Draft showcases give ASU players chance to raise stock

ASU running back Marion Grice, who along with defensive tackle Will Sutton will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25, has been widely projected as a middle-round pick.

Mark J. Rebilas

Though the college football season has ended, a handful of Arizona State seniors will have the chance to play one more game before attempting to make the jump to the NFL.

Five seniors are representing the Sun Devils across three senior all-star games starting this weekend, giving themselves a chance to raise their draft stock ahead of further evaluation periods.

On Saturday, ASU will be represented on both coasts. In Carson, Calif., tight end Chris Coyle and linebacker Chris Young will play in the third annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Coyle and Young might have the most to gain among ASU seniors playing in all-star games. Both are lesser-known names among ASU’s standouts, and both could play their way into the draft between now and May. Coyle, whose numbers were down this season after the addition of top receiver Jaelen Strong, was one of the Pac-12’s top tight ends in 2013 and landed on the All-Pac-12 first team. Still, he’s been largely forgotten among rankings of top draft prospects at the position. This could be a chance to turn some heads. Young, meanwhile, has been projected as perhaps as a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. He quietly proved a key cog in ASU’s defense last season but might be marked down for his size — he’ll likely have to slim down a bit to play linebacker in the NFL.

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, safety Alden Darby will play in the 89th East-West Shrine Game.

Darby, too, has much to gain from the opportunity. He earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season and projects as a late-round pick. Perhaps more than anything, Darby’s performance Saturday could allow him to get noticed by a few more teams and solidify his status as a player worth a pick. It seems unlikely that his stock will rise much higher than the sixth or seventh round.

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The following weekend, ASU’s better-known quantities will be on display when All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton and running back Marion Grice participate in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 25.

Sutton could have been drafted last season and appears to have boosted his stock after returning for his senior season, despite criticism related to his weight and explosiveness. Most projections peg Sutton as a second- or third-round draft pick, so the two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year already rates pretty high. A good showing in Mobile could solidify a spot in the second round. Grice has a little more to gain. After leading the nation in scoring for much of the season, Grice missed ASU’s final three games due to a leg injury. Assuming he plays in the Senior Bowl, it could be his first of a few chances to show he’s healthy. Most projections have Grice as a middle-round pick, perhaps as high as late in the third or as low as the fifth. As under the radar as Grice was in college the past two years, he has the chance now to get noticed before the draft.

The bowl games, however, are not the players’ only chance to raise their stock. Grice and Sutton seem near-locks for invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and Darby, Coyle and Young are less certain but could prove themselves deserving of an invite this weekend.

All five players also have ASU’s pro day on March 7 — should they choose to participate — to show themselves off for interested teams.