While many pundits predicted anywhere from one to three Arizona State players hearing their name called last weekend, the results were alarming to some — and puzzling to others. Even ASU head coach Todd Graham spoke of up to three Sun Devils being selected in the 2013 NFL Draft process. But as we have learned throughout the years, not every drafted player ends up like 2003 first round pick Terrell Suggs.
Undrafted free agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict was one of the success stories of the 2012 season after going from one of the top linebackers in the country at the beginning of his 2012 Sun Devil campaign, to a player some wondered would even be given a try-out after the draft process had taken place. Burfict’s banner rookie campaign with the Bengals will be an inspiration for the following Sun Devils who didn’t have to wait long for the phone to ring immediately following the draft as teams began to swoop in and sign up players not been selected in the draft the three days prior.
Cornerback Deveron Carr – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After shaking off nagging injuries that cost Carr all but five games in 2010, he steadily improved his play at corner and became one of the most improved players on the 2012 squad according to Graham, culminating in his naming to the Pac-12 honorable mention team.
Tampa’s pass defense was dead last in the NFL in 2012, and second-year head coach Greg Schiano has identified that and his quarterback play as his biggest targets for improvement going into the 2013 season. With that said, the Bucs acquired shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis from the Jets via trade and drafted Johnathan Banks in the second round out of Mississippi State to back him up. However, Carr’s job security is looking solid on this team as the Bucs gave him a reported $15,000 signing bonus (one of the highest given to an UFA so far) and guaranteed $5,000 of his base salary. This is something you don’t normally see with undrafted free agents and a sign other teams were bidding for Carr’s services.
Safety Keelan Johnson – Miami Dolphins
This Sun Devil captain was widely felt to have the best pro potential of any player signed out of ASU in this year’s first-year players pool. He was ranked by ESPN as the 24th-ranked safety but was skipped over, in part, due to his lack of consistency and only starting under 20 games in his college career. While this may be the case, Johnson finished off his college career on a positive note, making the most of his final season in Tempe. His immediate future may follow that of former Sun Devil Josh Barrett, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2008 and took a few years to find his role in an NFL defense on another team. Johnson has the speed and coverage skills to play free safety, and the tackling ability (if coached up) to succeed as a strong safety. That being said, the Dolphins have depth at free safety with Chris Clemons and a slew of warm bodies already signed on the roster, but none really standing out. Reshad Jones stepped up last year, filling in for the departed Yeremiah Bell at strong safety, and the Dolphins further solidified that spot after drafting Don Jones.
Linebacker Brandon Magee – Dallas Cowboys
Magee, a second-team All-Pac 12 selection, was the 21st ranked linebacker according to NFLDraftScout.com. Yet, he was skipped over by all 32 teams thanks, in part, to the fact that he was not 100 percent healthy during his preparation for the NFL Combine or work-out process due to an injury he sustained during the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Regardless, NBCSports.com reported that Magee received a $70,000 signing bonus with the Cowboys, higher than any seventh-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, based largely on his intangibles, multi-sport athleticism, and record of playing in 44 games over the course of his ASU career.
That money, combined with the fact Dallas did not have a seventh round pick, should install confidence in Magee, especially considering that the Cowboys are switching from Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense to that of former USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3. Therefore, the team will be in need of players that fit the WILL spot at linebacker, a position Magee played for three seasons as a Sun Devil before switching to a new scheme under Todd Graham.
For the immediate future, Magee will fight to become a back-up behind Bruce Carter and a special teamer. He now has a shot to join the Corona Centennial teammates he played with in both high school and college (Burfict and Shelly Lyons) as NFL linebackers.
Running Back Cameron Marshall – Miami Dolphins
Marshall hoped to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Torain, selected by the Broncos (they do like their Sun Devils, don’t they?) back in 2008, but it just wasn’t meant to be. He entered 2012 hoping to improve upon a breakout 2011 season, one in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards and found the end zone 18 times, but had mixed results in the middle of a three-headed attack at the running back position under first-year offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.
With Reggie Bush leaving town via free agency, Marshall will be battling in camp to make the team behind the one-two punch of Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller — not to mention draftee Mike Gillislee. On the plus side, all the special teams activities asked of him by Todd Graham during the 2012 fall camp just might pay off in Marshall’s favor and help him land a spot with this team as the fourth running back battling return man Marcus Thigpen.
Wide Receiver / Returner Jamal Miles – Jacksonville Jaguars
With last year’s first-round pick Justin Blackmon serving a four-game suspension to start the season, the Jags will need every bit of help from the rest of the wide receiving corps to keep defenses honest, preventing them from loading up the box with eight to nine players to defend against Maurice Jones-Drew.
Miles, much like Marshall, had a captivating 2011 season in which he scored seemingly in every way possible, 10 times total, and was a danger to find paydirt every time he touched the ball. But 2012 saw a different role for the wide receiver, who started off in Todd Graham’s dog house after being suspended for the season opener. Although he managed 37 receptions, Miles never managed to get in the end zone in any of his 12 games played.
Now is the time for Miles to show his true colors. With a young quarterback in his make-or-break year in Blaine Gabbert, Miles could become that water bug slot receiver and explosive returner in the preseason that helps spark the Jags’ offense and make the team. However, a fellow first-year player named Shoelace may stand in his way.
Wide Receiver Rashad Ross – Tennessee Titans
If timing is indeed everything, then Ross can thank the Navy defense for helping pad his resume in his final game with the Sun Devils. The Titans acquired him as a hand-cuff in case the injury problems that plagued 2013 second round pick Justin Hunter should follow him into the pros. Tennessee is overflowing with receivers on the depth chart at the moment, but other than Hunter, most are either all-around or possession-style receivers.
While Ross lacks the consistency or height of Hunter, a receiver who can run the route tree and show dependable hands, he still has the top-end speed and potential return ability that will always find its way on to an NFL roster, be it in Nashville, or with one of the other 31 teams in the league.
Offensive Tackle Brice Schwab – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Schwab was one of the feel good stories of 2012 for ASU, having re-started his college career, losing a ton of weight and turning himself into the starting right tackle for Norvell’s offense. While Schwab was exploited by smaller and quicker defenders on the edge, if he was able to engage more than not, you were going to lose in a one-on-one battle due to his strength. That strength was exhibited on ASU Pro Day when Schwab put up 29 reps on the bench and helped enhance his chances to gain employment post-draft.
Enter Tampa Bay, which really was lacking at the right tackle spot behind starter Demar Dotson (and signing Brice Schwab helps fill a need there). If offensive line coach Bob Bostad can build on Schwab’s strengths of using his size and hands to dominate defenders — and coach him to play with less stiffness in his stance — the Bucs may have found themselves a good second-team tackle on the cheap.
The great question following all these signings and the shutout on NFL Draft weekend was where stand-out punter Josh Hubner would sign? Hubner has the prototypical leg for the NFL, but found himself grouped with a very skilled crop of punters in this year’s talent pool. There’s no doubt he should be sitting comfortably in an NFL training camp if the injury bug bites any of the 32 teams at this position.