The Arizona State Sun Devils enter this season without a lot of the popular names that led the team over the last several years. Most of those players are currently battling for roster spots in the NFL. However, for the next crop of ASU talent, this is now their team and their time to show the NFL that they belong.
In May, three Sun Devils were drafted and several others signed deals with teams following the selection process. On paper, it would seem that there will be a lot less ASU players going to the NFL from this year’s squad. Depending on the status of wide receiver Jaelen Strong following the season, there stands a chance that the Sun Devils won’t have representation at all in next year’s draft.
The Sun Devils have three quality offensive players that should garner NFL interest with a positive season. Strong, depending on if he wants to forgo his redshirt senior season, is the surefire prospect of the bunch. Quarterback Taylor Kelly and lineman Jamil Douglas are also a duo to keep an eye on as the 2014 campaign gets underway.
Let’s take a look at where they stand before the season:
Taylor Kelly, Quarterback, Senior
HT/WT: 6-foot-2, 211 lbs
Careers Numbers: 547-of-847 for 6,674 passing yards, 57 passing touchdowns and 21 interceptions. 1,148 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
Pro Comparison: Tyler Thigpen (Free Agent)
Projection: 7th round
Bottom Line: Accurate and deceptively quick, Kelly is poised for another solid college season. That said, Kelly has an issue that a lot of productive college quarterbacks have tried and failed to overcome: size. While he can move the ball as good as anyone, Kelly, like Colt Brennan, Kellen Moore and Case Keenum before him, will deal with the size stigma due to his height and thin build.
Still, Kelly's accuracy will make him appealing as a late-round pick. Kelly has a quality arm and is a dual-threat player, which should serve him well at the next level. If he continues to produce, it will only help him.
Jamil Douglas, Offensive Tackle, Redshirt Senior
HT/WT: 6-foot-4, 300 lbs
Career Numbers: 40 games, 27 starts
Pro Comparison: Wade Smith (Seahawks)
Projection: 5th- 7th round
Evaluation: Douglas is a dancing bear on the offensive line. He is likely to be looked at as an offensive guard in the NFL due to his size and strength. He is a very good interior pass blocker and he tends to anchor very well against speedy pass rushers. He is active downfield and will finish his blocks. He is also active on helping others block.
Despite being a massive blocker, he does seem to struggle a bit in the run game. He runs upright and plays with a higher pad level then you’d like. He needs to improve his ability bend. You’d also like to see him play a bit nastier and open up bigger holes. It will be interesting to see how he does at tackle this season, as that could greatly improve his draft stock. If he can show NFL scouts that his college versatility can project to the pros, then he may be looked at in the third or fourth round range.
Jaelen Strong, Wide Receiver, Redshirt Junior
HT/WT: 6-foot-3, 212 lbs
Career Numbers: 75 receptions, 1,122 receiving yards and seven touchdowns
Pro Comparison: Brandon Marshall (Bears)
Projection: 2nd Round
Evaluation: Strong is a unique talent with play-making ability and size. He is fantastic on screens and is truly tough to bring down. The Philadelphia native has good initial burst despite not being ridiculously fast. His issues are his inconsistent hands, his lack of quality blocking ability and his route running. He is similar to a young Brandon Marshall in that he is an athlete with size and a spectacular catching radius, but he also has a lot room for improvement. If he can prove to be more dynamic in his second year in the ASU offense and shows toughness that matches his size, Strong could go very, very early in the next draft if he decides to enter the selection process.