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Who Will be Syracuse’s Next First Round Pick?

Photo courtesy of syracuse.com

The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft came and went on Thursday night, and unsurprisingly no Syracuse player had their name called. The Orange are in a significant first-round pick drought, as SU’s last round one selection came back in 2013 when the Giants selected tackle Justin Pugh 19th overall.

That was the second year in a row that Syracuse had a first-round pick, as Chandler Jones was selected 21st overall by the Patriots in 2012. Jones has undoubtedly been the most successful Syracuse player in the NFL over the past decade and starts a new chapter of his career with the Raiders this season after a handful of years with the Cardinals.

Before that, Syracuse did not have a player selected in round one since 2002, with Dwight Freeney at 11th overall to the Colts. So if you do the math, that’s since 2003, or the last 20 drafts, SU football has two first-round picks. That is not good enough.

2023 might be the best chance for Syracuse to break the drought, and several options could be in play for the Orange in both the secondary and on offense that could have a shot to hear their name called by Roger Goodell in Kansas City next April.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Sean Tucker. First-round running backs are declining. Teams consistently get made fun of and ridiculed for drafting a running back in round 1. None went on Thursday this year. 

But, if Tucker can build on his 1400-yard 2021 season and have an even better 2022, there is a chance he could sneak into the back half of round one next year. Najee Harris went 24th in 2021 to the Steelers. A ball carrier had gone in round one every year before 2022 since 2014.

There’s a good chance NFL teams are not done picking running backs in the first round. If Tucker has his best season yet in 2022, it would not be unheard of that he could be picked in round one in 2023.

Tucker is the only Syracuse offensive player that will appear in this article. No one else has a shot. It’s all on Tony White’s defense now. Thankfully, there are a few potential options, albeit, not as strong as Tucker. Let’s group the secondary options altogether.

Garrett Williams, Alijah Clark, and Duce Chestnut have all shown potential to be drafted. Williams was projected to be drafted in 2022 after a brilliant 2020 season, but injuries and a slight regression slowed him in 2021.

Chestnut and Clark would not be eligible until the 2024 NFL Draft, but with two strong seasons, could be on the pro’s radar. Teams are always looking for secondary help. Two cornerbacks went in the top-four on Thursday. If both of these New Jersey projects keep growing, they could make Dino Babers proud in a couple of drafts.

Finally, looking way down the line, the biggest potential of anyone here has to be Francois Nolton. One of Syracuse’s top recruits in years, a top-700 player according to 247 Sports, pass rushers are also extremely valuable to NFL teams.

Nolton has not even played a game for SU yet, so this could be a complete miss, but he had the high school talent and tools to become a high-level edge rusher in the ACC. Don’t be surprised if he’s the leader on the front line of the SU defense early in his career. 

So, one offensive player, a handful of defensive guys, and a whole lot of what-ifs. 2023 will mark 10 years since Syracuse’s last first-round pick. Only time will tell if the Orange are finally able to get back into round one.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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