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A breakdown of Arizona State’s defensive prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft

Anthony Totri Avatar
April 28, 2022

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday in Las Vegas, but Sun Devil fans aren’t likely to hear any familiar names on night one. Most of ASU’s prospects will be drafted on the final day of the weekend.

While the Sun Devil offensive prospects will likely hear their names called first, here’s a breakdown of ASU’s defensive players that are expected to be selected. 

Linebacker Darien Butler

Linebacker Darien Butler was a machine for the Sun Devils throughout the duration of his time in the desert. In the three full-length seasons he played, Butler recorded 68 or more tackles each year. 

In that same period, he tallied three interceptions, four sacks and three forced fumbles. It was clear that Butler had a nose for the football. 

Unfortunately for him though, genetics aren’t on his side. Butler hovers just shy of 6-feet tall. His shorter stature makes him undersized for a linebacker in the NFL.

While it wasn’t a real problem at ASU, the next level is a completely different beast. Unlike some of ASU’s other prospects who have issues related to their game, Butler is one of the more sound players.

Utah Utes running back TJ Pledger is tackled by Arizona State linebacker Darien Butler during the second quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. (USA TODAY Sports)

Nonetheless, due to his literal shortcomings, Butler isn’t projected to be selected until the last round of the draft, if at all. 

Even so, if Butler plays to his strong suits and performs in a similar manner he did at ASU, he’ll have a real shot at sneaking on an NFL roster. Here’s NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s overview of Butler:

“Butler trimmed down and became a faster, more impactful player with increased range and better coverage. The three-time captain is the heart and soul of his defense and flies around looking to make a hit. He’s inconsistent at diagnosing the play, and his lack of length and poise stymie his finishing rate as a tackler. Butler’s toughness, cover talent and potential to help on special teams gives him a shot to make a squad despite his lack of physical traits.” Undrafted

Sports Illustrated: Kansas City Chiefs (Round 7, based on player rank)

The Athletic: Undrafted

PHNX Sun Devils Player Comparison: Kansas City Chiefs Linebacker Nick Bolton

Defensive Back Jack Jones

Defensive back Jack Jones is the truest definition of a ballhawk. No matter where he played, Jones seemingly found his way to the football, which is always an asset for NFL teams. 

Throughout his collegiate career, Jones padded the stat sheet to the tune of 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles, a touchdown and a sack. Evidently, his football IQ was one of the better ones on the Sun Devil defense. 

Michigan State’s Connor Heyward, left, attempts to leap over Arizona State’s Jack Jones during the third quarter of a 2019 game in East Lansing, Michigan. 1909014 (USA TODAY Sports)

Regardless, Jones’ size and off-the-field issues are without a doubt impacting his draft stock. If Jones wasn’t arrested during his time at USC and he had spent his entire collegiate career with the Trojans, we could be talking about a second- or third round talent. 

Instead, experts don’t appear sure where he’ll end up. Some analysts have him going as early as the fifth round, while others have him becoming an undrafted free agent. Here’s NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s overview of Jones:

“A highly coveted recruit coming out of Long Beach Poly High School, Jones initially attended USC and started all 14 games in his sophomore season, leading the Trojans with four interceptions. But following that breakout season, Jones was ruled academically ineligible and then arrested for breaking into a restaurant after hours, eventually pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of commercial burglary. After spending a year in junior college, Jones enrolled at Arizona State. Earning All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in 2019 and 2021, Jones was limited to one game in 2020 due to a suspension for violating team rules. As a player, he’s a ball-hawking cornerback with playmaking instincts. Despite solid ball production, though, Jones also gave up a lot of touchdowns at the college level. His lack of size/strength should make technique a top priority, as his talent for finding the football won’t matter as much if he can’t get on the field. Jones could be a late Day 3 selection, but physical deficiencies are working against him.” Undrafted

Sports Illustrated: Kansas City Chiefs (Round 5)

The Athletic: Undrafted

PHNX Sun Devils Player Comparison: Houston Texans Cornerback Desmond King II

Defensive Back Chase Lucas

Former Sun Devil Chase Lucas was a staple of the ASU secondary over the last handful of years. Lucas was known for his boisterous personality on the field. 

With that said, Lucas’ play trended downward the last couple of seasons in Tempe. Lucas’ best season as a Sun Devil came in 2018 when he tallied 62 total tackles, two sacks and three interceptions. 

In the three seasons following 2018, Lucas didn’t record a year with more than 53 tackles and he only added one more interception to his career total in that time span. 

It’s always been the what-if game with Lucas. The potential has been there for him to be a premier cornerback, but he’s never really made that jump. That explains his rather low draft stock.

West defensive back Chase Lucas of Arizona State is pictured during the East/West Shrine Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada. (USA TODAY Sports)

At ASU Lucas may have been the pride and joy for his defensive coordinators, there’s simply more developed options in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

The consensus among pundits is that a team will take a flier on the former Sun Devil, but not until the end of the draft. Here’s NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s overview of Lucas:

“Slender boundary corner with an enormous amount of football snaps in his background. Lucas plays in off coverages, which is likely for the best considering his lack of strength and long speed. He typically trusts his eyes and has the traits to make plays on the football. He plays with adequate footwork to pedal and match basic routes but struggles to stay connected to more complex routes, as his body control and change of direction let him down. His lack of size will make him a target against both the run and pass at the next level. Lucas projects as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent who could struggle to find NFL work.” Tennessee Titans (Round 6)

Sports Illustrated: Buffalo Bills (Round 6, based on player rank)

The Athletic: Houston Texans (Round 6)

PHNX Sun Devils Player Comparison: Carolina Panthers Cornerback Troy Pride Jr.

Defensive Lineman DJ Davidson

NFL teams that take a chance on defensive lineman DJ Davidson are getting a run-stuffing nose tackle. Davidson was a force along the ASU defensive front last season.

With 57 total tackles in 2021, Davidson helped the Sun Devil defense a number of times last year in early-down situations. His size (6-3, 327) allows him to play a versatile role in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

Arizona State defensive lineman DJ Davidson during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (USA TODAY Sports)

Davidson’s versatility will likely bode well for his future in the NFL. However, he doesn’t do the best job of getting off blocks, which could make him a liability late in games. 

If he’s able to improve his technical skills a tad he may find a role position in the heart of an NFL defense, but as of now he projects to be an undrafted free agent. Here’s NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s overview of Davidson:

“Gap-stuffing nose tackle who plays with good strength to disrupt blocking from guard to guard. Davidson is an early-down run defender only, but he can be a handful to get blocked on those downs. He plays on a bulky, powerful base that helps absorb double teams with relative success and he has the upper-body strength to beat a single block. He needs to improve his hand command at the point of attack and learn to shed with better timing to help him finish more consistently. Davidson projects as a backup nose for odd or even fronts.” Arizona Cardinals (Round 7)

Sports Illustrated: Undrafted

The Athletic: Undrafted

PHNX Sun Devils Player Comparison: NFL Free Agent Defensive Tackle Darius Philon

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