Ex-Sun Devils Await Their Fate in NFL Draft

The 2007 NFL draft will probably see just Zach Miller as the only former ASU player to get picked up on Saturday. The next day could have up to a handful of his ex-teammates joining him as professional football players. Devils Digest talked to Kyle Caldwell, Zach Catanese and others less than 48 hours before they enter the next stage in their football career.

Kyle Caldwell currently stands the best chance to be the second former ASU player to be selected in the 2007 draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars are one team that has been involved in many talks with Caldwell and his agent. Ted Monachino, Caldwell's defensive line coach at ASU, has been on the Jags' staff since last season and is making a push with the front office to land his former player. Ironically, Jacksonville is the only team that still sees Caldwell as a defensive end at the next level. All other suitors project him at outside linebacker. The New England Patriots are one of those teams and have been showing just as much of a strong interest as the Jaguars.

"It's crazy that in less 48 hours your future for the next few years will be determined and you have no control over it," said Caldwell. "You have no idea what will happen. It's an unusual feeling. With me, I'm hearing I can be anywhere from a fourth-round pick to a free agent. I'm not even worried about where I get picked – it's all about making it to training camp. Everything is up in the air, so we'll see where the chips fall on Sunday." Caldwell mentioned that the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings are showing pretty strong interest, but less than the two aforementioned teams.

Plan for the worst and hope for the best is the mindset that Caldwell is entering the draft weekend with. That's one of the pieces of advice given by his dad Bryan, an ex-Sun Devil himself, who played with the Dallas Cowboys after his maroon and gold tenure. "He told me that everything from here on is strictly business and I'm gonna be dealing with business people," said Caldwell. "You're no longer on scholarship where you're pretty much guaranteed to always be on the team. It's very competitive and anybody at anytime can take your spot. You have to be ready for that and bring your ‘A' game every time you're out there."

Andrew Carnahan is one of two former Sun Devils that has gone through the pre-draft process without being able to workout due to injury. "I'm healed but I'm not yet at 100%," he said. "I'll be there in June. I'm not gonna be able to do everything in the mini-camp, but I did have some teams contact me and it's nice to know that they put a lot of weight on my game film before I got injured."

The offensive lineman didn't wish to mention any teams that have been showing interest, but noted that "half the teams in the league" have made some sort of contact with him. "I'm definitely going to get drafted," claimed Carnahan. "I already heard from a few teams that said that if I'm still on the board late in the draft they will pick me. My knee checked out OK in the combine and they're some teams out there that are willing to take a chance on me."

Safety Zach Catanese is another player who believes that his injury won't prevent him from being selected on Sunday. "I really feel good about my chances," stated Catansese who injured in ankle in the game of 2006. "Whatever happens happens, and I feel blessed that teams are thinking about me and one of them will call my name. Whatever happens, I'll be happy either way." The safety didn't wish to name the teams in pursuit of him, but did comment that "a number of teams actually think I will play at outside linebacker. I think that would work out for me."

The safety remarked that he's currently at 90% health and hasn't worked out for teams. Like Carnahan he feels that his play before his injury has provided teams with good game film to evaluate his skill, and the fact that he hasn't been able to workout in the combine or privately won't hinder him. "You can have a track guy that can tear the combine apart with his speed or strength, but it's still about showing that you can play the game," he explained. "That's where game film helps teams the most to evaluate you as a player. So I hope it all works out."

As a kicker, Jesse Ainsworth knows that his position rarely gets drafted and not being selected in free agency. "I'm just waiting for Sunday to come around," he said. "If I get picked in the sixth or seventh round that would be amazing. I'll be excited to get selected no matter when it happens."

Ainsworth remarked that it's extremely rare, due to limited roster space, for a team to have one kickoff-only player and one field goal kicker that don't also assume punting duties. "There's just one of you (i.e. a kicker) on the team," he noted. "A lot of teams will bring in a rookie kicker so he can compete with the veteran. You really have to follow all the teams and see what kickers they cut or signed, so when you get picked by a team you kind of know where you stand."

The Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns are teams that Ainsworth has worked out for. "The St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers all asked for my draft day information, so if they need to get a hold for me to draft me or pick me up as a free agent, they know who to contact. It's hard to say what all that means."

From an ASU perspective, the absolute feel-good story of the draft would be if Matt Miller was selected. The wide receiver exhausted his eligibility in 2005, and in his pro day workout last year he tore his ACL during what many teams thought was an impressive workout. After a rigorous training regiment with Andy Bowman, who also trained his nephew Kyle Caldwell, Miller claims that he's in the best shape of his life and teams have been taking notice.

"Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks are a couple of teams that said they'd like to see me in camp," said Miller. "In my situation you obviously just want to get picked. You don't care which round or it's through free agency. You hope that teams realize that if they really want me they have to draft me, otherwise I'm free to sign with whatever team provides me the best opportunity. I'm definitely expecting some phone calls this weekend. I'm feeling real good about my chances."

Miller claimed that he doesn't feel that the pre-draft process for him is any different just because he's one season, rater than a few months, removed from the college game. "I have good game film that shows what I can do in a very complex offense, like Dirk Koetter's was," he explained, "and you have to be a good player to be successful in that system. I already have my degree, and hopefully that's something teams see as a positive. I know I will be playing somewhere, we'll just have to see what happens."

The wide receiver didn't get selected in the NFL Europe draft because he hasn't been playing in the NFL. He pointed to the CFL as a backup plan if no NFL team picks him. "After I hurt my knee I was kind of off the radar," he admitted. "But now I'm giving it all I have to get a shot and wow somebody."

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