The Syracuse Orange has had several successful football players in the NFL Draft over the years. From Donovan McNabb to Dwight Freeney, many former Orange stars have become household names.
This article will look at the top five Syracuse NFL Draft picks of the 21st century. These five players were all successful college stars and made their mark in professional football.
Freeney is one of the most accomplished Syracuse players in NFL history. He was selected 11th overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2002 NFL Draft and quickly impacted their defensive line. Throughout his 11-year career with the Colts, Freeney was a seven-time Pro Bowler, twice named First Team All-Pro, and won the 2005 AFC Defensive Player of the Year award. He also helped lead the Colts to their first Super Bowl title in 36 years.
At Syracuse, Freeney was a force to be reckoned with. He earned unanimous All-America honors in 2001 due to his impressive 17.5 sacks. He also claimed Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year and finished his career as the all-time leader in tackles for loss (50.5).
Chandler Jones was selected No. 21 overall by the New England Patriots in the 2012 NFL Draft. He has since become one of the most consistent and productive pass rushers in the league, recording 97 career sacks. Last season, Jones was limited to just five games due to a right biceps injury. He racked up 19 sacks in 2019, earning him second place in the league’s Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Stephon Gilmore.
Jones had an impressive college career at Syracuse University, where he earned First Team All-Big East honors in 2011 and was named the Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. His college football odds were such that he was projected to be a first-round draft pick.
Will Allen, a Corcoran High School graduate, was selected in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft as the 22nd overall pick by the New York Giants. During his decade-long NFL career, Allen made an impact with both the Giants and Miami Dolphins, recording 532 tackles, five sacks, 15 interceptions, seven forced fumbles, and six fumble recoveries.
First-round draft pick Justin Pugh has had a successful career since being selected 19th overall by the New York Giants in 2013. He has started all 101 games he played throughout his eight seasons and was an anchor on their offensive line from 2013 to 2017. After suffering injuries that limited his playing time in 2017 and 2018, Pugh bounced back with 31 starts over the last two seasons while in Arizona.
Morlon Greenwood was selected 88th overall in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. He played eight seasons in the league, including four with the Dolphins and four with Houston Texans. During his time with both teams, Greenwood had four years from 2004-07 in which he recorded more than 100 tackles each season. He also posted 11 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries throughout his NFL career.