2021 NFL Draft: Frank Darby next in Arizona State WR line

In each of the last two NFL drafts, a wide receiver out of Arizona State has been drafted in the first round. In 2019 it was N’Keal Harry, 32nd overall to the New England Patriots. In 2020 it was Brandon Aiyuk, 25th overall to the San Francisco 49ers. Now, Frank Darby has an opportunity to in front of him starting with the season opener against USC on Saturday as the Pac-12 opens their shortened 2020 campaign.

Darby had 31 receptions for 616 yards and eight touchdowns last season. His 19.9 yards per catch average was the 10th-best mark in the country, and second in the Pac-12. His eight touchdowns were tied for fourth in the conference, with Aiyuk.

On ESPN radio Tuesday morning, draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. talked about Darby.

“I highlighted Frank Darby at Arizona State playing for Herm,” Kiper said on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin on Tuesday. “Herm had N’Keal Harry, first-round pick. Then last year he had Brandon Aiyuk. Now it’s Frank Darby’s turn to be the guy. He’s been a vertical stretch guy until now. Now that 30-plus catches is expected to be 60-plus catches. He has to be the man there.”

Last year against UCLA, with Arizona State trailing 28-7 at halftime, Darby sensed a breakout opportunity and told quarterback Jayden Daniels as much.

We were down really bad,” “I looked at [Daniels] and I was like, ‘They’re [putting an extra safety over the top of Aiyuk] and I’m here. I’m not going to stop playing.’”

Darby had two catches for 24 yards at halftime of that game. In the second half, he caught four of his five targets for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

On Nov. 23 against Oregon, Darby had four catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. That ended a run of seven touchdowns in the final four regular season games, with over 65 yards in all four and two 100-yard games.

Is Frank Darby Going To Be A 1st-Round Pick?

The short season will limit Darby’s chances to showcase himself as the Sun Devils’ No. 1 wide receiver. Saturday against USC will be a big opportunity for him, since the game is FOX’s showcase contest in the first wave of the day’s action.

Bruce Feldman of The Athletic puts together an annual college football “Freaks List”, and here’s what he wrote about Darby (h/t to AZ Central.com).

“The 6-1, 200-pound New Jersey native has topped out at 23 mph on GPS. He also has squatted 500 pounds.”

In a story from Sports Illustrated during the summer, Andy McCullough of Blue Chip Scouting offered high praise for Darby.

(Darby) graded higher than N’Keal Harry or Brandon Aiyuk at this point” said Harbaugh. “I really think he can be better than both of them and be a first round pick.”

NFL draft scouting will be different this year. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported one Pac-12 school (Washington) has informed the league office that scouts will not be allowed at home games this season. Arizona State is not schedule to play Washington this year, shy of a possible Pac-12 title game matchup. But it’s safe to assume NFL personnel has not been (and will not be) populating college games as much as they would in a normal year, so there will fewer in-person eyes on Darby and other 2021 draft prospects.

Herm Edwards has been able to sell preparation for the NFL to his recruits, and Darby has a very good chance to make it three first-round Sun Devils’ wide receivers in as many years. Even in only six games, the tape won’t lie.

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