With N’Keal Harry declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft, ASU football has to find creative ways to replace one of the most productive players in school history.
When Arizona State kicks off their football season on Aug 29 in Tempe against Kent State, the offense will be without both senior Manny Wilkins to graduation and junior N’Keal Harry due to the NFL Draft.
The duo amounted a total of 11,513 yards and 74 touchdowns during their Sun Devil careers with both ranking amongst the all-time greats in team history.
At the quarterback position, the replacements seem clear with a pair of four-star recruits in Jayden Daniels and Joey Yellen signing during the early signing period.
The duo paired along with returners Dillion Sterling-Cole and Ryan Kelley set the stage for what will be a dynamic quarterback battle come spring.
While the quarterback battle seems clear as a bell, who will replace the 6-foot-4 Harry is about clear as mud.
To first find replacements for the star wide receiver we must first define what exactly we are replacing for ASU. To start with the frame and body of Harry will be difficult to replicate as the Chandler native is both extremely coordinated while also being a vertical threat due to his speed.
Second, the sheer numbers will be almost impossible to replicate as Harry ranks among one of the all-time greats after just three seasons with the Sun Devils.
During his three years in Tempe, the wideout amounted 213 career receptions, 2,889 receiving yards along with 22 receiving touchdowns ranking him third, third, and fifth all-time in ASU history respectively.
The numbers themselves are almost impossible to duplicate as Harry had 1,088 yards, nine touchdowns, on 73 receptions during the 2018 season alone.
While it does not appear Arizona State has anyone on their roster that can completely replace the numbers, the size, or history created by Harry, the team does possess receivers capable of taking over the No. 1 spot at receiver.
Here are a couple of current Sun Devils and one future Sun Devil that have the potential to fill the shoes of one of the all-time greats.
John Humphrey: 2018 ─ Suffered season-ending injury
While the junior wideout has neither the size or frame of Harry, standing at 5-feet, 11-inches, Humphrey is arguably the fastest player in the Pac-12 when he is at full health.
Before committing to play at Oklahoma, Humphrey was rumored to have run 40-yard dash times around 4.25 with the NFL record currently being held by former Washington Husky John Ross at 4.22 seconds.
The only problem?
The junior has been hit with the injury bug for the majority of his time in Tempe after sitting out the 2016 season due to transfer rules.
After sitting out a season, Humphrey jumped out on to the scene in the first game of 2017 with 123 yards on seven catches. The quick start was derailed shortly after the beginning as the then-sophomore suffered a leg injury, causing him to miss four games and never returning to form.
The speedster once again showed flashes of potential early on in spring practice before suffering an Achilles injury that ended his 2018 campaign before it could ever begin.
At his peak, Humphrey can be the top target for the Sun Devils, but his ability to fill Harry’s shoes, and contribute at any level for the team is entirely dependent upon his health moving forward.
Frank Darby: 2018 ─ 21 receptions, 421 receiving yards, 2 TDs
While N’Keal led the team in almost every receiving category, there was one led by Darby.
Longest catch on the season.
Time and time again the sophomore came up huge for Wilkins and the Sun Devils as led the team with four catches over forty yards including a team long 72-yard catch against Colorado.
Darby has proven to be a big passing threat downfield but has struggled to get open in other areas of the field while struggling to get into the end zone.
Through his first two seasons, Darby has caught a mere 30 passes, nine as a freshman, to go along with four touchdowns during his career.
The flashes are there, but if the soon to be junior wants to be ASU’s go-to receiver, he will have to work on his intermediate game to go along with his superb vertical ability down the field.
Kyle Williams: 2018 ─ 40 receptions, 432 receiving yards, 1 TD
After coming in second on the team in most categories including receptions and receiving yards it feels odd to say the season was one full of disappointment for the junior.
The reason behind the disappointment?
Williams numbers were down across the board after a breakout sophomore season in which he secured 763 yards on 66 receptions to go along with seven touchdowns.
While these numbers may be skewed due to a shift to more of a running approach on the offensive side of the ball, the heavy drop does show reason for concern.
The 5-foot-11 receiver lacks traditional number receiver height and frame but does possess a knack for getting open and being a consistent contributor.
Williams may not have the size to fill the numbers put up by Harry but does enter his senior season with the most experience and numbers to be capable of attempting to replicate his success.
Brandon Aiyuk: 2018 ─ 33 receptions, 474 yards, 3 TDs
The biggest dark horse of the bunch comes in form of the future senior who got fire for the Sun Devils late in the season.
At the beginning of the season, Aiyuk was seemingly nothing more than a fourth or fifth wide receiver rarely seeing the field in the first six games.
Halfway through the year the junior had amounted a total of 104 yards on nine catches in his limited role before a breakout game at Utah.
In a total of one game, Aiyuk nearly surpassed each of those totals with six catches for 104 yards against the Utes.
The breakout game was just a taste of what to come as the wideout finished the last seven games with 370 yards on 24 catches with 167 yards and 14 receptions coming in the final two weeks alone.
While it is unsure if the first or second half of the season player will show up for the Sun Devils, one thing is clear.
Aiyuk is for real and has displayed the potential and all-around ability to lead ASU in the non-N’Keal Harry era.
Chad Johnson Jr.: 2018 ─ 72 receptions 1007 yards 12 TDs
While the Sun Devils may only have a temporary answer to fill the hole left by Harry, the Sun Devils may possess the next all-time great receiver in their 2020 recruiting class.
Son of former NFL star and six-time Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco, Chad Johnson Jr. has already turned heads by flashing his potential to dominate at the collegiate level.
The current four-star recruit stands at six-foot-three-inches similar to the frame of Harry and has shown of the same traits that made Harry an all-time great.
Currently only a junior, Johnson committed to ASU after receiving offers from USC, Stanford, Oregon State, and Florida Atlantic. While there is not guarantee that Johnson Jr. turns out to be the next N’Keal Harry, his skills and ability show the capability to be a contributor from the time he steps in Tempe.