In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 13
2012 NFL Draft picks: Two - QB Brock Osweiler (Second Round, No. 57 overall) and CB Omar Bolden (Fourth Round, No. 101 overall)
After guiding Arizona State to a 10-3 record and a berth in the Holiday Bowl in his first season in Tempe, longtime NCAA and NFL head coach Dennis Erickson struggled to get his Sun Devils to play with any type of consistency and, after the team went a combined 21-28 over the next four seasons, he was replaced with Todd Graham.
Erickson, whose ability to recruit and teach helped ASU land some highly regarded prep prospects, never was as successful in pushing his players into the NFL over the last four years he spent with the Sun Devils as he was in that magical 2007 season. Five of his players were drafted in 2008. That's only one less than the total ASU saw drafted over the past three years.
The early declarations of quarterback Brock Osweiler and middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict leaves Graham and ASU without two of their more gifted and recognizable talents. From a wins/losses standpoint, Graham's first season in Tempe could be a difficult one. The Sun Devils return the fewest starters in the Pac-12 and it will take time to turn this team into the power running outfit Graham has preferred in the past after the team focused much of their attention on the passing game under Erickson and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
Regardless of who is calling the shots, the Sun Devils do offer some intriguing NFL prospects, including a senior receiver and return specialist who might just be the most underrated skill position talent in the conference.
Possessing the agility to make defenders miss as well as good straight-line and vision, Miles (pictured above) has the athleticism to explode in 2012 despite less than eye-popping statistics throughout his career. Valued more for his versatility than his ability to stretch the field by Erickson's staff, Miles saw time in the backfield, in the slot, outside and as a return specialist in 2012, earning First Team all-conference honors as a punt returner. He was the only player in the country last season to score a touchdown as a receiver, kick returner, punt returner and passer and in averaging a gaudy 8.2 yards per carry (on 29 attempts), frankly its a surprise that he was kept out of the endzone as a runner. Erickson preferred big, lanky receivers on the outside and the relationship between Osweiler and Gerell Robinson blossomed in 2011, with the 6-3, 227 pounder leading the Pac-12 with 1,397 receiving yards last season. Though Miles finished second behind only Robinson in catches for the Sun Devils last season (with 60), by design the vast majority of his routes were short and he averaged just six yards per reception. Graham and his staff have committed to using Miles more liberally and frankly, considering that ASU lost four of their top six pass catchers from a year ago, they have few other options ready to contribute. As such, expect a breakout campaign from Miles in 2012 and a steady move up draft boards.
2. RB Cameron Marshall (5-11, 215)
In terms of production, there is no question that Marshall should lead off the list of potential NFL prospects hailing from Arizona State this fall. Marshall, after all, rushed for 1,050 yards and tied a school record with 18 touchdowns on the ground a season ago and that was in an offense designed to spread the ball through the air. Unlike most of the other prospects featured here, Marshall has proven to be productive throughout his career, rushing for 294 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman (one start, 11 games) and 787 yards and nine scores as a sophomore (11 starts), earning honorable mention all-conference accolades. Possessing a thick build with a low center of gravity and the type of deceptive acceleration and overall athleticism that helped Michael Turner become one of the NFL's more productive runners for the Atlanta Falcons, Marshall should be the featured playmaker in Graham's run-heavy offense. If able to eclipse the 1,000 yard plateau in 2012, he will have only become just the third ASU back since World War II to twice pass this mark in his career. With 29 career touchdowns to his credit, Marshall is also just 10 behind Woody Green for the school's all-time record. Marshall missed the spring recovering from off-season ankle surgery but appears poised to enjoy the type of senior campaign that should elevate him among the top senior running backs in the country. Like with many big backs, however, to do so he'll not only have to play with greater consistency in 2012 (55.2% of his yards last season came in just four games) but also have to work out well.
3. OLB Brandon Magee (5-11, 230)
Were it not for questions surrounding his return to health after missing the entire 2011 season with a torn Achilles' tendon, Magee would rank higher on this list than No. 3. Those close to the program believe he could be on the verge of a monster senior campaign. Though overshadowed by Burfict, Magee finished second to him in tackles in 2010 (73, including five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks), earning honorable mention all-conference honors. While smaller than scouts would prefer, Magee is well suited to the weakside position he'll be manning this fall, showing good instincts, physicality and athleticism on tape. NFL teams considering Magee will need to find out where his priorities lie as Magee already has other opportunities in professional sports to consider. Magee was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 23rd round (No. 721 overall) of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft and signed with the team. He's a three-year letterman for an ASU baseball team that twice won the conference title and went to two College World Series during his time as an outfielder (2009-11). Magee, who had previously been drafted by the Oakland Athletics (2011) and Tampa Bay Rays (2008), is considered an intriguing developmental prospect by baseball scouts but hardly a sure thing. Over his three year collegiate career for the ASU baseball team, he hit just .103, striking out in 22 of his 29 at-bats.
4. OLB/DE Junior Onyeali (5-11, 244)*
A highly regarded prep prospect, Onyeali burst onto the scene as a true freshman, leading the team in both tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (6.5) despite starting just five games and recording only 18 tackles overall. For his efforts he was named the then Pac-10's Defensive Freshman of the Year. Onyeali's 2011 campaign, however, fell far short of expectations (11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack), as he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for four games and was ultimately suspended for the bowl game after a heated exchange with Erickson on the sidelines during a team practice. Graham made Onyeali's suspension indefinite upon his hiring and the talented defender wasn't allowed to practice with the team during the spring. Onyeali, who reportedly has earned over a 3.0 GPA in an effort to get back into the good graces of the coaching staff, is expected to rejoin the team this fall at the "devil" linebacker position, a hybrid pass rusher role in ASU's new 3-3-5 scheme. While certainly shorter than scouts would prefer, Onyeali uses his lack of height to his advantage, slipping past the reach of opposing offensive linemen to wreak havoc off the edge due to his legitimate burst, flexibility and surprising power. The true junior has the talent to rack up impressive numbers in this role but to have any chance at the NFL, he'll have to show greater consistency on and off the field first.
5. DT Will Sutton (6-2, 272)*
Like Onyeali, Sutton looked like a future star for the Sun Devils as a true freshman, starting the first game of his career, playing in all 12 contests that season and demonstrating the ability to split gaps -- a requirement in then-defensive coordinator Craig Bray's scheme. Operating as a three-technique defensive tackle, Sutton registered 17 tackles, including three for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. While his numbers weren't staggering, Sutton was viewed as a player the team could build around... until it was announced just days before the opener that he'd miss the entire 2011 season due to academics. Sutton was a standout on the scout team but that success didn't translate into eye-popping statistics upon his return to the starting lineup last year. Sutton registered 33 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks but it was hardly the dominant campaign some had projected for him. Sutton's quickness and tenacity should result in more big plays for the Sun Devils this season as he's well suited to the attacking scheme Graham and co-defensive coordinators Paul Randolph and Ron West brought to Tempe.
RB Deantre Lewis (5-10, 195)*
OG Andrew Sampson (6-3, 298)
OT Evan Finkenberg (6-6, 292)*
CB Deveron Carr (5-11, 190)
DL Mike Pennel (6-5, 340)*
WR Rashad Ross (6-0, 175)
For all of NFLDraftScout.com's team by team previews of the top prospects to watch in the 2012 season in preparation for the 2013 NFL draft, click here.
Photo credit: US Presswire