Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.
For as much credit as former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is rightfully due, the program’s resurgence doesn’t happen without the boatload of talented players, either. And that’s never been more readily apparent than at this year’s draft, as the Orange could have as many as six players selected, many in the first two days. Between stellar showings at the combine and pro day, and a league-wide feeling that now-Bills coach Marrone will draft as many former SU guys as possible, the value of every former Orange player has been steadily climbing.
Ryan Nassib, QB, Senior (Projected: Second Round)
In a realistic assessment of Nassib’s talent, he’s a smart passer with leadership traits, a strong arm and enough potential to work his way into a starting role within the next couple seasons. But operating under the assumption that Marrone is both drafting a quarterback and drafting all Syracuse players, suddenly Nassib could very well be a top-10 pick. Over the course of his career, Nassib was exactly the type of program-builder you need at the collegiate level; a three-year starter who improved himself each season. With a strong build and an even stronger arm, scouts see him as the type of passer who can stay calm in the pocket, while also threading the needle on medium routes. Where teams are concerned — and SU fans can agree here — are his ability to accurately complete long balls and his ability to put some touch on the ball. He never truly mastered either at Syracuse, and if there’s anything in particular that pushes him further than the first 40 or so selections, it’ll be that. Though again, with Marrone and former SU offensive coordinator (now Bills OC) Nathaniel Hackett calling the shots, it seems a foregone conclusion he’ll be a Bill in either the first or second round.
Justin Pugh, OT, Senior (Projected: Second Round)
The biggest issues with Pugh going into the combine were how his shoulder injury from last season was holding up, and if he really had the size to hack it at the tackle spot in the NFL. So while he’s put some durability fears to rest by showing off the shoulder’s doing fine, there’s now a prevailing thought that he’d be better off at the offensive guard position. At 6’5″ and 307 pounds, he’s got the right height and weight, but fails to have the arm length and brute force needed to hold down the offensive line’s most important position. Still, regardless of what position he ends up at, his speed (5.12 40-yard dash) and work ethic are appealing to teams, and he’s viewed as having a lot of upside (more than most O-linemen in the draft, actually).