Pro-Level Talent: The Syracuse Footballers with NFL Buzz Behind Them

Despite an up-and-down season, Syracuse has a few players on the NFL radar.


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It was around this time last year when his name starting spreading around the nation. QB Ryan Nassib started setting the SU records, and subsequently his name was shooting up NFL draft boards. The most prolific passer in Syracuse history was slated anywhere as a first- to fourth-rounder in the 2013 NFL draft, providing Syracuse fans with the hope that perhaps the Orange would have two consecutive seasons with first-round draft picks after Bill Belichick nabbed Chandler Jones the previous year.

Who will be the first Syracuse player off the board this year? Many draft rankings have multiple members of the Orange football roster going in the first few rounds. The highest rated Syracuse player is left tackle Sean Hickey. He’s projected by CBS Sports to be selected in the third round, and is ranked as the 11th-best tackle in the 2014 class. The 6’5”, 290-lb O-lineman will have a decision on hands this winter because he is eligible for one more year at Syracuse. Injury is always the risk when pondering over returning for another season or going pro, but in the 2015 NFL draft, Hickey is ranked as the fifth-best tackle, up six spots.

The most interesting ranking, according to CBS Sports, is Jay Bromley. Syracuse’s best lineman is currently projected as a fifth- or sixth-rounder. That will surely rise. The senior has racked up nine sacks, which is tied for fourth in the ACC, and is wreaking havoc up the middle on the line. His stock will rise just like Chandler Jones’ did a couple years ago. Syracuse has been in the spotlight a bit more this season than in years past thanks to more televised ACC games, but once scouts and teams see more of his tape during the offseason, he could potentially be a top third-round pick.

Some of the lineman that he battled with this past Saturday against Florida State are going to be the same size as many of the prospects that he’ll be going up against in the NFL. Bromley told the Fizz he is confident that he can hang with the best at any level.

“I can play with anybody in the country, I’m not worried about that. They can put one guy on me, but I feel I can take on any one guy in the country, and I’ll keep playing from there as far as the individual aspect of it. You could be 6’8” 500 lbs, but I’m not backing down from anybody.”

Bromley really has been exceptional all year. Staying on the defensive side, Keon Lyn is also projected as a sixth-rounder despite his injury. He’s rated as one of the top 20 cornerbacks in the draft, and his position will rely on his health and whether or not he can make it back in time for Syracuse’s Pro Day.

SU still has one more player that is settling on the 2014 NFL Draft boards, and it’s the most interesting case. RB Jerome Smith is projected to go in the sixth round of the upcoming draft. A 5-carry, 1-yard day like he had against Florida State surely won’t help the stock down the stretch of this season, but likely for Orange fans, he could care less about his 2014 draft stock with one more year of eligibility remaining.

“I want to enjoy college, I’m enjoying college, I don’t want to be in the real world yet. I haven’t really thought about [the draft], my only goal is taking care of this team and when that [draft] situation comes up, me and my family will deal with it, but right now I’m loving college,” Smith said.

At this point in the year, that’s the right answer from Smith. What’s more important now is whether or not Syracuse can notch a bowl berth. But let’s say Smith finished the year with three straight 100-yard rushing days (his final two opponents Pittsburgh and Boston College give up close to 200 yards rushing each, and let’s account for a bowl game), that would put the junior up over 1,000 yards rushing for a second consecutive season.

Achieving that feat in the ACC is much more credible than the Big East. From a monetary perspective, if Smith is a guaranteed fifth- or sixth-rounder at minimum this upcoming spring, then it might be beneficial to declare. But he did pick up another year for eligibility for a reason, and in the 2015 draft, early rankings have him plugged in as the seventh-best tailback. Like the big fella said, let’s see how this season finishes up.

It’s pretty clear, though, that for a fifth consecutive season, the Orange will have someone drafted this spring.

Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald

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