Dalton Kincaid didn’t participate in Utes’ pro day, but here’s why he’s projected as a first-round draft pick

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Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid scores a touchdown during game against Southern Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Kincaid didn’t participate in Thursday’s Utes pro day event, but is expected to be a first-round draft pick.
Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid scores a touchdown during game against Southern Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Kincaid didn’t participate in Thursday’s Utes pro day event, but is expected to be a first-round draft pick. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

Former Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid stood in the school’s indoor facility Thursday, dressed in street clothes, watching his former teammates participating in pro day workouts.

Representatives from every NFL team but the Los Angeles Rams showed up on Utah’s campus for the annual event.

“I had been targeting receivers for the Chargers, but let’s give them a player who could help in both the pass and run games. Kincaid, who had 106 catches and 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons, is the best ‘move’ tight end in this class.” — NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Kincaid suffered an injury at the end of last season and did not play in the Utes’ Rose Bowl loss to Penn State.

But he was cleared Monday by doctors and his focus is on getting healthy before the NFL draft April 27-29 in Kansas City — and the ensuing training camp.

Much of Kincaid’s preparation has been film work and interviewing with various teams.

“Since I’ve been cleared and been able to do more, it’s deciding if I want to train to run a 40-yard dash or do I want to train to get ready for (training) camp,” he said. “For me, I’m preparing for camp and I want to come in in my best shape for that.”

Kincaid is projected as a first-round pick.

Thursday afternoon, ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft, with the Los Angeles Chargers grabbing Kincaid with the 21st overall pick.

“I had been targeting receivers for the Chargers, but let’s give them a player who could help in both the pass and run games,” Kiper wrote. “Kincaid, who had 106 catches and 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons, is the best ‘move’ tight end in this class. He’s a legit playmaker in the pass game. At 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, he could do damage out of the slot or lined up next to a tackle. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could scheme up easy targets to Kincaid for quarterback Justin Herbert.”

What does Kincaid think about the various draft projections?

“Honestly, it’s more for my dad. He enjoys it a lot more. If I was to go in the first round, I think it would be awesome,” he said. “I think it would be a great reflection of this program. That would mean the most to me — reflecting coach (tight ends coach) Freddie Whittingham, coach (Kyle) Whittingham and coach (Andy) Ludwig and what they’ve all sacrificed and done to get me in this position. If anything, I’d be super grateful to have that opportunity so they carry that with them as well.”

Cornerback Clark Phillips III ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February. He did not run the 40 Thursday but did do other drills.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Phillips, who has been projected to be taken somewhere in the first three rounds, started all 31 games during his Utes career, recording nine interceptions with four pick-sixes. In 2022, he was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

During Thursday’s pro day, Phillips felt less pressure than he did at the combine.

“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders at the combine. It was more, OK, we’re not training for a track meet; we’re training for football,” he said. “That’s what I looked at it like. I’m a football player. I guard receivers. I make football plays. I don’t play 40; I don’t play shuttle; I play football. I’m just glad to get that out of the way and play football in front of these guys.”

Since he was a kid, Phillips has been working hard for the opportunity to play in the NFL. pro day was the latest step.

“I struggle with taking it all in because it feels like it’s kind of flown in terms of the time and everything. I’m trying to take it all in at the same time and stay in the moment,” he said. “That’s my message to myself all season, especially in the time like now when you’re preparing to make your dreams come to reality.

“This is kind of that last check box, the last check mark that I wanted to check off and make it happen and get in front of everybody — all these teams. It’s a blessing.”

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Others that participated in Utah’s pro day Thursday were safety Stone Azarcon, offensive lineman Braeden Daniels, linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, wide receiver Jaylen Dixon, wide receiver Solomon Enis, safety R.J. Hubert, tight end Logan Kendall, defensive lineman Gabe Reid and running back Tavion Thomas.

During passing drills, current Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes threw the passes.

Former Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, a first-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, and Britain Covey, who played in the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie in February, were in attendance Thursday, watching and dispensing advice.

Kincaid said he seeks counsel from “guys who have been here and have experience. They were here last year and I was watching them. Devin Lloyd is a great example. He was a leader on this team. They know the ropes a little bit. You only get to do this once.”

Diabate, a linebacker who joined Utah’s program last year after transferring from Florida, enjoyed an impressive pro day, recording a 34-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot broad jump. His broad jump number would have topped all the athletes at the combine, according to Utah football’s Twitter account.

Phillips appreciates all the measurables that NFL teams are examining prior to the draft. But some things can’t be measured.

“I pride myself on being athletic but that’s not all my game. I take pride in preparing for every single matchup, every single game. Formationally tendencies and all of that stuff; the things you need in a football player,” he said. “When it comes to preparing for this stuff, this is just what they want to see and it’s another thing to check off.

“I’ve got to do my job and this is what they want to see, my 40 (time). I definitely understand it. I’ve never been the fastest, I’ve never been the biggest. Shoot, I’m probably shorter than everybody (reporters) over here. But that’s not my game. Got to cover some of the best of the best and we fared very, very well.”

Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Laura Seitz, Deseret News