After losing the likes of Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict to the NFL in 2012, the Arizona State Sun Devils didn’t produce a single NFL draft pick in 2013 after Todd Graham’s first year with the team.
Still, ASU managed to win eight ball games last season, and they have a defense led by one of the most talked about defensive players in the country–defensive tackle Will Sutton.
With Sutton leading the way, the Sun Devils have a variety of intriguing NFL prospects, and certainly will draw the attention of scouts throughout the course of the season.
Here’s a look at some of the top prospects on the ASU roster eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft.
90 DT Will Sutton (6’1″ 305 pounds, SENIOR)
Sutton could have left after a stellar junior campaign, but apparently he only received mid-round grades from the NFL Draft advisory committee. Those guys must have missed him completely in 2012, and rigged it so he could come back another year. All kidding aside, Sutton is an exciting defensive line prospect that has all the scouts buzzing heading into his senior season. It’s going to be near impossible for him to repeat his numbers from a year ago, but the senior defensive lineman is reportedly up nearly 40 pounds from his playing weight in 2012, and is ready to dominate in the trenches once again in 2013.
As a junior, Sutton displayed incredible quickness, strength, leverage, and explosive ability off the defensive line on his way to 63 tackles, 12 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. Despite his height deficiency, he knocked down five passes as well. The biggest problem for Sutton is that he is going to need to be able to use his size to his advantage much more often than not to convince scouts that he’s not going to get eaten alive by pro linemen.
I don’t think that will be the case. Right now, I would firmly entrench Sutton in the 1st-2nd round range, likely in the top 40 selections. He could fall if his numbers take a significant enough dip this season, and if he isn’t able to prove to scouts that he’s not just a one year wonder. He returned to the starting lineup in 2011 after missing the whole 2010 campaign.
52 LB Carl Bradford (6’1″ 233 pounds, JUNIOR)
Will Sutton deservedly got most of the publicity last year and this offseason, but there’s nothing wrong with his partner in crime on the defensive side of the ball, “Devilbacker” Carl Bradford.
Bradford busted out in the team’s 2011 bowl game against Boise State with 12 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack, and then came out in 2012 and just blew everyone away. He racked up 80 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, an interception, and three forced fumbles. I am not going to compere Bradford to one Von Miller, but his role on the Arizona State defense isn’t too far off what Miller did in his time at Texas A&M.
Von Miller is an elite level prospect, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but Bradford is a very nice looking player in his own right. He came into his own as one of the top playmakers on the ASU defense last year, and it didn’t come without any hard work. Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports ranked Bradford the #16 player on his annual “Freaks List” which is dedicated to the best workout warriors in college football:
“One of the Pac-12’s top playmakers is also one of its biggest Freaks. On the field, the 6-1, 241-pounder stood out by piling up 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss last season. Off the field, Bradford is a beast in the weight room, squatting 641 pounds and power cleaning 385 to go with a team-best 10-2 broad jump. He also vertical jumps 35.5 inches.”
This guy looks like the real deal. The sky is the limit for him.
21 S/LB Chris Young (6’0″ 232 pounds, SENIOR)
Young is an interesting playmaker on the defensive side of the ball who plays a sort of hybrid linebacker/safety role for the Sun Devils’ defense. He came over as the defensive player of the year in his league at a junior college, and had a very nice season statistically for the Sun Devils. He put up 83 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, four passes broken up, and a forced fumble. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, but Young definitely has some skills that translate to the next level. There was a hybrid LB/S last year that I evaluated named DeVonte Holloman out of South Carolina that Young could model his game after a bit. He has some similar skills and if he can improve his coverage ability and put on a little bit of muscle, he could wind up as a starting linebacker in the league, or at worst a big special teams player.
4 S Alden Darby (5’11” 195 pounds, SENIOR)
Former wide receiver whose skills translated really well to the safety position. Last year as a junior, Darby had three interceptions returned for 154 yards and a touchdown, and he also finished with 80 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four passes broken up, and a forced fumble. Despite his season stats, scouts are a bit concerned about his size moving forward to the next level. If he can get up to about 200-205 pounds, he should get legitimate consideration in the mid-late rounds provided he tests well in the offseason. His junior tape is good enough to make scouts at least take a second look.
24 CB Orashon Irabor (5’11” 182 pounds, SENIOR)
One of the most consistent corners on the Arizona State roster and a guy who could be a nice find in the mid-rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. He is a physical corner who had 14 pass breakups last year, but he only has three interceptions to his name in three seasons at Arizona State. According to CBS Sports, Irabor also wasn’t flagged at all last year for pass interference, so he plays clean. If he can prove he has better ball skills in 2013, he should be a really interesting prospect to follow that has some nice upside one day three.
1 RB Marion Grice (6’0″ 199 pounds, SENIOR)
Former junior college transfer who made a huge impact on the Sun Devils’ offense in his first year on campus. Only carried the ball 103 times but finished with 679 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also caught 41 passes for 425 yards and eight more scores. Finished with over 1,100 yards of total offense with 19 touchdowns and it’s pretty clear why when you turn on the highlight reel. Grice has excellent burst, and acceleration out of his cuts. He has good cutback vision and can take it to the second and third level in the blink of an eye. Has an incredible ability to make defenders miss, and has a nose for the end zone. This is a player I like more and more the more I watch him. He has that killer instinct as a runner, and is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Big play threat who is just tapping into his enormous potential. He looks like he could have second or third round ability at this point.
87 TE/H-Back Chris Coyle (6’3″ 230 pounds, SENIOR)
Coyle led the Sun Devils with 57 catches for 696 yards last season, and also added five touchdowns. He’s kind of caught between positions as he looks to transition to the NFL, but he could play as an H-back of flex option out of the backfield or TE position. He isn’t big enough to be a full-time traditional TE in the NFL, so he will have a tough time making a team because of that, but if the guy can prove he can catch the ball consistently, he should be able to crack an NFL roster.