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Sun Devils on NFL Rosters

Sep 9, 2020

NFL model prepared Brandon Aiyuk, Eno Benjamin for rookie seasons (AZ Central) | Sun Devils as NFL First-Round Picks | Sun Devils Players in the Pro Football Hall Fame | Sun Devils in the Super Bowl

The 2020 NFL regular season kicks off Thursday and rosters are officially set, so is time for a Sun Devils in the NFL update.
 
Arizona State Football landed a total of 12 players in the NFL, seven of which are on active 53-man rosters. An additional four players earned their way onto a practice squad and one more is currently on the injured-reserve list. 
 
Four new Sun Devils enter the league this year, including two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Running back Eno Benjamin and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk will go from starring on Saturdays in Tempe, to going head-to-head in the NFC West. The Arizona Cardinals selected Benjamin with the 222nd pick in the seventh round back in April, while the division rival San Francisco 49ers used the 25th overall pick on Aiyuk. 
 
The success in the NFL Draft and heavy presence of new Maroon & Gold blood in the league continues an exciting trend that has formed for Sun Devil Football under the direction of Herm Edwards.  The NFL experience that Edwards, Marvin Lewis, Antonio Pierce, Kevin Mawae, Robert Rodriguez, Shawn Slocum, and Derek Hagan bring to the table is nearly unmatched by any other group nationally. How successful has the NFL model been at Arizona State? History has been made the last two seasons…
 
Wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk (2020) and N'Keal Harry (2019) were each selected in the first round of the NFL Draft out of Arizona State. Not only was this the first time the feat had occurred in school history, the accomplishment puts Herm Edward's program in rarified air:

  • Arizona State joins back-to-back College Football Playoff semifinalist Oklahoma (Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb) as the only programs to have wide receivers drafted in the first round of both the 2019 and 2020 drafts.
  • It was the first time a program had wide receivers go in the first round of back-to-back drafts since Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins in 2013-14.
  • Historically, the Sun Devils and Oklahoma mark just the seventh and eighth times in NFL Draft history that a program has posted first round wide receiver selections in back-to-back drafts, joining Clemson (2013-14), Ohio State (2006-07), Ohio State (1995-96), Colorado (1994-95), USC (1993-94) and Tennessee (1982-84).
  • ASU's seven all-time wide receiver selections in the first round are the fifth most of any FBS program behind Tennessee (11), USC (8), Ohio State (8) and Miami Fl. (8) Sun Devil wide receivers in the NFL have combined for 3,206 catches for 48,086 receiving yards and 337 receiving touchdowns.

Arizona State wide receivers selected in the first round of NFL Draft
Brandon Aiyuk – San Francisco 49ers, 25th overall, 2020
N'Keal Harry – New England Patriots, 32nd overall, 2019
Aaron Cox – Los Angeles Rams, 20th overall, 1988
John Jefferson – San Diego Chargers, 14th overall, 1978 
J.D. Hill – Buffalo Bills, 4th Overall, 1971
Steve Holden – Cleveland Browns, 16th overall, 1973
Charley Taylor – Washington Redskins, 3rd Overall, 1967

As a rookie, Harry showed flashes of the brilliance that Sun Devil fans became accustomed to during his time in Tempe. More comfortable in the offense coming into his second year, Harry is expected to emerge as one of the go-to pass catchers in New England. The other Sun Devil first rounder has created similar buzz as a rookie. Aiyuk immediately made his presence felt in San Francisco, earning praises from Head Coach Kyle Shanahan early in training camp. He will be immediately relied upon as a receiver and returner for the defending NFC Champions. 

The impressive part of Sun Devil Football's recent run of producing wide receiver talent is the fact that they are not done yet. Next in line is redshirt senior Frank Darby, whose hard work has allowed him to develop into one of the top deep-threats in the nation playing behind Harry and Aiyuk the past two seasons. From the streets of Jersey City to the end zones of Tempe, Darby has electrified fans from coast-to-coast with his big-play ability and outgoing demeanor. His combination of strength and speed make him perfect for the new-age NFL. Scouts attending games the last two seasons traveled to watch Aiyuk and Harry, but came away impressed with Darby as well. He enters the final chapter of his Arizona State career as a team leader, determined to continue the program's streak of producing first round NFL wide receivers.

Harry and Aiyuk aren't the only players that have come out of Edward's program that wasted no time in catching the eye of NFL coaches. Despite being a seventh-round pick, Eno Benjamin defied the odds and earned a spot on the Cardinals initial 53-man roster. Earlier in training camp, Benjamin credited Edwards for his ability to adjust to the NFL game.
 
The newest Sun Devils in the NFL are not the only ones making Arizona State proud. League veterans Lawrence Guy, Zane Gonzalez, Jamil Douglas, Matt Haack, and Renell Wren have proven themselves to be consistent contributors to NFL teams. 
 
Due to anticipated obstacles issues that may arise from the unpresented circumstances, NFL teams are allowed to have 16 players on their practice squads this year. This year more than ever, the four Sun Devils could be called upon to suit up on gameday. Quinn Bailey, Cohl Cabral, D.J. Foster, and Tommy Hudson are not only auditioning for a spot on their respective team's active roster, but are available to be signed by all 31 other NFL teams in need of depth. 
 
Stay tuned for weekly Sun Devil in the NFL updates. Here is a full breakdown of the Arizona State representation in the league heading into week one:
 

Lawrence Guy (2008-10) - New England Patriots 

Former freshman All-American Lawrence Guy has made a name for himself at the NFL level, getting ready for his 11th season as a pro. He is currently the longest-tenured Sun Devil in the NFL and was recently named a captain of the 2020 Patriots. Guy has been a stalwart on the New England defense the past three seasons, starting all 16 regular-season contests in 2019 for the first time in his career. Guy is in the midst of his peak as an NFL player, turning in a career year in 2019. He totaled a career-high 61 tackles and made his first career interception as part of a defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense (275.9 yards per game) and scoring (14.1 points allowed per game). Prior to last season, Guy had started at defensive tackle in the last two Super Bowls, including in New England's Super Bowl LIII victory over the Rams. He was selected to the Patriots' 2010s All-Decade Team at defensive tackle. Originally drafted in the seventh round (233rd overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, Guy has enjoyed stints with the Colts, Chargers, and Ravens before signing with the Patriots. 

Eno Benjamin (2017-19) - Arizona Cardinals

The second Sun Devil selected in the 2020 NFL draft was Eno Benjamin, who became the Benjamin became the first Sun Devil player to be drafted by the Cardinals since Pat Tillman in 1998. He represents the 253rd Sun Devil to be taken in the NFL Draft in program history, the 30th-most of any program. Historically, Sun Devil running backs and fullbacks have combined for 43,414 rushing yards in NFL history with 327 touchdowns. A 2018 All-American after breaking ASU's single season rushing mark, Benjamin finished with 2,867 rushing yards in his career and finished seventh on the school's all-time rushing list despite playing the majority of his time in just two seasons. His 576 rushing attempts were the sixth-most in school history. He was fifth in the country in 2018 with his school record 1,642 rushing yards.

N'Keal Harry (2016-18) - New England Patriots

Following a brilliant three-year career in Tempe, N'Keal Harry was selected with the 32nd overall pick by the New England Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, he appeared in eight games and made five starts. Patriots fans saw glimpses of Harry's skill set, as he finished with 12 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made it emphasis to get him the ball in any way possible, resulting in Harry running for 49 yards on five attempts. He earned the faith of the coaching staff, making the start at wide receiver in his first career playoff appearance. He caught two passes for 21 yards while carrying the ball once for 7 yards in the AFC Wild Card Playoff against Tennessee. Made his Patriots debut in a win at Philadelphia and lined up for his first career start in a win over Dallas. Harry's 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter against the Cowboys was the first of his career and made him the 75th different player to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady.

 
Brandon Aiyuk (2018-19) - San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers selected Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the 25th overall pick in the NFL Draft, the second consecutive year that Sun Devil Football produced a first-round wide receiver. During his last season in Tempe, Aiyuk was one of the top offensive weapons in the country.  Aiyuk became the 252nd Sun Devil to be selected in the professional draft. His 25th overall selection was the highest since Terrell Suggs went 10th overall in the 2003 Draft. He became the highest wide receiver selected since Aaron Cox went 20th overall in 1988. He produced 1,870 all-purpose yards in his final season as a Sun Devil, coming within 195 yards of Wilford White's long-standing school record of 2,065 set back in 1950.

Matt Haack (2013-16) - Miami Dolphins

After putting the finishing touches on one of the best collegiate careers by a Sun Devil punter, Matt Haack has found a home in the NFL. He enters his fourth season in the NFL, all with the Miami Dolphins after signing with the franchise as an undrafted free agent back in 2017. He has played and served as the starting punter in all 48 games of his career, with 239 career punts going for 10,684 yards (44.7 avg.). He caught national attention by completing a 1-yard TD pass against Philadelphia, with the play winning the 2019 NFL Bridgestone Clutch Performance of the Year. Back in November of 2018, he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against the Jets. Boasting a career average of 40.0, Haack is currently the franchise's all-time leader in net punting average. He set a Dolphins' franchise single-season record in 2018, landing 34 punts inside the 20. 

Jamil Douglas (2010-14) - Tennessee Titans

Former Pac-12 All-Conference offensive lineman Jamil Douglas enters his fourth NFL season, making the Tennessee Titans 53-man roster. Last season, Douglas appeared in 15 games for the Titans, making four starts at right guard and one start at center. He saw action in all three playoff games during his first-career postseason run, helping the Titans reach the AFC Championship Game. Douglas and the offensive line paved the way for Derrick Henry to lead the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards in 2019. Originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fourth round (114th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Douglas has also spent time with the New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts during his career.

Zane Gonzalez (2013-16) - Arizona Cardinals

Former Lou Groza award winner Zane Gonzalez enters his fourth NFL season and third with the Arizona Cardinals. He is coming off his best season in the league, selected as a Pro Bowl alternate at kicker after ranking fourth in the NFL in both total points (127) and made FGs (31) in 2019. His 127 points tied for the third-highest single-season total in franchise history, and his 31 FGs made are third-most in team history. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (October, 2019). Gonzalez made 20 consecutive field goals between during a stretch of the 2019 season, which represents the second-longest streak in franchise history. 

Renell Wren (2014-18) - Cincinnati Bengals 

A dominant final two seasons in Tempe resulted in Renell Wren being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in fourth round of 2019 NFL Draft (125th overall). He is getting ready to enter his second season in the NFL, but is currently on the injured reserve list because of a quad injury. Wren made the Bengals' initial 53-man roster in 2019 and went on to play in 11 games as a rookie. He made his way up the depth chart as the season went on, eventually making two starts. The defensive lineman was disruptive and made eight tackles, serving as a key part of the interior defensive line rotation. Wren made his NFL debut in the season opener at Seattle and collected his first career tackle at Pittsburgh. He would go on to earn first career start in the 11th game of the season, recording a tackle against Pittsburgh.

PRACTICE SQUAD:
 
Quinn Bailey (2014-18) - Denver Broncos
 
Quinn Bailey has landed on the Denver Broncos practice squad for the second season. In 2019, he made his NFL debut in the final week of the season against the Raiders. 
 
Cohl Cabral (2016-19) - Los Angeles Rams
 
Cohl Cabral signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie free agent in April and made their practice squad. He is coming off a collegiate career in which he filled multiple roles along the Sun Devil offensive line, starting 38 consecutive games to finish his career. The rookie is one of four Sun Devils from the 2019 team to make a NFL roster. 
 
D.J. Foster (2012-15) - Arizona Cardinals
 
Three-year NFL veteran D.J. Foster earned a spot on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He saw action on special teams in the first six games, registering a career-high four special teams tackles against the Falcons. Foster has played in 16 games during his NFL career, compiling 135 receiving yards and 43 rushing yards. Originally signed by New England as a rookie free agent, Foster spent one season with the Patriots before joining the Cardinals. 
 
Tommy Hudson (2015-19) - Tennessee Titans
 
Tommy Hudson signed with the Tennessee Titans as a rookie free agent in May and made their practice squad. His blocking ability has already caught the attention of scouts and coaches, allowing him to get a look at the NFL level. The rookie is one of four Sun Devils from the 2019 team to make a NFL roster.