Are there any clear choices next year?
After the dust settled on the 2021 NFL Draft, two Syracuse Orange players (Andre Cisco and Ifeatu Melifonwu) were selected and another two (Trill Williams and Nolan Cooney) signed with the New Orleans Saints. While we initially thought all three Syracuse defensive backs would be picked, it was still good to see two Orange standouts hear their names called.
While it’s super early in next year’s cycle, it’s still worth pointing out some Syracuse players who could be picked next spring. We’ll start with players that are more likely to get picked, then progress to those that are on the fringes or are likely free agent signings. Will all of these guys get picked? Certainly not. But a good 2021 season by any of them could go a long way toward a 2022 NFL Draft selection.
Andre Szmyt, K
Kickers aren’t frequent NFL Draft selections. But if Szmyt decides to declare after this season (he has another year available to him), he could be among the top 2-3 special teams players in the draft. Teams know what he can do with a high volume of chances, and there remains a premium on reliable kickers.
Garrett Williams, CB
It’s worth noting that Garrett COULD declare after 2021, since he redshirted in 2019. Last year, he emerged as an excellent cover corner and playmaker, and another season of that success likely has him climbing the board for scouts. Certainly teams have already noticed that he defended 12 passes (best in the ACC) last year.
Free Agents (For Now)
Mikel Jones, LB
It may not take much for Jones to jump into the NFL Draft conversation. He’s shown himself to be disruptive and athletic defending against the pass. The main thing would just be if he can show improvement against the run. He’s potentially a system-based fit for a pro team. But he definitely has the physical talent to be on radars already. That said, he also has plenty of time left at SU, if he so chooses.
Taj Harris, WR
A big year for Harris this year — outside or in the slot — potentially elevates him. But we saw that productivity didn’t necessarily mean Trishton Jackson was picked back in 2020. Harris has a longer track record of success than Jackson, but also hasn’t necessarily had that breakout season yet. Perhaps a switch to the slot could make the playmaker a more in-demand prospect.
McKinley Williams, DT
We’ve seen before how a “lack of productivity” creates concern for Syracuse D-linemen, but Williams has the size and ability to become an NFL Draft pick provided he shows some improved run-stuffing ability here in his sixth season. The tough part will be that at this point, teams will believe “he is what he is.” That’s not an off-base opinion. But again, a bigger year here could help overcome that idea.
Kingsley Jonathan, DE
Another productivity note. His athleticism is going to attract some attention, but not without sack and TFL numbers to show teams he can cash in. That’s going to be difficult in the 3-3-5 scheme. But there’s an opportunity to at least show that it’s the scheme preventing bigger numbers, not the player.
Josh Black, DL
You can probably cut and paste a lot of the notes on Williams above for Black, too. The big difference for Black is the fact that he can play either position on the line and that could create some intrigue for an NFL team. Still, needs to show increased productivity this season to make it happen.
Geoff Cantin-Arku, LB
In just a year of real defensive snaps, Cantin-Arku’s shown himself able to make big plays (six TFLs) and show up well against the run. There will be a stress on even more productivity from him here in year three. But there are ample opportunities to put himself in position to be picked if he can show progress compared to the solid work he did in 2020. Like Jones, he has time left on campus, if he wants it.
Chris Elmore, TE/FB
I’ll openly say that Elmore wouldn’t be drafted. But he’d be a priority free agent pick-up for teams that utilize fullbacks, and see his blocking ability and special teams chops as reasons to bring him aboard.
Certainly not what we saw going into last year. But there are still a decent number of potential Orange prospects above. Key for the program is obviously to keep getting players drafted. Two players going this year is nice progress after the same thing happened in 2020. Still, we need to see more multi-player drafts to keep up momentum and use that to attract greater talent to the program.