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Experts make predictions on Arizona State NFL Draft projections

Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage (7) sheds Utah defensive back Chase Hansen (22) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Entering the home stretch of NFL Draft prep, experts gave their predictions on where they think Arizona State players will be drafted.

Coming into the draft, four Sun Devils were listed among players that could be drafted: running back Kalen Ballage, outside linebacker Christian Sam, offensive lineman Sam Jones and defensive lineman JoJo Wicker.

Based on several mock drafts, here’s how ASU did:

Matt Miller – Bleacher Report

Ballage: 5th round, 149th overall pick

At 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, few backs have the physical tools that Ballage possesses. His athleticism coupled with his versatility on special teams and as a receiver make him an enticing option. However, indecisiveness, lack of vision and a decrease in production between his junior and senior seasons at Arizona State are concerns. According to Miller, Ballage is the No. 14 running back available.

Ballage is either fool’s gold or a potential steal. He’ll spark many debates about traits versus production in scouting rooms. There is very little wear and tear on his frame and he is a great athlete, but a lack of impact on Saturdays will give teams pause.

Jones: 5th round, 144th overall pick

An athletic interior lineman, Jones anchored the Sun Devils offensive line from the left guard position. He moves well and has good quickness as a blocker, but with a sunken chest on a thin frame, he will struggle to add weight necessary for him to match up to the strength of NFL linemen. Jones will likely need to move to center and play in a zone-blocking scheme at the next level. According to Miller, Jones is the No. 25 offensive lineman available.

Sam Jones will struggle to carry the weight needed to be an effective interior offensive lineman. He’ll have to find a program that builds up a frame that doesn’t seem to have much more space on it while also retaining the athleticism that makes him a reasonable prospect … An outside-zone scheme may see him as a rotating piece who can provide spot starts and depth after a year or two on a practice squad.

Sam: 6th round, 207th overall pick

In his final season in college, Sam led the Pac-12 with 87 solo tackles and 127 total tackles. In short, his body type and nose for the ball will give him a chance to be a decent gap-shooting linebacker at the next level. While his instincts are good, he struggles with reading blocking schemes and can get out of position when trying to anticipate plays. According to Miller, Sam is the No. 15 linebacker available.

Christian Sam has a NFL-ready frame and the combination of skills that will make him a valuable three-down linebacker at the next level. Inconsistency in effort on film is a major concern and will hold him back as a rookie. He’s certainly worth a roster spot to develop as a versatile backup, but the routine plays have to be no-brainers for starters in the NFL—and that’s not the case yet with Sam.

Wicker 5th round, 139th overall pick

Wicker entered the draft early following a year in which he played nearly every position along the defensive line. With good initial quickness and a workhorse mentality (he played 98 percent of defensive snaps in 2017), Wicker has a case to become a rotational, interior rusher. The biggest concern with Wicker is size. His weight distributes in his midsection, making him look heavier than his 273-pound frame would suggest. With below-average strength and power, he will need to get faster. According to Miller, Wicker is the No. 29 available defensive lineman.

Wicker’s 6’3″ body isn’t ready for the NFL, and it will take a legitimate training program to disperse some of the weight in his midsection while either putting more on or building true speed and agility. He flashes some of the quickness and mental processing that will entice teams to make him a late-round selection and bet on their coaching staff. He’s suited for a limited role, but the right team may be able to get a solid rotational player.

R.J. White – CBS Sports

Kalen Ballage: 5th round, 166th overall pick

Jones: Undrafted

Sam: 4th round, 122nd overall pick

Wicker: Undrafted

Chad Reuter – NFL.com

Ballage: 3rd round, 88th overall pick

Jones: 6th round, 184th overall pick

Sam: 4th round, 124th overall pick

Wicker: Undrafted

To catch all of the NFL Draft action, tune in to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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