Rob Malara

NFL Draft Weekend Recap

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As Arizona State steps up its recruiting efforts during Todd Graham’s third cycle with the program both he and his coaches have needed more more selling points to go along with their 18 wins over the past two seasons.  Having the ability to put players into the NFL is one of the best attributes a recruiter can showcase for recruits and parents looking for a reason to sign their letter of intent.   Therefore, with three of Graham’s former players getting the call from pro teams over the weekend during the 2014 NFL Draft along with the Sun Devil Stadium renovations, the needle of momentum around the program continues to point in a positive direction going into the summer.

Will Sutton, the two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, became the first player from either of the Arizona schools to hear his name called on Friday.  Selected 82nd overall in the third round by the Chicago Bears, Sutton will be thrusted into the heart of a rebuilding effort along the Bears defensive line by General Manager Phil Emery.  The Chicago defense was dead last in stopping the run last season, with Emery focusing on the front line as his area of emphasis for roster turnover.  Sutton will join a defensive front that added Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston through free agency in the off-season as well as fellow draft pick Ego Ferguson.  

If Sutton is part of the 4-3 rotation as a 3-technique, he’ll be allowed to do what he did best for the Sun Devils in 2012 and 2013, be a one gap penetrator attacking the b-gap off the offensive guard.  And with the depth Chicago has spent a lot of money to acquire this off-season he should be able to stay fresh and avoid the necessity of putting weight on to avoid wearing down.  While he did slip from being thought of as a 1st round pick back in 2013 had he decided to declare early for the draft, landing with a team using the Bears current scheme and working with defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni should really enhance Sutton’s ability to succeed going forward.

Fans began to get nervous as Friday came to a close without Carl Bradford’s name among the list of those drafted.  But much like that of Sutton, good things came to those who waited, in this case into Saturday morning.  Bradford was selected mid-way through the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers, 121nd overall, four spots after University of Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Once again similar to Sutton, Bradford is joining a position group under much scrutiny due to their 2013 performance that ultimately cost their former coach Kevin Greene his job.  Drafted to fit a need of Green Bay at outside linebacker, he will now be playing in an attack-based 3-4 scheme in need of bodies with the skill-set he possesses after suffering through an injury plagued season.  Bradford’s best attribute is his ability to put his hand in the dirt and get after the quarterback and generally cause havoc in the offensive backfield.  It will be interesting to see how he transitions to being a full-time outside backer under newly appointed linebackers coach Winston Moss.  Opposing NFC North quarterbacks may wince at the sight of he and Clay Matthews in the same sub package on passing downs.

With the Bradford selection, ASU avoided the fate suffered by a handful of other Pac-12 teams,  underclassmen declaring early only to go undrafted.  And while the first round was made up of 16 underclassmen, it was a painful trend through this draft cycle that witnessed and around 40 percent failure rate of player who might have been better off returning to school for another year of development.

Joining Bradford as a Saturday selection was  Marion Grice, selected in the sixth round, 201st overall surprisingly by the San Diego Chargers.  An interesting fit for GM Tom Telesco as his depth chart is currently full of high priced veterans at the position.  But Grice’s experience playing special teams for Graham in his two seasons as a Devil may have helped push him up the San Diego draft board as a player who can contribute early on before roster issues get sorted out during the 2015 off-season.

While he wasn’t one of the fastest running backs available, Grice’s ability to catch the football (863 yards on 91 receptions and 14 touchdowns) and return kicks and pass block made him a valuable commodity even with the presence of veterans Ryan Matthews, Donald Brown, and Danny Woodhead.

With all the positives of having three players drafted, ASU did however continue its streak of more than a decade without a player selected in the first round  at Radio City Music Hall.  And now fans will wait another hundred days or so until finding out who may be selected in the 2015 NFL Draft when the season kicks off against Weber State.  And for those looking to judge talent based off total selections would be disappointed to know the Pac-12 was third in total players selected (34) behind the SEC (49) and the ACC (42).

The remainder of the weekend saw continued success with those players not fortunate enough to get drafted finding new homes, for the time being, as undrafted free agents getting invites to summer camp.  Among those reported signings were Davon Coleman (Cowboys), Gannon Conway (Dolphins), Chris Coyle (Texans), Alden Darby (Chargers), Evan Finkenberg (Dolphins), Robert Nelson (Browns), and Chris Young (also with the Texans).

 

 

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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