Bill Slane

Late game heroics do not overshadow Sutton’s shaky season according to draft critics

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Senior defensive lineman Will Sutton made Sun Devil nation very happy when he announced he would be returning for one more year at ASU after last season. After a junior season where he totaled 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss, Sutton decided that another year as a Sun Devil would help his draft stock for the NFL. Sutton also decided to put on some extra weight after a lot of scouts for NFL teams thought he was too small to play effectively at the next level. Through nine games Sutton has not been an impact on the stats sheet, and that will certainly not bode well for his draft stock after the season ends.

At this point of the season a year ago Sutton had already totaled 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, he has well under half of both of those totals right now (2 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss). Sutton certainly has to deal with more double teams this year than he did when he was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, but he was still expected to win a lot of those battles up front. Draft scouts and experts like ESPN’s Todd McShay think that the off-season weight gain is hurting Sutton more than helping, as Sutton hoped it would.

AZCentral’s Doug Haller spoke with McShay last month about the draft stock of Sutton and his offseason weight gain.

“The problem is, not everyone can put on the kind of weight that he did and maintain the burst and the explosiveness that he had, which was his greatest strength,” McShay said in a teleconference.

McShay still believes that Sutton is a mid-second round talent and can be effective in the NFL if he slims back down a bit.

“He’s still a very, very effective player, and a dominant player at times. But I do think the team that drafts him will want him closer to 290 than 310,” McShay said.

The less than stellar season Sutton is having can be easily forgotten after Saturday when it was his late game interception, the first of his career, which sealed a big road victory for the Sun Devils over Utah.  But the fact remains that Sutton is simply not living up to the title of the Pac-12  Defensive Player of the Year this season statistically.  The extra weight Sutton has put on has slowed him down some but the bigger issue appears to be his motor late in games.  On the interception play for example, it appeared Sutton had given up on trying to beat the double and was just in the right place at the right time to get the interception.

It could also be said however that great football players simply make great plays.  Sutton did just that on Saturday to help his team win on the road.  Draft scouts could look at a play like that and see that Sutton can help a team win games without being dominant at collapsing the pocket on every single play.  Sutton could also shed some of the weight, perhaps allowing him to gain back some of the motor he has lost this season.  That is something Sutton can show off at the combine/pro days/individual workouts in the off season.

At this point however, Sutton is likely just happy to be helping the Sun Devils win football games in 2013 and will worry about what NFL thinks of him when the season is over.

 

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