Who will be the next UTEP football player in the NFL?

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Gaby Velasquez

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Staff

Editor’s note:The Prospector sports staff picked four Miners that could improve their draft stock with standout 2018 seasons.

The UTEP Miners football team have a lot of new faces to be on the lookout for. Most of the team is returning from last year’s club, but the Miners have made a few new additions through graduate transfers that will not only look to revitalize this team, but will also look to improve their draft stock this season. Below are The Prospector’s sports reporters picks on who to keep an eye on as they look to improve  their draft stock this season.

Winston Dimel

By Isaiah Ramirez

Winston Dimel is the prototypical fullback with great versatility. The ability to not only block, which is a fullback’s primary purpose on the field,  Dimel can do so much more out of the backfield such as catch passes for big gains and a prolific runner. He is son of head coach Dana Dimel. Winston is the number one rated fullback going into the 2019 draft as projected by Mel Kiper Jr’s. draft boards. Dimel’s draft stock should be high considering his performance at Kansas State where as a sophomore he scored 12 touchdowns in the red zone, and as a junior had 8 receiving touchdowns to go along with 4 rushing touchdowns. Dimel was an All-Big 12 selection at his position during his time at Kansas State before transferring to UTEP.

Transitioning into Conference-USA play shouldn’t be a problem for Dimel considering during his time at Kansas State he was 4-0 against Conference-USA teams with victories against Louisiana Tech, Florida Atlantic, Charlotte, and UTSA. The versatile aspect of Dimel’s game is what is going to be vital in the NFL. As the league is constantly evolving and the need for versatile players is still a necessity.  Dimel can be used in many dimensions of the game and can be placed anywhere an NFL team may need him to be.

CJ Reese

By Daniel Mendez

C.J. Reese has high aspirations heading into this season.  On his last year of eligibility, the senior told The Prospector Sports Podcast back in June, that his goal for this season was to be C-USA’s defensive player of the year. Reese is out to prove that he should have gotten more playing time at Kansas State, the graduate transfer only played in eight games as a Wildcat. Reese was a three-star recruit coming out of San Antonio and was at once rated the nation’s 44th -best defensive tackle by Scout.com. Reese will be tasked with leading the defensive front for the Miners that only saw 11 sacks last season. If Reese is able to walk it like he talks it, look for him to not only contribute to the Miners defense but to remind NFL scouts on why at one point he was rated in the top 50 defensive tackles in the nation.  

Nik Needham

By Eddie Velazquez

Standout defensive back Nik Needham should be one of the Miner’s highlights on defense this  season. Miner fans will remember his monster game against a high-flying Western Kentucky offense last year. Needham took over the game on defense and had five pass breakups and five total tackles, blanketing the WKU receivers to keep it as close as UTEP got to a win last season. While being part of a porous defense–though certainly the strength of the team last season– Needham should fit like a glove to zone-heavy schemes in the NFL. Needham can go toe-to-toe with multiple receiver archetypes in the pro game thanks to his technique at the line of scrimmage. He has shown great hands and a knack for beating up receivers at the line, which gives him leverage against the speedier receivers going deep. Teams such as the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all ranked in the top five teams with the highest percentage of zone coverage in 2017 per Pro Football Focus and could benefit from taking a flyer on Needham during the middle rounds of the 2019 draft.

AJ Hotchkins-

By Adrian Broaddus

Transferring to UTEP from the football powerhouse of Oregon, inside linebacker AJ Hotchkins is looking to make  his final season with the Miners a great one. One that he hopes to be a breakthrough season to earn him respect from NFL scouts. Hotchkins, a graduate transfer, was sidelined for the majority of the 2017 season with a leg injury and was granted a medical redshirt. Since he is a grad transfer, Hotchkins is eligible to play immediately for the Miners.

He’s not currently on any 2019 draft boards, but that can change throughout the season. If Hotchkins leads the linebacking core in tackles, or impresses in big games, like against Tennessee, he will start gaining attention from scouts. His speed makes him a sure-fire for any NFL team needing a speedy special teams linebacker that can be groomed into the linebacking core.