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    Syracuse Orange Preview: Roster, Prospects, Schedule, and More

    With Oronde Gadsden II on offense and Caleb Okechukwu on defense, the Syracuse Orange have a 2024 NFL Draft class worth monitoring in the coming months.

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    Can the Syracuse Orange sustain their professional production in the 2024 NFL Draft class? Syracuse produced two top-100 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, and they could have more selections on the way in the cycle to come.

    Syracuse Orange NFL Draft Prospects

    The Orange were one of college football‘s surprises midway through the 2022 campaign. At the year’s halfway point, they were one of a select few programs to still be 6-0. A loss to Clemson set off a losing streak that would lead them to a final record of 7-6. But overall, 2022 was a success for Dino Babers and company.

    As is always the case, there was some turnover to address in the 2023 offseason. Syracuse lost its star offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron, who was drafted 38th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. They also lost stalwart cornerback Garrett Williams, who was selected 72nd overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

    Past Bergeron and Williams, Syracuse also saw players like Sean Tucker and Mikel Jones take on the NFL challenge, and they lost Ja’Had Carter through the transfer portal. Syracuse’s proportionate transfer additions were relatively sparse this time around, but the team did keep much of its core intact — including its dynamic QB-WR tandem on offense.

    Garrett Shrader, QB

    The Orange should feel confident about their signal-caller in 2023. At the very least, Garrett Shrader is a good college quarterback who could become depth in the NFL.

    The 6’4″, 225-pound former Mississippi State transfer is entering his third season as a starter at Syracuse and coming off his best year yet. In 2022, Shrader completed 205 of 317 attempts for 2,640 yards, 17 scores, and seven picks, and added 444 yards and nine TDs on the ground. He’s a tough runner with some anticipation ability as a passer.

    Oronde Gadsden II, WR/TE

    Syracuse’s top-rated 2024 NFL Draft prospect will almost assuredly be Oronde Gadsden II — a WR/TE hybrid who happens to be the son of former Miami Dolphins standout Oronde Gadsden.

    At 6’5″, 223 pounds, the younger Gadsden blends the line between positions with his size, stellar body control, and ball-tracking ability, combined with his foot speed and lateral athleticism. Gadsden can off-set DBs from anywhere and make plays downfield, as evidenced by his 969 yards and six touchdowns in 2022.

    Damien Alford, WR

    Syracuse isn’t short on size by any stretch in their receiver room. Alongside Gadsden on the boundary is 6’6″, 210-pound wide receiver Damien Alford.

    Alford caught 20 passes for 429 yards and two touchdowns in 2022, and through the past two campaigns, he’s averaged exactly 20 yards per catch. As his production indicates, Alford is a long-strider who can generate big plays with his frame and vertical speed.

    Joe More, OT

    The Orange generated a top-50 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with Bergeron. His successor on the blindside likely won’t declare, but the team’s new right tackle — Richmond transfer Joe More — is worth watching as a potential late-round prospect or PFA.

    The 6’5″, 306-pound More has a wealth of experience, with 41 games played and 37 starts under his belt. Acing this transition to the FBS could help his stock.

    Christopher Bleich, G

    Syracuse does have some continuity on the offensive line with Christopher Bleich coming back at right guard. The 6’6″, 323-pound Bleich played at Florida in 2018 and 2019 — the latter in which he started eight games at guard.

    Bleich eventually transferred to Syracuse, where he’d go on to start all 13 games in 2022 at right guard. For his size, he’s a good athlete in space, and his hands are quick off the snap, though he sometimes lurches after extending too quickly.

    Kalan Ellis, G

    Two spots left from Bleich, the Orange have a behemoth in Kalan Ellis returning at left guard. As a true sophomore in 2022, Ellis started nine games at left guard, at times flashing dominance at the point of attack with his massive 6’6″, 375-pound frame. He’s predictably a lumbering athlete at that size and might find it more efficient to play closer to 340 in the future. But his width and strength make him difficult to work around.

    Kevon Darton, DT

    Anchoring Syracuse’s DL rotation is Kevon Darton, a 5’11”, 271-pound 0-technique who earned 54 tackles and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2022.

    Leverage is always important in the trenches, and Darton is a leverage monster at his height, effortlessly extending below his opponents and acquiring proper pad level. His lacking size does make him easier to displace, thus complicating his projection. But he’s a player to watch.

    Braylen Ingraham, DT

    He has almost no production to this point, but a change of scenery and a lighter depth chart could help Braylen Ingraham finally emerge. Ingraham transferred to Syracuse from Alabama this past offseason. He’s a former four-star commit who was lauded for his athleticism out of high school.

    Listed at 6’4″, 301 pounds, Ingraham has the size and length to be a potentially disruptive 3-tech alongside Darton if he can build beyond his physical foundation.

    Caleb Okechukwu, EDGE

    Aside from Gadsden, edge rusher Caleb Okechukwu is Syracuse’s most compelling potential 2023 NFL Draft prospect. Okechukwu has size and production on his side. He’s 6’4″, 276 pounds, and excelled in 2022 with 48 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, plus a pick-six against Purdue.

    Syracuse Orange Preview: Roster, Prospects, Schedule, and More

    Okechukwu can be inefficient off the snap, and his hips are somewhat stiff, but he has ample accelerative capacity with his fast strides, as well as a degree of alignment versatility.

    Marlowe Wax, LB

    The Orange lost standout linebacker Mikel Jones this past offseason, but they still return their leading tackler from 2022 in Marlowe Wax.

    Wax, who stands at 6’1″, 230 pounds, amassed 91 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, two pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 2022. He’s not an elite athlete and can improve his coverage instincts, but he’s undoubtedly a willing defender in the box who can snuff out run plays in pursuit.

    Stefon Thompson, LB

    Stefon Thompson only suited up for one game in 2022 before an injury ended his season, but he’ll return to the ranks in 2023 and solidify the Orange’s second-level game.

    At 6’1″, 248 pounds, Thompson brings a uniquely stout frame and good competitive energy. In 2021, he had a career year, racking up 79 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. If he can return to form, Thompson could enter the 2024 NFL Draft conversation.

    Leon Lowery, LB

    Past Wax, the Orange have a few young linebackers that can emerge in a few select outcomes. One of those young players is redshirt sophomore Leon Lowery.

    Listed at 6’4″, 239 pounds, Lowery has the size and density to separate himself at the position, and he’s flashed promise before. He had 24 tackles, six TFLs, and 1.5 sacks in 2022. Of those TFLs, 3.5 came in a dominant showing against Wagner. Lowery’s unique playmaking range could come to benefit the defense.

    Derek McDonald, LB

    A fellow redshirt sophomore, Derek McDonald bears monitoring at the second level as well. As a redshirt freshman in 2022, McDonald was thrust into the starting lineup by an injury early on. He responded with 43 tackles, two TFLs, a sack, a pick, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble on the year.

    McDonald is a long, lean LB who lacks ideal mass but has flashed the necessary athleticism to play from the overhang position.

    Isaiah Johnson, CB

    After racking up 55 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, a pick-six, and seven deflections in 2021 at Dartmouth, 6’3″, 205-pound cornerback Isaiah Johnson transferred to Syracuse. There, he logged 53 tackles, a pick, and a deflection on the boundary in 2022.

    Johnson is a leggy defender who projects best in zone coverage. He’s physical at stems with his length and frame density and can pass off receivers while maintaining his positioning.

    Jason Simmons Jr., DB

    Syracuse has a strong track record of homegrown DB prospects. In recent years, players like Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Trill Williams, and Garrett Williams have all leveraged their Orange careers into NFL opportunities.

    Nickel cornerback Jason Simmons Jr. might have the best chance to be next. The 6’0″, 198-pound former New Mexico State transfer was the team’s most productive coverage defender in 2022, with 38 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, a pick, and seven pass deflections.

    Justin Barron, S

    Syracuse has an appealing under-the-radar safety duo — two players who complement each other well. The strong safety underneath is Justin Barron.

    He’s a 6’4″, 231-pound rover who’s a very willing support participant. He can roam into the box and cover flat routes or play in intermediate zones. Barron’s coverage utility is still being proven, but as his 64 tackles and five TFLs in 2022 show, he’s no stranger to tracking down and nullifying ball carriers.

    Alijah Clark, S

    Alijah Clark is Barron’s counterpart at the back end of Syracuse’s secondary. At 6’1″, 186 pounds, the former Rutgers transfer is more of a field safety. He can play two-high and rotate across thirds when needed.

    At his size, Clark is a high-energy athlete who flashes good range in pursuit. He put up 55 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and two deflections in 2022 and could have his eyes on greater numbers in 2023.

    Syracuse Orange Schedule

    • Week 1
      BYE
    • Week 2
      Sept. 2: vs. Colgate Raiders
    • Week 3
      Sept. 9: vs. Western Michigan Broncos
    • Week 4
      Sept. 16: at Purdue Boilermakers
    • Week 5
      Sept. 23: vs. Army Black Knights
    • Week 6
      Sept. 30: vs. Clemson Tigers
    • Week 7
      Oct. 7: at North Carolina Tar Heels
    • Week 8
      Oct. 14: at Florida State Seminoles
    • Week 9
      BYE
    • Week 10
      Oct. 26: at Virginia Tech Hokies
    • Week 11
      Nov. 3: vs. Boston College Eagles
    • Week 12
      Nov. 11: vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
    • Week 13
      Nov. 18: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
    • Week 14
      Nov. 25: vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
    • Week 15
      BYE

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