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ASU Football: Sun Devil pro day observations and takeaways

Path to the draft

Arizona v ASU Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There is no first-round stud from ASU in the 2022 draft class. Going farther, the NFL impact of the 2022 pro Devils may not even be felt for another year or two. But this does not change that NFL clubs could find some hidden value from ASU’s prospects in the later rounds.

29 NFL teams that showed up to Monday’s pro day clearly felt similar, and there were a few notable points to take away from our last look at these departing Devils.

Rachaad White, Kellen Diesch had no reason to jeopardize their NFL Combine performances.

In the two-hour period between the bench press and position drills, White and Diesch seamlessly blended in with their former teammates and talked to scouts and coaches as workouts continued. Why? Both are generally thought to have improved their draft stock at least marginally at the Combine, so there was no reason to put those numbers in jeopardy, presumably.

Diesch’s 40-yard dash (4.89), vertical (32.5 inches) and 20-yard shuttle (4.43) all ranked in the top-three among lineman who tested at the combine. This was a sharp bounce back from his Shrine Bowl performance when Arif Hasan from The Athletic and others tabbed his stock as “falling” for his weak balance and agility skills in comparison to his peers, despite not allowing a single pressure in the Shrine Bowl game.

White, Diesch, and center Dohnovan West are all candidates to be the first Sun Devils off the board in April’s draft. For Diesch, it’s clear that some NFL teams are moving towards a more versatile style of offensive-lineman that has above-average athleticism and speed. While he is still mechanically raw, he could be moved around as a swing tackle.

West enters the league at the perfect time, as 2022 is a uniquely weak draft class for centers. It is likely he is one of the first three centers taken in the draft.

“It’s just such a different position than anywhere else on the line,” West’s agent Ethan Lock said.

While White has slipped down RB ranked boards, the running back position is such a crap-shoot in the NFL, and each team has its own rankings system behind closed doors. It’s also no lie that White was the biggest impact player for ASU last season.

“Scouting reports, you know, they can come from here, they can come from there,” White said. “Nobody knows what the GM’s are thinking.”

White says he has talked to “dang near” every NFL team.

Size can make or break ASU’s best prospects in the draft process.

Coming from the same school, cornerbacks Jack Jones (177 pounds) and Chase Lucas (188 pounds) will be compared to each other on draft night. But other than size, they are two different types of corners. However, with each of them measuring in at 5-11 in height, there are some doubts. Both said they put on weight in between the combine and pro day.

Jones appeared to improve on his 4.51 second 40-yard dash from the combine, but mixed times from those in attendance had him as low as 4.43, and as high as 4.56. Any increase in his 40 time Jones credits to his post-combine muscle gain.

As he walked off the field following a disappointing L-drill performance, Jones removed his shirt, mumbling, “I don’t like this, I really don’t like this.” A former five-star recruit out of high school to USC, Jones has gone through a heavily-documented maturation process under head coach Herm Edwards after being dismissed from USC due to academic issues.

“Football was almost taken away from me,” Jones said. “This is my life, this what I do, this what I want to be.”

Lucas, like usual, did not put too much stock into the negatives, and focused on the positives from his pro day.

“I belong in the NFL,” Lucas said. “People had questions about my long speed, I answered that. People had questions about their durability, I answered that. People questioned how well I know the playbook. Every box that I wanted to check off, I checked off.”

On the lighter side, Lucas says he has a bet with former ASU receiver Frank Darby for $5,000 on who would get drafted higher. Darby went 187th overall to the Falcons last year, so Lucas will have to go in the sixth round or earlier to clean out his friend and former teammate.

Because both are considered undersized, Lucas and Jones may see themselves transition to the nickel back or dime back positions in the pros to help out on passing downs.

On a different note, tight end Curtis Hodges opened eyes at the combine, and we saw some flashes from him at pro day as well. Hodges measured in at just under 6-8 and 260 pounds, a dazzling sight for tight end-needy teams.

We saw Hodges emerge as one of Jayden Daniels’ favorite targets (20 catches, 373 yards, two touchdowns) in 2021, and his pass-catching abilities proved to be strong. To get playing time at the professional level, Hodges will have to become a more reliable blocker.

His strength seems to be part of the issue. Hodges – like many others – opted out of the bench press at the combine. On pro day, he repped a less-than-impressive 12 reps of 225 pounds. The nine tight ends who benched at the combine averaged 19 reps. This comes amid impressive agility scores (34.5 vertical, 4.85 40-yard dash, and 7.14 three-cone).

Butler, Johnson, Davidson have role player potential

All eyes were on Tyler Johnson at ASU pro day, as he was the only non-returning starter snubbed from the combine. Along with the media, Johnson had a strong conglomerate of friends and family along for support.

“Being able to have the pro day and do everything, and I feel like I did everything pretty good,” Johnson said. “A lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders for sure.”

He started out benching 19 reps (middle of the pack), and bouncing for 34.5 inches (exceptional) on his vertical. These were both exact targets of his, according to his family.

“Actually, I think he said he could get 40 (inches),” one family member said.

Whether his portfolio of play and his pro day performance put him on big boards is unknown, but Johnson says he is satisfied with the opportunity to prove himself.

Nothing incredibly noteworthy came from Darien Butler’s pro day workout. The second-team All-Pac-12 linebacker played himself into the draft discussion, but is still considered a fringe draft-product at 5-10 and 225 pounds. His three interceptions ranked second among Pac-12 linebackers, only behind project first-rounder Devin Lloyd.

Butler’s game at the pro-level will be less-so between the trenches, and more on a sideline-to-sideline roam-and-fly basis. He did not run the 40-yard dash at the combine or pro day.

Defensive lineman DJ Davidson came into pro day almost ten pounds lighter and faster than the end of the season. He ran his first 40-yard dash, an effort in the low 5.0s, likely attributed to said weight loss. He also mentioned that he has talked to a handful of defensive big-man needy teams.

With attention flipping to spring ball Tuesday, this was the last look we will get at ASU’s prospects until April’s draft. Until then, the offseason storylines will run rampant at the Kajikawa practice fields.