Tuesday Draft Notes -- 12.0

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The Thanksgiving weekend saw a number of college coaches fired, while others moved in to take open spots. Will this effect underclassman decisions? The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s the latest edition of Tuesday Draft Notes.

Though there had been rumors milling about Arizona State head coach Todd Graham being on the hot seat in the weeks leading up to the Sun Devils’ victory over Arizona, it was still a mild surprise he was let go off a seven-win season and 12-point victory over the rival Wildcats.

And throughout that time, word was a number of ASU juniors could be headed for the draft.

For more than a month I’ve been told outside linebacker Christian Sam is seriously considering entering the draft, and Graham’s firing may push him out the door. A junior we graded as a potential sixth-round pick before the season began off the 2015 film after he missed all but one game in 2016 with a leg injury, Christian finished the regular season with 127 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and one interception.  He’s a smaller run-and-chase linebacker with a nice degree of scheme versatility.

The interesting name from ASU to keep an eye on, and a player that often gets lost in the shuffle, is offensive guard Sam Jones.

The redshirt junior watched his game take off last season after being a part-time starter the prior two years. Jones is a smart, athletic guard who does a great job using angles as well as body positioning to take defenders from the action. He’s nimble on his feet, effective blocking on the second level and comes with a nice degree of growth potential.

Several insiders familiar with the southwest believe Jones could slide into the second day of the draft.

Out in Tallahassee, an announcement is imminent on Jimbo Fisher’s exit out the door to Texas A&M. Several people I’ve spoken with believe the deal has been done and all that’s needed is to iron out minor details -- something that’s also been reported by other outlets.

I’m told regardless of the coaching situation at Florida State, safety Derwin James will enter the draft.

It’s also likely that defensive end Josh Sweat, whose game really improved last season, makes the jump to the next level. Sweat’s family has been doing its homework on his potential entry into the draft since August.

The other Seminole junior close to making the jump is big-bodied receiver Auden Tate. Tate caught 33 passes for the Seminoles’ pedestrian pass offense this season, seven which resulted in touchdowns.

Staying at the receiver position, word I’m hearing is that Alabama’s Calvin Ridley will enter the draft.  When our rankings are released later this week, Ridley will be the top-rated receiver. He is also the only player at the position we grade as a clear-cut first-rounder.

Other underclassman names I’m hearing as maybes for next April’s draft include Toledo receiver Jon'Vea Johnson, who may make the jump if Rockets head coach Jason Candle bolts for another gig.

Surprisingly, I’m told by trusted sources that Temple running back Ryquell Armstead is considering entering the draft despite his poor season.

Armstead was graded as a potential mid-round choice by Draft Analyst before the season but never got his game on track in 2017. The talented ball carrier was down in every category from a year ago, including crossing the goal line, which was most startling. Armstead’s four touchdowns this season are in stark contrast to the 14 scores he posted one year ago.

Post season All-Star games are only six weeks away and just like last year, Draft Analyst will have every centimeter of the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl covered.

The Shrine Game has a history of showcasing quarterback talent from the Ivy League, including some players who have been initially ignored.

Last year, Alek Torgersen of Penn was a surprise entry to the game despite not being graded by scouts prior to the season. Torgersen was initially signed by the Falcons after the draft and then spent a month on the Redskins roster during the season.

This year, the player who could sneak into the game is rifle-armed Princeton passer Chad Kanoff.

The three-year starter is coming off a career season in which he completed 73 percent of his passes for 3,474 yards and 29 TDs. Kanoff is known for his big-time arm and the ability to make all the deep throws with velocity.