2012 NFL Draft Preview: Syracuse

Syracuse DE Chandler Jones May End Up as a Top-20 Pick in the NFL Draft

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 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

For Syracuse, all four of their potential draft picks hurt, but none more than defensive end Chandler Jones. And while he keeps climbing up draft boards, fans’ expectations of the defensive line continue to drop with no real sign of what’s next. They’ve seen what happens when he’s not involved in the pass-rush. It’s not pretty.

Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Junior

After functioning as the de facto leader of the Orange defense these past few years, Jones will leave a gaping hole which the team may struggle to fill all season. As for his future, however, Chandler Jones is slated to join his brother, former SU player Arthur Jones, in the NFL. At 6’5″ and 266 pounds, he’s a perfect fit for the now-common transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, though also more suited for a 4-3 scheme. While those who’ve watched his career closely know the type of speed and strength he can bring on both pass- and run-defense, he’s better off using the line to lead runners to him. Of course, he did rack up his fair share of sacks in college, and that’s likely the role any team will call on him for again. With his height and long arms, plus instincts folks are raving about, there’s a lot he can do in the passing game. Expect him to be drafted well before the first round’s over.

Phillip Thomas, FS, Junior

At times a big-play ballhawk for Syracuse, Thomas tallied six picks and over 80 tackles in just 10 games last season. And while those numbers would usually be ones to rave about, the junior also failed to help himself at the NFL Draft Combine. At just 5’11” and under 200 pounds, he’s already on the smaller side, but his lackluster 40-time (4.72) and equally sub-par agility measurements now leave scouts to play a guessing game. Is he focused enough to make it in the pros? Will his lack of true speed be a liability, and does he have the upper body strength to compensate for that with true tackling ability? Keeping in mind that several of those interceptions were in garbage time, plus SU’s overall failures in pass-defense last season, and you’ve got yourself a real riddle. There’s still a fair chance he’s selected, but maybe not until the 6th round.

Nick Provo, TE, Senior

If it weren’t for the legendary John Mackey, Provo may have gone down as the best tight end in Syracuse history. Still, second-best ain’t too shabby. Provo spent 2011 as one of the nation’s best at his position and a main target in the Orange passing game. Quick (ran a 4.76 40-time) and a big target (6’3″, 236 pounds), he made a living out in the flat, doing damage against the Big East‘s more undersized defenses. He would disappear for halves at time, however, though must of that can be attributed to offensive line struggles and defenses keying in on him as one of just two reliable targets on the team. Most call out Provo for his so-so pass-blocking, which we’d agree with. However, if a team’s more looking at a two-tight end set (hello, Jaguars!), Provo could be a great safety valve in the passing game. Expect him to be drafted in the seventh round, as a late steal.

Antwon Bailey, RB, Senior

Most of the knocks on Bailey come directly due to his size, since a 5’7″, sub 200-pound back isn’t exactly the most likely player to power through a full 16-game NFL slate. Then again, that’s the same reason why many thought he wouldn’t be able to be a feature back at Syracuse either. As the offense’s feature rushing option, he piled up over 1,000 yards, and was extremely effective out of the backfield. While his 40-time (4.70) wasn’t anything to brag about, he also used his pro day to show off a quick first step, and that burst at the point of contact many Syracuse fans are familiar with by now. Admittedly, he’ll never be a 25-carry guy in the NFL, but given the league’s current two- and three-back systems, he may fit in just fine as a change of pace. He may not be selected, but he should find his way to camp.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

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