Arizona State’s 2022 draft class seems to have caught the New England Patriots’ eye.
NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo on Monday reported New England has scheduled pre-draft meetings this week with a pair of Sun Devils defenders: cornerback Chase Lucas and linebacker Darien Butler.
The Patriots also plan to meet for a second time with ASU cornerback Jack Jones, whom they hosted for a top-30 visit at Gillette Stadium last week, per a report from Pro Football Focus’s Doug Kyed.
All three players are unlikely to hear their names called before Day 3 of the draft.
Lucas and Butler have similar résumés as highly experienced defensive leaders. The former was a five-year starter at Arizona State (49 starts total) and team captain as a senior, playing both outside corner and in the slot. The latter was a four-year starter (37 games total) and a rare three-year captain whom NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein called “the heart and soul” of the Sun Devils’ defense.
Scouting reports knock Lucas for his lack of size and strength (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) and occasional poor discipline in coverage and Butler for his stubby 5-10, 221-pound frame, which is tiny for an NFL linebacker. But the Patriots’ affinity for experienced prospects with strong leadership traits could put both on their late-round radar. Lucas also showed good quickness at his pro day, posting a three-cone drill time (6.78 seconds) that would have ranked eighth among all players at the NFL Scouting Combine and a short shuttle (4.16 seconds) that would have ranked sixth.
Jones took a different collegiate path. He spent his first two seasons at USC before being ruled academically ineligible for the 2018 campaign and subsequently being arrested and charged with second-degree misdemeanor burglary after breaking into a restaurant. He spent that year at a junior college in California and did not play football, then transferred to Arizona State.
Jones also was suspended for part of the 2020 season for violating team rules but returned to play in all but one game in 2021, starting seven of 11 and leading his team in interceptions (three), passes defended (nine) and forced fumbles (three). He ran a 4.13-second short shuttle and 6.90-second three-cone at his pro day.
“As a player, he’s a ball-hawking cornerback with playmaking instincts,” Zierlein wrote in the 5-11, 171-pound Jones’ NFL.com draft profile. “Despite solid ball production, though, Jones also gave up a lot of touchdowns at the college level. His lack of size/strength should make technique a top priority, as his talent for finding the football won’t matter as much if he can’t get on the field.”
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler added: “Overall, his lack of size and discipline (on and off the field) create doubt about his next level future, but his short-area agility, ball instincts and compete skills are NFL-worthy traits.”
Arizona State isn’t among the Patriots’ top prospect pipeline programs (Alabama, Michigan, Georgia, etc.) but has produced two New England draft picks in the last four years: first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry in 2019 and sixth-round linebacker Christian Sam in 2018.