Booker came from junior college, while Poeltl is heading to the pros after just his sophomore year. With both being talented enough to turn pro after their first years at Utah, the players did themselves justice by staying here at Utah for more than just a year, as I believe it helped them in their overall player development.

The biggest reason I’m siding with Poeltl has nothing to do with development or skill, but rather just his size. With a seven-footer on your roster, you can expect that to immediately change the look and layout of your team. Opposing teams immediately have to adjust on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Poeltl’s ability to contribute both offensively and defensively will be a huge asset for an assumed lottery team to have, and I believe he could be ready to start for one of these teams from Day One. Sure, he is still raw in certain areas of his game, but at this point, given his size and experience, the Austrian big man should be able to overcome some of these areas he is lacking in and be an immediate asset for a team.

One thing in particular that I noticed during Poeltl’s time in Utah was how much better he became at passing the ball. Part of this was because teams began to respect what he could do in one-on-one matchups in the post. Naturally, teams began to send double teams his way, and as this happened, Poeltl had to adapt and learn how to deal with it. He was able to learn how to get the ball out of a double team, so he became a very talented passing big man.

His ability to learn and adapt is just as valuable as the passing skill he obtained. There will be a lot of adjustments to go through in the transition to the NBA, and he has already shown one instance where he learned to successfully adjust.

Yes, both of these players are going to make their mark in their leagues. But for me, the deciding factor is that a team taking Booker will not be forced to rely on him immediately as much, compared to Poeltl. That is why I’m going with the big man to make an immediate impact on the team that decides to draft him.

[email protected]

@brock_jensen02