Fans of all 32 teams wait in anticipation as the 81st annual NFL draft begins on Thursday night with most of the early drama drama centering on what team will select what quarterback within the first few picks of Thursday night’s first round.
This year’s draft hopefuls follow a successful 2015 Sun Devil draft class for head coach Todd Graham. One where four of his players were selected, including the likes of cornerback Damarious Randall in the first round by the Packers. Graham had previously logged back-to-back years with three selections each, but last years class looks to become the gold standard far his football program.
ASU fans will be kept waiting as well as the duo of heralded hometown heroes in D.J. Foster and Christian Westerman, anxiously anticipate when they will hear their names called in Chicago.
Christian Westerman, Guard
Westerman, he of 25 career starts at guard under his belt with the Devils, looks to be a sure-fire selection with most analysts rating him among the best five guards available for selection this weekend. The local prep standout has the resume items you look for in an NFL draft selection; be it his five-star rating coming out of Hamilton (top recruit in Arizona ‘10), his ability to excel at the combine, recording 34 bench-press reps, tops of any offensive linemen back in February’s NFL Scouting Combine, not to mention the fact he has offensive linemen in his family tree.
Mike Mayock, the NFL Network’s draft guru, hasn’t shied from his love of Westerman since his combine performance. “Westerman is another guard I like in those mid-rounds; I think he’s going to be a starting guard quickly,” said Mayock when recapping the latest combine. In his final draft class rankings, Mayock has Westerman rated as the third best guard behind the likes of all-world Pac-12 standout Josh Garnett (Stanford) and four-year starter Cody Whitehair (Kansas State).
Teams will be keying on Westerman’s athleticism and ability to get off the ball quickly. Time after time former ASU offensive coordinator used these traits in the run game to get Westerman out on pull blocks into the second level of defenses. Combined with his stretch and technical prowess, he seems to fit into a team looking to utilize zone blocking schemes within its offense.
Like many NFL offenses now days, Westerman will need to show he’s able to play in a zone scheme as well as that where his iso blocking is critical. Most see him excelling at the former, however his challenge will be showing his first professional offensive line coach that his weight room strength matches that of his on-field power against the likes of interior linemen who have 30-50 pounds on him. His ideal situation would be to land in an offense that utilizes his athleticism in a pass heavy/ zone-heavy system.
Likely draft selection: Round 2-4
D.J. Foster, Running Back / Wide Receiver
Few players in Sun Devil history have put up the all-encompassing numbers of Foster. One of just five players in FBS history with more than 2,000 yards in their career (both receiving and rushing) he’ll be remembered as being a selfless player doing whatever was asked by his coaches across his four Sun Devil seasons and 53 games.
While Foster’s senior season may not have matched the enormous expectations when he announced he would stay for his senior year back in December of 2014, his consistency can’t be denied, highlighted by his 53-game reception streak (best in Pac-12 history). After starting his career as a pass catching running back, Foster took over the bulk of carries in Norvell’s offense during the 2014 season totaling 1,081 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He caught 121 passes during his junior and senior seasons moving back-and-forth between the running back and receiver position.
While his 4.57-40 time at the Combine left some questioning his long speed, the 5-foot-10, 193 pound Foster looks to catch the eye of teams desiring a multi-faceted player along the lines of a Danny Woodhead, Dexter McCluster, Shane Vereen, or even Dion Lewis-type running back. One that can line-up in the backfield for multiple carries a game while also catching passes in the slot. While his short shuttle and 3-cone performance in Indianapolis showed off his explosiveness in close quarters, his Pro Day showed improvement in his 40-times as Foster posted sub-4.5 times while running in the comfy confines of the Dickey Dome.
If there’s an area he’ll need to show improvement on to stick as an NFL pass catcher, it will be his ability to move off defenders initially at the snap and prevent himself from being re-routed by bigger secondary defenders in the middle of his routes. Regardless, it today’s pass-aggressive NFL, Foster’s ability to stay on the field due to his position flexibility should suit an offense running no-huddle schemes.
Likely draft selection: Round 5-7
Best of the Rest
Randall’s first round selection last year helped set the bar for what all future Sun Devils prospects are to
be measured going forward. His day one selection ended what at the time was the longest first round selection drought in program history. And as Todd Graham’s recruiting classes continue to build momentum, in theory, the prestige of his groomed draft-eligible prospects should follow suit.
The likes of Mike Bercovici, Antonio Longino, Devin Lucien, and Vi Teofilo may have to wait until directly after the draft to find work as undrafted free agents, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if any of the four hear their names called.
Bercovici has in his favor that the back-end of the quarterback pool is wide open going into Saturday. Teams could select from a wide array of options that could include the firey 6-foot-1, 200-pound signal caller who finished the season throwing ten touchdowns in his final three contests, turning the ball over just once.
In 12 starts during the 2015 season, Logino registered 22.5 tackles for loss (sixth best in school history). He might have to prove his worth on special teams early on, his motor and pass rush skills could help secure employment long term as a WILL in a 4-3 scheme.
Pro Football Focus wrote that Lucien “may have the best hands in the draft,” with just 5 dropped passes over the past two seasons, comparing him to the likes of Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs. While Teofilo was the story of ASU Pro Day adding to his resume of 40 consecutive starts at guard with a 43-rep performance on the bench back in March.
Whether we hear just Westerman’s name called, or if he’s joined by the likes of Foster and any of the of the other three. This draft will continue the trend of unpredictability when it comes to knowing the fate of the Sun Devil prospects by the time of Mr. Irrelevant being announced on Saturday afternoon as the final selection.