Of the Utah Raptors five territorial draft picks, three defensive players may become key players very quickly. Inside linebacker Fred Warner, defensive end Kylie Fitts and cornerback Taron Johnson all may have been top 10 draft picks in this year’s rookie draft had they not been selected by the Raptors.
Warner, a 6-foot-3, 236-pounder from BYU has the size, athleticism, and instincts to become a dominant centerpiece of the team’s defense. A three-year starter at BYU, Warner totaled 262 tackles, 32.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, seven interceptions, three forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and two touchdowns in his collegiate career.
“Fred is an incredible football player and honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if he were the preseason favorite to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year,” Head Coach Ken Norton, Jr. said. “I’m not trying to put extra pressure on the kid before he even suits up, but he’s that great of a player.”
Fitts is regarded as one of the top pass rushers in the draft. While injuries effected him his final two years in college, when healthy he was one of the best in the country. As a full-season starter as a sophomore, Fitts has seven sacks in 12 games. In his career he had 11.5 sacks in 37 games.
“We have a strong pass rush, that was what led us to the playoffs last season, but you can’t have enough great pass rushers and we are very excited about acquiring Kylie in the territorial draft,” Norton said. “If he can stay healthy, which we think he will because he’s not injury prone, he just had two different weird injuries. He can be a really awesome pass rushers for us.”
Johnson, a 6-foot, 175 cornerback out of FCS Weber State, could become the Raptors nickleback as a rookie. Despite playing at a smaller school, he was dominant, earning first team All-American honors and Big Sky Defensive MVP honors as a senior. He finished his career as Weber State’s leader in Pass Deflections with 48 in his career. He finished with 172 total tackles and six interceptions.
“Taron is so athletic and so gifted,” Norton said. “We have an organizational philosophy and believe that if you are a small-school guy who wants to get noticed, you better dominate. Taron certainly did and can carve out a big role for himself on this team.”
Along wit the three defensive players, the Raptors selected two offensive players in the territorial draft. They selected Utah wide receiver Darren Carrington II, who in his four-year career caught 182 passes for 2,899 yards and 21 touchdowns. As a senior at Utah, after transferring from Oregon, he caught 70 passes for 980 yards and six touchdowns.
BYU center Tejan Koroma was the fifth selection. The 6-foot, 290-pound interior lineman is a developmental lineman who will be headed to the D-League in an attempt to prove he deserves a roster spot. He played in 51 games in his four-year career.
“Maybe Darren and Tejan aren’t as hyped as Fred, Kylie and Taron, but they are very good players who we feel can help our team,” Norton said. “We are searching for consistent wide receivers and feel we have some good ones, but Darren has been so consistent his entire career in two different schools. Tejan is a proven, consistent offensive lineman and you can’t get enough of those kind of guys. We’ll get nice looks out of both guys in the D-League.”