Well that’s a wrap on the 2021 NFL Draft and Syracuse had two players selected. Safety Andre Cisco was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu was taken by (my) Detroit Lions. Safety/corner Trill Williams surprisingly went undrafted, but signed a UDFA deal with the New Orleans Saints. Punter Nolan Cooney also signed with the “Who Dat’s.”
In our FizzCast following day 3 of the draft, Jaron and I discussed the potential for next year’s crop of talent. The Orange returned several veteran players that may have been taken late in the process or in an UDFA deal. So could SU’s seasoned talent be selected next season? Who are the young studs with professional potential.
DT: McKinley Williams
“Bear” returns to Syracuse for his sixth and final season on the Hill. He’s one of the last remaining members of the 2016 recruiting class. Williams was actually the lowest ranked recruit in that class, but arguably has had the best career of anybody in that crop.
The Florida native is 6-4, 270 and has played some different spots on the line for SU. He could have pro potential as a run stuffing nose tackle with some pass rush capabilities.
FB/H/TE: Chris Elmore
If you watched the draft, you saw a version of Elmore drafted to the Baltimore Ravens. Ben Mason was selected by John Harbaugh and Company and his game is very similar to Elmore. At Michigan, Mason played fullback, tight end, h-back, and even defensive line.
Elmore started out at d-line for SU and was also used as a blocker in jumbo sets. After a short stint at offensive guard, he’s back to where he can thrive. One NFL team will take Elmore next year as the top fullback in the draft.
DE/DT: Kingsley Jonathan
Jonathan is the second of three veteran members on SU’s defensive line for 2021. He may have been drafted this year on day 3 or if not probably would’ve found a place to sign as an UDFA. Instead, he returns to Syracuse to try and boost his stock. In 2020, Jonathan began to flash some of the potential he had out of high school.
Remember he had offers from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida State amongst others. He racked up 32 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble. If Jonathan wants to get drafted, he’ll need to double those numbers.
OL: Airon Servais
Look, the initial hesitance is understandable. The Syracuse offensive line has fallen short of expectations the last few seasons, but it takes all five members to work. Servais is just one of those and he’s had good and bad moments. Here are the things that can’t be debated. Servais is versatile, a leader, and has good size.
Servais has played center, left tackle, and right tackle for SU. In 2020, the Wisconsin native was co-captain of the offense and likely will be in 2021 as well. As of last year, Servais was 6-6, 295. All of those things are critical in evaluating NFL talent.
DT: Josh Black
Can you already picture it? When Black has his name called, ESPN will hit the play button on the clip of him doing a flip off a brick wall. And then of course, Dwayne Johnson’s response will be included as well. Black has great potential for the NFL because of his versatility. He’s played both end and tackle for SU over his five seasons.
He returns for his sixth year after earning a medical hardship waiver following his sophomore year. In his first year in the 3-3-5, Black started all eleven games inside and finished with 38 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and an interception. He’s an athletic freak with versatility and production, if he can increase his numbers he should be favored to be a day 3 pick in 2021. Oh and fun fact, he squats 700 pounds.
K: Andre Szmyt
Syracuse has had some success with special teamers getting chances in the League recently. Punter Sterling Hofrichter was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2020. Fellow punter Nolan Cooney was picked up by the Saints as an UDFA this year. Placekicker Andre Szymt may be the next one up for SU. He burst on the scene as a redshirt-freshman and won the 2018 Lou Groza award as the nation’s best kicker.
He’s received All-American honors and with a big fifth year campaign, could win the Burlsworth Trophy awarded to the nations best former walk-on. Szmyt’s production took a dip last year as the SU offense struggled to move the ball. He finished 9/11 with a long of 48 yards. Hopefully that production continues to fall because Syracuse is scoring touchdowns and not settling for 3’s, but either way Szmyt seems like a lock to either be drafted or signed in 2022.
WR: Taj Harris
This is more a hot take. Harris has put up good numbers as an Orange, but has some potential character issues that teams might consider. He missed one game in 2020 for flipping the bird, and seemed frustrated all season in the below average play of the quarterbacks. If SU can find some steadiness under center, it’ll be huge for the offense and for Harris and his prospects of playing in the NFL.
The New Jersey native enters his senior season as a three-year starter on the outside and has started 29 games, with 135 receptions, 1,857 yards, and 10 touchdowns to his name. He was a big downfield threat for Syracuse last year and excelled in breaking tackles and racking up yards after the catch. If he can emerge as a leader and avoid character issues this season, while still putting up big numbers, he could be a sleeper in the 2022 draft.
Other Names to Watch
LB: Mikel Jones
Jones took a big step last season in his first year as a starter. He led the ACC with four interceptions in 2020 and was involved in the most takeaways in the country. He led the team with 69 tackles last season.
CB: Garrett Williams
Williams burst onto the scene as a redshirt-freshman and locked down one side of the field. He was a freshman All-American by PFF and The Athletic and honorable mention All-ACC. Williams led the conference with 12 passes defended, 5.8 tackles per game (highest among cornerbacks), and was third on the team with 64 tackles. That’s high volume for a cornerback. He also picked off No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and returned it for a touchdown. Williams could join Melifonwu in the League as soon as next year.
LB: Geoff Cantin-Arku
Cantin-Arku started 10 games last season for SU and finished fourth on the squad with 63 tackles. He also emerged as the most disruptive member of the linebacker room with 6 tackles for loss, and a team leading four sacks. The Canadien turns 23 this October so he may be looking to make the jump in 2022.
OT: Matthew Bergeron
Speaking of Canadiens, Bergeron is in a position to declare next season. The Quebec native has started 16 consecutive games for SU and has played both left and right tackle. In 2019, Bergeron became the first freshman to start at tackle for the Orange since 2002. At the conclusion of his freshman campaign, he earned All-American honors from PFF. At 6-4, 315 Bergeron has great size and just turned 21 this past February.
OG: Dakota Davis
Syracuse really missed Davis for the majority of the 2020 season. Chris Elmore slotted in to take his place and was serviceable. The offensive line improved marginally once it was back at full strength allowing just 2.7 sacks per game in the latter half of the season. Rewind back to 2019, Davis had a huge season.
He started all 12 games at right guard and was second on the team with 50 knockdown blocks. Against Duke in ‘19, Davis had five knockdowns and became the first SU offensive lineman to earn ACC offensive lineman of the week in program history. If Davis plays the entirety of the season at a high level, he could emerge as a prospect for NFL teams.
DT: Cody Roscoe
Roscoe is probably the most unlikely on this list to be selected, but he definitely has pro potential. Roscoe started 22 games in three seasons at Mcneese State and recorded 94 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, with 16 sacks. He also holds the school record for most pass breakups in a game with 6. Remember, Roscoe is a defensive lineman, not a corner.
In 2020, the transfer played better than some may remember. The rising fifth year made 20 tackles and tied for third on the team with 6 tackles for loss. If Roscoe can equal that production and make an impact as SU’s swing lineman, he could play himself onto an NFL roster.