In preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 11
2013 NFL Draft picks: 3 -- OT Justin Pugh (1st round, New York Giants), QB Ryan Nassib (4th round, New York Giants), SS Shamarko Thomas (4th round, Pittsburgh Steelers)
In his four years as the head coach at Syracuse, Doug Marrone averaged just six wins per season but sent several players to the NFL, including first-rounders each of the last two seasons (DE Chandler Jones, OT Justin Pugh). With Marrone now in the NFL himself with the Buffalo Bills, Scott Shafer takes over as the new ‘Cuse coach, the first head coaching gig of his career. The former defensive coordinator of the Orange, Shafer emphasizes multiple sets and speed on defense, which fits the current personnel on the roster, led by Dyshawn Davis and Marcus Spruill at linebacker. While it seems a long shot for Syracuse to continue their streak of first rounders in the 2014 NFL Draft, Shafer inherits a team with some intriguing talent ready for the next level.
Top Syracuse prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OLB Dyshawn Davis (6-2, 215, 4.68)*
Penciled in as Syracuse's starting Will linebacker, Davis has 23 starts over his first two seasons for the Orange. And while he finished middle of the pack in tackles as a freshman and sophomore, he did register double-digit tackles for loss each season with 10.5 in 2011 and 14 last year. Davis is a tall, good-looking athlete who knows how to shoot gaps and play with relentless speed. He moves well laterally with a quick (and accurate) first step to arrive to the play in a hurry. He has a lean lower body and needs to improve his core strength to match up better at the line of scrimmage, struggling to shed at the point of attack. Davis tends to play too high and needs to improve his leverage and hand technique to better take on and disengage blocks. While he still needs to develop his strength, Davis has the rangy speed and closing burst to be a run-and-chase defender and a jack-of-all-trades linebacker for Syracuse.
2. OLB Marquis Spruill (6-0, 230, 4.67)
A starter since his freshman season in 2010, Spruill has bounced between outside and middle linebacker over his career, but is expected to be the starter at the “MIKE” linebacker spot for the 2013 season. He has produced moderate statistics over his 36 career starts at Syracuse, but is among the active leaders in the ACC with 177 career tackles on his pro resume. Spruill plays with a non-stop motor with the speed to run sideline-to-sideline, arriving to the ballcarrier with pop and a head of steam. He has done a nice job getting stronger, but still has a leaner-than-ideal frame and has room to improve his technique to do a better job sifting through a crowd. Spruill is a workout warrior and should test very well during the pre-draft process with a 40-yard dash in the 4.5-4.6 range and a vertical leap of 37-inches. He even earned a mention in Bruce Feldman's annual “Freaks List” article and has received some praise from the coaching staff for his leadership and determination off the field (even after a minor arrest in December 2012).
3. RB Jerome Smith (6-0, 226, 4.62)*
Despite sharing a bulk of the carries with senior-to-be Prince-Tyson Gulley, Smith led Syracuse in rush attempts (227) and rush yards (1,171) last season. He was the starter for 12 games in 2012 and was listed as the first-team running back on Syracuse's post-spring depth chart so he is expected to see most of the touches again in 2013. Smith is solidly-built and runs behind his pads with raw power and toughness, but he doesn't break as many tackles as his running style might suggest with room to improve his overall balance at initial contact. He isn't overly elusive, but has some shiftiness to sidestep defenders, using his quick feet to swiftly cut back against the grain and keep defenders off-balance. He is a grinder who wins at the line of scrimmage with his vision and patience to find slivers and get to the second level quickly (a la Alfred Morris). Smith, who recently received a retroactive medical redshirt due to an injury from his freshman season, has two seasons of eligibility remaining in college and is well on his way to being one of the more productive backs in school history.
Other Syracuse prospects worth watching:
QB Charley Loeb (6-4, 215, 4.87)
Ryan Nassib's back-up the past few seasons, Loeb has just six career pass attempts and still needs to win the starting job but is a big, strong-armed pocket passer.
QB Drew Allen (6-5, 228, 4.76)
An incoming Oklahoma transfer, Allen has next-level talent on paper and will compete for the starting job once he arrives on campus this summer.
RB Prince-Tyson Gulley (5-10, 192, 4.58)
A backup running back, Gulley tallied 830 rushing yards and 33 catches last season, leading the team with nine scores on the ground.
OT Sean Hickey (6-5, 285)*
Justin Pugh's replacement at left tackle, Hickey started all 13 games last season, including the first four on the left side while Pugh was injured.
C Macky MacPherson (6-2, 278)
The grandson of Hall of Fame Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson, Richard “Macky” MacPherson has started all 25 games the past two seasons.
DT Jay Bromley (6-4, 290, 5.29)
The lone returning starter on the Syracuse defensive line, Bromley still has room to develop but has NFL size and strength with time at multiple positions.
CB Keon Lyn (6-0, 196, 4.56)
The team-leader with three interceptions last season, Lyn has average size and speed and doesn't particularly stand out on tape.