Rob Malara

Sun Devil Combine Recap: Jaelen Strong


Pardon this author if he had to rub his eyes and pinch himself on more than one occasion over the course of the NFL Combine weekend.  But it had been a while since multiple NFL Draft gurus have had as many pleasant things to say about former ASU players, as was the case on Saturday and Monday, while observers could hear NFL Network’s Mike Mayock re-establishing his comparison of former ASU receiver Jaelen Strong to the Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald. Not to mention Mayock singing the praises of former Sun Devil safety Damarious Randall.

It’s not that the either player had committed any wrongs, having obviously put in the work once the 2014 season reached its completion after stand-out college careers.  It’s just that it had been quite a few years since Sun Devil fans have had a positive outlook on multiple players going into the combine, meeting with positive results from the players when the event came to its conclusion.  In fact by the end of Monday, at least three of the four ASU players invited from Tempe, had positively impacted their draft status.

Even with the success of his former teammates, the story and the buzz of the weekend was Strong exceeding even the most aggressive expectations of his combine output, running a 4.44-40 yard dash and recording the second best vertical leap of any player at his position.  These numbers combined with his physical measurements and statistical output over the past two seasons with the Devils would at this time give him a stronger argument as a first round pick in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft.

Strong was one of three former junior college players at the Combine for the Devils, something that could once again put a feather in the cap of Todd Graham’s talent evaluation acumen while being forced to make due with roster turnover from the Dennis Erickson days.

In fact, in a time where top talent is selective about the activities they perform in at the NFL Scouting Combine, Strong did absolutely nothing to hurt himself on Saturday, running better than most imagined, lifting well, and taking care of business in the drills session that followed.  His performance was a breath of fresh air for Sun Devil fans who had witnessed poor combine performances as of late, especially involving 40 times.  While he is unfortunate to be part of an extremely deep and versatile receiving pool within this years draft class, he has done everything possible to erase any doubts he doesn’t belong in that next tier of wide receivers just behind the likes of Kevin White, Amari Cooper, and Devante Parker.

If the NFL Combine is the ultimate job interview in sports, it’s safe to say Strong aced the process and then some backing his physical gifts and college tape with the ability to compete among his peers and perform above expectations.  When ASU Head Coach of Sports Performance Shawn Griswold was on the ASU Devils Den Podcast last spring, he talked about the importance of players making good decisions in their draft prep.  Taking care of their bodies, no longer under school supervision, while picking the right performance centers to train them in the drills needed to succeed at the combine in the months of January and February not to mention the remainder of those leading up to the draft beginning at the end of April.

While Griswold can’t take credit for the last month and a half of Strong’s development, he and Graham can certainly be proud of the player he had a part in developing physically and mentally over the past two years in Tempe.

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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