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NFL Draft 2014: Best and worst case landing spots each ASU player

The Sun Devils could have multiple players chosen today.


Draft day can be like the ultimate roller coaster ride in life. One minute, a player thinks he's about to live out every football player's dream: playing in the National Football League. Two hours, two days, sometimes two weeks go by and it can feel like the roller coaster derailed midway through a loop. Then the phone rings, and all of a sudden that roller coaster is smoothly back on the tracks and arrives in the station, and all is fine.

Sometimes, the roller coaster never lands. Welcome to NFL draft weekend.

No less than 10 Arizona State Sun Devils expect to have an NFL home by the time training camp starts; as many as 10 could be drafted. But history tells us that 10 is unlikely, unless ASU became Alabama or Florida State while we were all sleeping. So here are the best and worst-case scenarios for the Sun Devils most likely to end up on NFL rosters, either this weekend or, in several cases, in the next week.

DT Will Sutton

Best Case: Seattle Seahawks - Round 2, Pick 64

Sutton needs a team to fall in love with his tape from 2012, when the lighter (and quicker) defensive tackle was unstoppable and battered opposing quarterbacks at will. In this case, that team would be the Seattle Seahawks, who've lost some depth on the defensive line and have found a way to get the most out of 4-3 defensive linemen in the past. Bruce Irvin, Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald have all been moved around and made more productive by the coaching staff in Seattle. Adding Sutton as the under tackle/3-technique and allowing him to work in the Seahawks' NASCAR package could really help the two time Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year thrive at the next level.

Worst Case: New England Patriots - Round 4, Pick 140 (Compensatory Selection)

Sutton shouldn't fall past the Patriots at the end of the fourth round. He's too talented when he's on for New England, and specifically Bill Belichick, to let him last into the fifth round. Still, what a fall from grace this would be for Sutton, who was once thought to be a back-of-the-first type of player. Still, Sutton would be a nice addition to a team that plays multiple fronts. In New England, Sutton could bounce between an under tackle in a 4-3 and experiment as a bigger end in a 3-4.

LB Carl Bradford

Best Case: Dallas Cowboys - Round 2, Pick 47

A few different draft experts have linked Bradford to the Cowboys, and he would be a nice fit as a replacement for Demarcus Ware. A pure pass rusher with limited experience dropping into coverage, Bradford is at his best standing up and splitting out wide past the tackle, where he excelled as a Sun Devil. I think Bradford is a real sleeper in this draft as a player being knocked solely for his size. He plays quicker than he worked out, and he's proven his strength. This would be a win-win for everyone involved.

Worst Case: Baltimore Ravens - Round 3, Pick 99 (Compensatory Selection)

Bradford's floor isn't as low as Sutton because he doesn't have really poor tape from 2013, worked out better than his former tag team partner, and plays a more valuable position in todays NFL. The Ravens have been looking to develop an edge rusher opposite of Terrell Suggs for a few seasons, but Sergio Kindle hasn't panned out and T-Sizzle isn't getting any younger. Bradford wouldn't be pressured to start immediately in Baltimore and could end of being a star in that defense two or three years from now. This definitely isn't a bad worst-case scenario.

S Alden Darby

Best Case: San Francisco 49ers - Round 5, Pick 170

This is extremely best case for Darby, but the 49ers need depth at safety. Craig Dahl did not impress them in a reserve role in 2013, and they've exchanged Donte Whitner for Antoine Bethea, a slight downgrade but also a lesser long-term commitment. Eric Reid was fantastic in 2013, but also suffered a few minor injuries that caused him to miss time. Darby is precisely the type of player the 49ers look for later in the draft; he's smart, a leader, willing to do anything for his team and will put it all on the line when it matters most. He's not the best athlete and he's not the most talented football player, but he'll contribute on special teams and be a player the 49ers can mold as they wish.

Worst Case: Undrafted free agent signee

I don't see Darby going undrafted, and if he does, it would really be a shame. That being said, it could happen for some of those very reasons I discussed above. Late in the draft teams tend to swing for the fences. It's why we see as many sixth and seventh round players pan out as we do fourth and fifth. Physical specimens are favorites of NFL teams in the late rounds, and Darby is most certainly not a physical specimen. If teams aren't sure he can cover anyone at the next level, he won't get drafted. Nobody drafts special teams only players, they go and sign them after the draft.

TE Chris Coyle

Best Case: New York Jets - Round 7, Pick 233

Has anyone seen the Jets group of tight ends lately? It's bad. Real bad. Coyle lacks a lot of things: speed, size and blocking strength. But he can run routes and catch the ball, and if he can contribute enough on special teams, that makes him worth a look as some sort of hybrid H-back. The Jets need all of the receiving talent they can get at this point, and Coyle's hands are good enough to be a reliable underneath guy a few times a game. But that's about all he will ever be.

Worst Case: Never gets a camp invite

The worst-case scenario for Coyle means his football career has all but ended. He's so small for a tight end in today's NFL, and only two or three teams use a true H-back. Even on the teams that do, the H-back can run low 4.5s to high 4.4s in the 40-yard dash. Coyle just isn't explosive enough, and he's neither big enough nor physical enough to be the blocking tight end. Actually, the way the NFL game is moving, most teams only carry two tight ends anyways. I think he'll get a shot, but if you said he doesn't, I wouldn't be stunned. I would, however, be sad.  Coyle has been a real pleasure to cover the last two years.

CB Osahon Irabor

Best Case: New Orleans Saints - Round 4, Pick 126

Irabor is a player who impressed a lot of NFL personnel with his ability to play both press coverage and with his ability to stop the run. A relentless tackler with great instincts, he'd fit in well on a Saints team that needs depth at corner. Irabor is a leader, is well spoken and has a great understanding of the game that makes up for his less-than-ideal speed and quickness. But New Orleans is a city that loves hard workers, and Irabor is blue collar to the core.

Worst Case: Jacksonville Jaguars - Round 7, Pick 222

The Jaguars need leaders, and they need corners. Irabor could solve both problems while giving the Jags a quality player in the last round of the draft. If Irabor falls this far, it will only be because of the depth at his position in this draft and his lack of explosive numbers in workout drills. Not being invited to the combine (still a shock) didn't help him, either, as getting in front of coaches and player personnel groups for interviews would have really helped his draft stock.

CB Robert Nelson

Best Case: Carolina Panthers - Round 6, Pick 204

Speaking of teams with needs in the secondary, Carolina has plenty of them. Nelson runs well and has nice size for a corner, and I think he could also play a little safety at the next level, too. The Panthers have needs at both positions and don't have a punt returner with Ted Ginn now in Arizona. I know, Arizona State fans everywhere just shrieked at the thought of Nelson fumbling a punt. But NFL teams still find a way to trust a failed returner more than an unproven one, so Nelson has that in his favor.

Worst Case: Undrafted free agent signee

Nelson won't last long on the open market if he doesn't get drafted, which is probably the most likely scenario for him. Teams are always trying to find the next big thing at corner, and the position actually has a great track record of delivering stars out of late round and undrafted players. I'm not saying Nelson will be a star, but his athleticism and experience will get him a shot with an NFL team this summer.

RB Marion Grice

Best Case: Atlanta Falcons - Round 7, Pick 220

Wow. I never thought I'd write that, but the more I looked at the draft, the more I believe Grice simply won't get drafted ahead of the final round. His ankle injury will scare off many teams, and running backs are already a dying breed on draft day. Grice also doesn't workout well, nor does he practice well. I can't remember watching Grice at practice and saying ‘wow, this guy is a stud.' But when the lights are on and the other team isn't wearing maroon and gold, he's a special talent. Atlanta would be a great spot for him to learn from a similar, albeit much more athletic, running back in Steven Jackson. Both are deceptively strong runners between the tackles, neither is afraid of contact, and both catch the ball like wide receivers.

Worst Case: Undrafted free agent signee

If Grice isn't drafted, he might have to wait a few days to sign with a team. He might also bounce around a little before he lands on his final team during training camp. But in the end, some team is going to get Grice in camp and find out they have one heck of a football player.

LT Evan Finkenberg

Best Case: Cincinnati Bengals - Round 6, Pick 199

Finkenberg has experience on his side, but that's about it. He's not that big and he's not that strong, and he certainly doesn't project as a starting left tackle in the NFL. But I could see Finkenberg settle into a swing tackle role, in the mold of Adam Snyder, as a played who can play both tackles and guard in a pinch as the seventh or eighth lineman on a team. I don't see him getting drafted, but if he does, Cincinnati makes sense as a team with a nice core on the line, but serious depth questions.

Worst Case: Never gets a camp invite

Finkenberg just doesn't stand out. Was he ever really bad for the Sun Devils? No. But he also never shined. The offensive line was a disappointment and Finkenberg's inability to take the next step factored into that. He deserves a shot to be a utility lineman, but he played out of position for NFL purposes his entire college career and needs to be more physical.

DE Gannon Conway

Best Case: Arizona Cardinals - Round 6, Pick 196

Yeah, Gannon Conway helped himself that much. I don't think he gets picked this high, but the Cardinals presumably saw him more than any team in the NFL, and between watching him practice and play and talking to the Arizona State coaches, they've got to know what they would be getting. Conway also had a spectacular pro day, running well and dominating on the bench press. He would be perfect as a super poor man's version of Justin Smith or J.J. Watt in a 3-4 defense, or Red Bryant look alike in a 4-3, stopping the run and creating more pressure than you'd assume.

Worst Case: Undrafted free agent signee

Conway is going to get a shot, and he's going to stick when he does. If he goes undrafted at this point, it would surprise me a little bit. The guy has done nothing but overcome adversity in his playing career, from earning a scholarship to stealing a starting job and then becoming one of the most consistent players on the Sun Devils defense in 2013. He's a quality person, too, and that goes a long way at the back of the draft. The fact that he can play in multiple defenses, either as a two down end in a 4-3 or a three down end in a 3-4, helps his cause, too.

DE Davon Coleman, LB Chris Young, WR Kevin Ozier and LB Steffon Martin

All four of these players have a chance to sign somewhere after the draft, and I'd be surprised if Coleman and Young weren't both on teams pretty quickly. But all four have major flaws that limit their chances to stick in the NFL. Coleman's is size. He's too slow for his size and strength. Young has speed issues, too, and nobody is sure if he can run sideline-to-sideline in the NFL. Ozier also has speed concerns, among other athletic questions. Martin simply never matured as a Sun Devil. He looks the part of a linebacker, but he never put it all together.

That's it, really. Sorry Sun Devil fans, but if you're favorite draft eligible player is Jake Sheffield or Darwin Rogers, Marlon Pollard or Grandville Taylor, you're probably going to have to start looking for semi-pro and smaller Arena Football teams to catch them in action. Still, given how unfriendly the NFL has been to Arizona State football players over the last four years, having five to seven players drafted and nine to eleven find homes would have to be considered a win.