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ESPN, PFF peg ASU WR Frank Darby as a top Pac-12 prospect to watch

Arizona State wide receiver Frank Darby (84) runs with a reception as Sacramento State defensive back Allen Perryman (30) pursues during the second half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

It’s not common for two wide receivers from the same program to go in the first round of NFL drafts in back-to-back seasons.

Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards said it himself.

But a third first-rounder in three straight years? That’s a rare feat for any program.

If there’s one receiver to pull it off within ASU’s ranks, it’s senior Frank Darby.

There’s no doubt eyes are already fixed on the wideout as he begins to navigate his senior campaign in a shortened 2020 season.

Of those keeping tabs on Darby is ESPN’s Mel Kiper. The draft man put together five names of Pac-12 prospects to watch this season, with Darby as the only true wide receiver in the bunch.

Can Darby emerge as a legit No. 1 wideout? Arizona State has had first-round receivers the past two years — N’Keal Harry in 2019, Brandon Aiyuk in 2020 — and Darby has been the Sun Devils’ deep threat, averaging 20 yards per catch with 52 catches and 10 touchdowns in that time frame. He has some explosive-play ability and is stellar at tracking the ball in the air, but Darby needs to become more than just a deep-ball specialist to move up draft boards. I want to see improved intermediate routes. He’s going to get a lot more targets this season — and he has a good, young quarterback throwing to him in Jayden Daniels — starting with the Trojans this weekend.

Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner shared similar thoughts on Darby:

Darby once again proved to be solely a downfield threat, as he hauled in 31 passes for 616 yards and eight scores last year. That’s who the 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt senior is at this point. He checked in at 38th on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List this year because of his elite deep speed. That will get him looks in the NFL, but we’ll need to see far more polish in his game before he’s anything other than a late-round flyer.

Darby enters 2020 as the No. 1 receiving option on the depth chart for sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels.

In three seasons with the Sun Devils, the wideout amassed 61 receptions for 1,271 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Last year, however, was Darby’s best season to date as he set career marks in receptions (31), receiving yards (616) and touchdowns (8). He also averaged 19.9 yards per catch and tied Brandon Aiyuk for the most receiving scores on the team.

While the potential is there for Darby to make a jump to the next level, he’ll be the first to tell you there’s still a 2020 season to be played.

If the team figures to have success offensively, Darby will be called on to be front and center in a new-look offense under first-year coordinator Zak Hill.

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