With all of the buzz and excitement surrounding the top college football prospects entering the NFL Draft, it can be difficult to remember there’s more to the draft than just the first round.
Every year, 256 college athletes’ lives change as they are selected to play for a professional football team.
The Miami Dolphins selected Ballage in the fourth round, making him the highest running back selected from ASU since Heisman candidate and Super Bowl winner J.R. Redmond was taken in the third in 2000.
After this week’s rookie camps, it is expected Ballage will see many snaps on special teams but will have to prove his ball-handling skills to get many snaps on offense, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Ballage will enter the 2018 season behind veteran running backs Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore.
Then there’s Christian Sam, who went in the sixth round to New England. Last season, the junior linebacker led the Pac-12 with 127 recorded tackles and is expected to add strong depth to the Patriots defense. Also going in the sixth round was offensive lineman Sam Jones, taken off the board by the Denver Broncos. Jones will fight for a starting spot behind Connor McGovern who has been with the Broncos for three years but only started in the last five games of the 2017 season.
Although these three players were the only Sun Devils drafted by an NFL team, they were not the only Sun Devils to join a pro team, as three former ASU players agreed to UDFA deals.
Following the draft, running back Demario Richard announced he had signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. Along with Richard, defensive lineman JoJo Wicker signed with the Detroit Lions, DJ Calhoun signed with the Cleveland Browns and long snapper Mitchell Fraboni received an invite to the Tennessee Titans mini camp.
During his four years with ASU, Richard was a consistent contributor out of the backfield, earning an honorable mention for All-Pac-12 honors during his freshman season. Richard ended his senior season as an All-Pac-12 selection, rushing for 1,027 yards with 12 touchdowns.
Wicker and Calhoun were some of the most consistent players on the defensive side of the ball. Wicker, who declared for the draft following his junior season, appeared in 98 percent of defensive snaps last season.
Calhoun, who appeared in every game of his four year career, accumulated 99 tackles and tied for second-most sacks among linebackers with 6.5 during his final season as a Sun Devil.
The linebacker will join former ASU kicker Zane Gonzalez in Cleveland.