The Sun Devils football program walked away from last weekend’s NFL Draft festivities having witnessed one of its most successful representations this century as it saw four members of it’s 2015 roster selected in the first four rounds. This being the first time the team had accomplished the feat since the 2000 NFL Draft when the likes of Erik Flowers, Marvel Smith, J.R. Redmond, Terrelle Smith, and Junior Ioane were selected, then over the course of two days.
Across the board, it was a very successful first four rounds of the latest league draft as a whole for the Pac-12 conference who saw more players on average drafted from their teams than any other of the Big Five conferences.
It was also a much more successful draft for a smaller amount of early draft entrants (non-seniors) with nearly a quarter of all non-seniors being selected being selected as part of the total drafted class of 256 players. This included the likes of Jaelen Strong, who unfortunately saw his stock drop in this draft, with ten receivers hearing their names called before the 2015 ESPN.com All-America. Strong, who declared for the draft after his junior season, was part of 74 early entrants (and seven other underclassmen wide receivers) to make themselves available to NFL teams before the draft, 60 of which were selected by the end of Saturday. The 81-percent success rate was a major improvement over last year where only 59% of the 98 underclassmen were selected over the course of the 2014 NFL Draft.
While the conference as a whole saw mixed results with total players available being drafted, they finished the 2015 with nearly 58% of all draft eligible players being selected by teams over the course of the three days. The best of which including ten players going in the third round of the draft on Friday night. It’s 25 picks in the first 99 selections were the most of any of the Big 5 conferences.
Damarious Randall, defensive back
Drafted: 1st round, 30th overall by the Green Bay Packers
How he fits: Packers GM Ted Thompson, who has been known to pick the best player available on his team’s draft board over the years (regardless of team needs), spoke of how Randall would fit into defensive coordinator Dom Caper’s 3-4 hybrid scheme, “We’ll probably line him up as a corner. In Dom’s system, those guys are all over the place.”
2015 impact: The Packers have now selected a safety as their first round pick for the second consecutive year, much to the surprise of many of its fans. But the team needed an overall at the position going into last year’s off-season and Clinton-Dix did his part to absolve those issues single-handedly. That being said, in today’s NFL game, you just can’t have enough corners, with most teams’ slot corners seeing regular duty in the pass happy game that is the present day.
Randall came to ASU as a junior college corner, and it could be said that Green Bay selected him after four other corners were selected in the first round because Capers isn’t afraid to put his eleven best players out on the field at any one time. While many mock-drafts saw the Sun Devils leading tackler in 2015 as a centerfield-type free safety for teams, selecting him in the first leads one to assume Green Bay looks to get Randall out on the field as soon as possible, and the present need on their depth chart is at corner.
Much like the Sun Devils under head coach Todd Graham, Capers likes to blitz and therefore necessitates man-coverage the majority of the time from his secondary personell. That plays into Randall’s strengths, especially with the Packers off-season loss of corner Tramon Williams, helping him see the field early and often when the season begins.
Jaelen Strong, wide receiver
Drafted: 3rd round, 70th overall by the Houston Texans
How he fits: Texans general manager Rick Smith was super aggressive during Day Two of the NFL Draft, trading up twice on the night to get the player he saw undervalued by others and highest available at the time of the pick on the team’s draft board. In stoping Strong’s slide from potential first round pick to the 70th selection, Smith gave up a fifth, a seventh-rounder, and receiver DeVier Posey.
In regards to Strong, head coach Bill O’Brien gave a bit of a peak in how he views the former Sun Devil receiver’s outlook, “I think all these guys come in as backup players. It’s important for these guys to get off on the right foot, get into the meetings, prepare for the meetings, learn the meetings, the walkthroughs and then go out on the practice field and try to get better every single day. As long as they do that, they’ll all have a shot to play at some point in time. When you talk about starters, we have so many different personnel groups on both sides of the ball, it depends on who we’re playing, we’re a game plan on offense, game plan defense. The expectation will be for these guys to come in and work extremely hard, get better every day on the practice field and help us, no question about it.”
2015 impact: Strong’s third round selections has the potential to be the steal of the draft. One thing is for sure; Strong is going to have a first round grade chip on his shoulder. Adversity is nothing new for a player who received just a single FBS scholarship offer upon graduating high school. He stated on social media that he would be wearing number eleven on his jersey as motivation for the ten players that were selected ahead of him in the draft. While O’Brien preaches conservative depth chart talk, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be spending the majority of his time on the opposite side of the field from DeAndre Hopkins as Andre Johnson’s replacement. The real question Sun Devil fans should be concerned about is who will be throwing passes Strong’s way in 2015 in the battle of former Tom Brady backups? Ryan Mallet, who started two games for the Texans in 2014 is the incumbent, joined by Brian Hoyer an off-season free agent signing.
Jamil Douglas, offensive lineman
Drafted: 4th round, 130th overall by the Miami Dolphins
How he fits: Second year general manager Dennis Hickey stated in his team’s press conference that the team saw Douglas as a left guard but is open to his positional flexibility. “He brings toughness, athleticism and the ability to play multiple positions.”
2015 impact: Thirty consecutive starts at three different positions will lend to Douglas’ resume as he heads to rookie mini-camp this weekend under the guidance of his new offensive line coach John Benton. He has as good a chance as nearly any fourth round pick selected in the draft of landing a starting role with a slew of veterans led by Dallas Thomas standing in-between him and the starting left guard slot. He also could provide depth at right tackle Ja’Wuan James.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 2, 2015
Marcus Hardison, defensive tackle
Drafted: 4th round, 135th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals
How he fits: Boy the Bengals seem to have success picking interior defensive linemen in those middle rounds, having already filled their two-deep of Brandon Thompson, Geno Atkins, Pat Sims, and Domata Peko with these picks in recent years. Going into the draft, Hardison’s best shot at early success would seemingly come from a team that viewed him in the role of a 3-technique defensive tackle. That would allow Hardison to excel as an interior pass rusher shading to the outside shoulder of the guard across the line of scrimmage. This will help Hardison play to his strengths, namely speed and agility to disrupt plays in the backfield.
2015 impact: Unlike Douglas, there seems to be no rush with Hardison’s development process in Cincinnati. The team’s fourth round compensatory pick should see time early on in pass rushing situations as that area was really lacking in terms of production in 2014. Long-term he could certainly throw his name into the ring as a replacement for Atkins if he can’t get back to his pre-injury All-Pro level of play.
— JuCo Football Forer (@JuCoFootballACE) May 3, 2015
Undrafted free agent news
- De’Marieya Nelson signed as an undrafted free agent over the weekend with the Cleveland Browns
- Taylor Kelly received an invite to Arizona Cardinals rookie minicamp.
- Tyler Sulka will be among 22 undrafted free agents invited to Atlanta Falcons rookie minicamp.
Graphical data and statistical analysis for this article provided by Gary Doran.