Rob Malara

NFL Draft: Is Friday the Day for Bradford and Sutton?

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If you’re looking to sing the fight song tonight in honor of the maroon and gold having one of their own selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft you might have to wait at least a day according to draft gurus.  Having made their final rankings of top prospects available for the 2014 NFL Draft to the public, neither  Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, nor Mike Mayock have rated within their top 100 former Arizona State stand-outs Carl Bradford or Will Sutton.  Gil Brandt, former Vice President of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988, and fellow NFL.com member to Mayock, did manage to slot ASU Devilbacker Carl Bradford 60th in his final rankings, bucking the trend of the three most well respected draft prognosticators in the industry.

This year, more than ever it seems, the current group of Sun Devil players looking to take the step to the next level have seen their stock bounce in a way not witnessed in recent memory.  Going into last year’s draft, two time Pac-12 Player of the Year Will Sutton could have been selected easily within the first two rounds as a premier defensive tackle but now ranks as Kiper’s 17th best at the position thanks in part to a lackluster showing at both the NFL Combine in February followed up by more of the same at his Pro Day a few weeks later.

Marion Grice found the end zone 39 times in his two seasons playing running back for head coach Todd Graham, but the combination of a broken fibula suffered towards the end of the 2013 season and questions about his speed and durability predict him to be taken within the first 25 members of his position group.  There is an outside chance an offensive coordinator or position coach will lean in on his war room’s decision makers to select Grice a bit early due to his innate ability to catch the football out of the backfield as well as his nose for the end zone.

However there is one player that chose to leave school early who has vaulted over Sutton to become the best chance ASU has to landing a Day Two selection in the second round.  And while he isn’t without his detractors, Bradford has the most upside in the mind of teams that are constantly searching for dynamic players with the ability to get to the quarterback.  Ranked eighth among all outside linebackers according to Kiper, Bradford sits behind UCLA standout pass rusher Anthony Barr and just ahead of Stanford’s Trent Murphy.

Bradford is a player that NFL defensive coaches can dream on due to his flexibility.  Having played in both the 4-3 under Dennis Erickson, and then the multi-front defense under Todd Graham, he could be a guy who doesn’t find his true position for two or three years down the road.

The real question that many ASU fans are waiting to have answered is who comes next?  Names like Alden Darby, Even Finkenberg, Chris Coyle, Chris Young, Davon Coleman, Robert Nelson, Gannon Conway, and Osahon Irabor all could have their names called in the last few hours of the draft on Saturday, but are more than likely to be signed quickly as Undrafted Free Agents in the hours immediately following the draft on Saturday night and going into Sunday.  Darby being ranked as the 26th best cornerback available seemingly has the best chance of the group.

In the end we may have to wait until the 2015 NFL Draft before we see another Sun Devil taken among the first 32 picks overall when a player like wide receiver Jaelen Strong once again have the opportunity to declare.  But if we’ve learned anything in the past 365 days, anything can happen to boost or drop a player’s draft stock.

About Rob Malara

Rob Malara

Rob Malara is a 2002 Sun Devil grad having spent the majority of his time in Tempe as a football, basketball, and baseball season ticket holder and front row inhabitant. A member of the Football Writers Association of America, he hosted the ASU Devils podcast and was its sub-optimal technical producer through its lifespan. Currently the president of the ASU Alumni Association's Northern Colorado Club, he is part of a family of maroon and gold residing in Fort Collins with his Sun Devil wife and nearby Sun Devil sister.

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