Dino Babers watched his first Syracuse recruiting class graduate to the NFL over the weekend. Two Orange players heard their names called during the NFL Draft by Commissioner Roger Goodell for the first time since 2014. Alton Robinson and Sterling Hofrichter were both taken on the final day of the draft. SU added four more names to NFL rosters as undrafted free agents. However, late draft picks and undrafted free agents’ NFL fates are largely determined by the fit with their respective teams.
Alton Robinson, Seattle Seahawks, 148th pick (5th round), Defensive End
This is a great fit for both sides, not just because Seattle had the second fewest sacks (28) in the league last season, but because Robinson is already familiar with the Pacific Northwest and the system. Robinson trained less than 15 minutes away from Century Link Field with Seattle starting linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright leading up to the draft. He also worked closely with retired Seahawks’ defensive end Cliff Avril. Robinson can apply the insight of three Super Bowl champions to the raw talent he displayed at SU. After just three seasons, Robinson ranks 7th on Syracuse’s all time sacks list with 19.5. The Converse, Texas native is a two-time All-ACC selection.
Fit grade: A
Sterling Hofrichter, Atlanta Falcons, 228th pick (7th round), Punter
Hofrichter did not miss a beat in replacing Riley Dixon when he was drafted with the exact same pick in 2016. Dixon and Hofrichter have tag-teamed to make Syracuse “Punter-U”. Hofrichter is the first player in team history to earn All-ACC First Team honors multiple times (2018, 2019). He was a Ruy Guy Award finalist for punter of the year as a senior. Hofrichter dazzled in the Dome with the most total punting yards in school history. Critics might say punting indoors helped him. That may be true, but the Falcons play indoors as well. Hofrichter should slide into the NFL seamlessly with Atlanta, and will undoubtedly have the biggest immediate impact on his new team compared to the rest of his Orange counterparts.
Fit grade: A+
Trishton Jackson, Los Angeles Rams, UFA, Wide Receiver
Trishton Jackson had an outstanding season, and fans probably sensed he was destined for the NFL when he set the record for most receiving yards by a junior in school history (1,023) and led the team in touchdown receptions (11) and catches (66). But this was a deep wide receiver class. Thirty-seven receivers were selected before Jackson signed with Los Angeles as a free agent. Keep in mind that Jackson had another year of eligibility, and he only had one year with Tommy Devito to prove himself as an NFL talent. Another year with Devito and the Orange likely would have earned him a draft slot next year. The Rams were the fourth best passing team in the league last season, so don’t be surprised if Jackson doesn’t make the 53-man roster.
Fit grade: C-
Sean Riley, New England Patriots, UFA, Wide Receiver
New England is getting a speedy slot receiver who can return kicks and punts. Just like any undrafted player, the competition for a roster spot will be fierce. However, Riley will especially have an uphill climb in New England. Bill Bellichik signed two other slot receivers and returners after the draft. Mississippi State’s Isaiah Zuber is just as fast as Riley with better size. New England is also bringing in Will Hastings from Auburn. Hastings might have the upper hand on Riley before either of them even get to camp based on his chemistry with Patriots Quarterback Jared Stitdham, who played with Hastings at Auburn. The silver lining for Riley is that the Patriots are in dire need of wide receiver depth. However, with a minimal financial commitment to him, New England will have to be dazzled by Riley in camp for him to make the 53-man roster.
Fit grade: D
Kendall Coleman, Indianapolis Colts, UFA, Defensive End
Coleman had this deal in the works well before the draft ended. The Indianapolis native grew up a Colts fan, and is joining former SU teammates Zaire Franklin and Steve Ishmael on a win-now team. Coleman likely went undrafted because of an underwhelming four sacks in his senior season after 10 in his junior year. However, he has been training with future Hall of Fame outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who spent his entire 14 year career with the Colts. Mathis raved about the four-year starter’s football IQ and versatility.
Fit grade: A
Evan Adams, Baltimore Ravens, Guard, UFA
The Ravens gave Evan Adams an NFL contract on Sunday, undoubtedly the best birthday present the 23-year-old has ever received. Adams started at guard for each of his four seasons at Syracuse. The Norwalk, CT native spent the past four months preparing for the NFL after graduating in December. For Adams, the name of the game is conditioning. He was listed at 6’6”, 352 lbs as a redshirt senior. If he makes the roster, he will be tasked with protecting a fast paced offense in front of 2019 MVP Quarterback Lamar Jackson and backup quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Ravens are hoping that a conditioned Adams, who was a strong ACC run blocker, could develop into a contributor up front with an aging running game.
Fit grade: C+