'06 NFL Draft Watch: Syracuse

The Orangemen are under new command as a former NFL and NCAA defensive coordinator Greg Robinson takes control. The team possesses a lot of senior leadership as well as several solid NFL prospects. 

Potentially one of the hidden gems in the nation, quarterback Perry Patterson displays flashes of big-time ability.  Possessing great size and arm strength, Patterson is an outstanding pocket passer who can make all the throws.  Zipping the outs or driving the ball downfield, Patterson also puts touch on throws when necessary.  Passing with solid fundamentals, he displays outstanding pocket stature and fires the ball between defenders.  Patterson is not always patient in the pocket and his decision-making has come into question.  Should he pull the pieces together, improving his intangibles and completing his game, Patterson is outstanding prospect moving towards the 2007 draft.  Running back Damien Rhodes is an terrific combination of size and speed.  Finding the running lanes or weaving through the traffic, he possesses a burst of speed and can run to daylight.  Also effective as a receiver out of the backfield, Rhodes has solid running vision and ball carrying intangibles.  Doing too much east/west running at times, Rhodes does not always play to his size.  He has the makings of a first day draft pick if he can pull it together this season.  Steve Franklin is a small area blocker who spent most of his college career at guard but now moves to center.  Quick off the snap, he is explosive into run blocks and works hard throughout the action.  Not a finisher, Franklin lacks balance and displays limited skills in space.  Offering good size, he could significantly improve his draft ranking with a good senior campaign.  Tackle Quinn Ojinnaka is a terrific athlete who combines quickness, explosion and skills in motion.  Ojinnaka must improve his playing balance and blocking strength yet is a solid developmental prospect and potential late round pick in ‘06.   

Syracuse offers talent throughout the defensive side of the ball.  End James Wyche is a big strong athlete who flashes brilliance and the ability to take over games.  Effective up the field or in pursuit, Wyche makes plays in any direction of the field and rarely gets knocked off his feet.  Not always playing at a high level of intensity, he takes downs off and does not show top instincts.  If Wyche can be the consistent force NFL scouts think he is capable of being, the possibilities for a top 60 selection are there.  Intensity and effort are not problems for Ryan LaCasse.  Playing low with leverage, LaCasse is a good athlete who easily beats immobile blockers, displaying outstanding speed off the edge or in pursuit.  Explosive, LaCasse goes hard until the whistle blows.  Undersized, he is handled in one-on-one blocking situations and has difficulty defending the run.  LaCasse could ultimately stand up over tackle and 34 defense at the next level. Kellen Pruitt could well be one of the most underrated linebackers in the nation.  A top athlete with outstanding range, Pruitt is terrific in pursuit and stands out in pass coverage.  Getting tremendous depth on drops, Pruitt takes good angles to the action and presents himself as a three down defender.  Needing to improve his playing strength, he will be called upon to become more of a run defender this season and a successful campaign will push Pruitt into the draft's first day.  Stuffing the run is not a problem for Jerry Mackey, the team's leading tackler last season.  Forceful up the field, he makes a lot of plays on the ball.  Possessing good size for the middle linebacker position, Mackey had off-season shoulder surgery and will be closely monitored as a junior.  Finally Anthony Smith is a terrific pass defending safety who plays with a great degree of suddenness.  Possessing outstanding sideline-to-sideline range, Smith flashes on the scene and displays a good feel for coverage.  Intelligent, Smith does a solid job patrolling center field but has difficulty in run defense.  Ultimately he may fit in as a dime back at the next level.   

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