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2023 NFL Draft: What We Learned from the Syracuse-UVA Game

Syracuse took down UVA 22-20 on Friday night to improve to 4-0. What did we learn about the top 2023 NFL Draft prospects on these two ACC teams?

As usual, most college football occurred this week on Saturday. But a few teams played on either Thursday night or Friday night. One of the Friday night games—UVA at Syracuse—came down to the wire. In a photo finish, Syracuse knocked off UVA by a score of 22-20. They improve to 4-0 on the season.

This article analyzes what we learned from this ACC contest about the key 2023 NFL draft prospects on these teams.

RB Sean Tucker, Syracuse

Syracuse RB Sean Tucker

Tucker had a terrific start to the 2022 season, rushing for 100 or more yards in back-to-back contests against Louisville and UConn. But in the last two games, he’s been bottled up a bit. Against UVA, he only managed 60 yards on 21 carries with a long of nine yards. In fact, Tucker’s longest run this season has been 13 yards. That said, one thing we saw against UVA was Tucker’s prowess in the passing game—he caught five passes for 45 yards, including a couple of impressive runs after the catch.

It's not immediately clear what to make of Tucker’s draft stock. Texas’s Bijan Robinson has set himself apart from the rest of the pack and he is making a case to be selected in the first round (a big deal for a running back). But after Robinson, it’s anyone’s guess how the running back class is going to shake out. Tucker remains in the mix, but scouts are keeping an eye on whether he can increase his yards per carry and rebound from a couple of tough contests.

OT Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse

Matthew Bergeron Syracuse

There are two ways to interpret how Bergeron did against UVA. On the one hand, his fantastic power setting in pass protection allowed him to absorb bull rushes and prevent defenders from pushing him around. When he let up sacks and pressures, it was usually because Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader was dancing around in the backfield instead of passing from the pocket. Moreover, despite Tucker’s tough game on the ground, Bergeron looked good as a run blocker. He definitely displayed NFL traits (and sound blocking mechanics) on Friday night. He should be picked at some point in the selection process.

On the other hand, Bergeron was quite susceptible to pass rushers’ double moves and finesse moves. He struggled to stick with blocks throughout the entirety of passing plays. If a defensive end persisted, Bergeron usually would give up a pressure if his quarterback’s first read was not open. He will need to clean that up over the course of the season.

(A side note: As great as Tucker and Bergeron are, perhaps the most exciting prospect on Syracuse’s offense is someone who will not even be eligible for the draft until 2024: wide receiver Oronde Gadsden II, a 6-foot-5 pass-catching sophomore who has already racked up 300 yards and three touchdowns this season.)

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CB Garrett Williams, Syracuse

garrett williams

Williams is a first-round talent. The 2023 NFL Draft will feature a significant number of top-flight cornerbacks, and Williams has cemented his status as a member of that group. He was fantastic against UVA, breaking up passes and securing a key interception late in the game. Williams’s pick came after breaking off from covering another receiver in the middle of the field, demonstrating exceptional awareness and a knack for making plays. He seemed most comfortable in off-ball coverage and should warrant consideration on Day One of next year’s draft.

QB Brennan Armstrong, UVA

Virginia QB Brennan Armstrong

Coming into 2022, draft analysts had all sorts of different opinions about Armstrong, a lefty signal caller who had a solid campaign last year. This season, unfortunately, Armstrong is off to a rough start. He has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and his Cavaliers are just 2-2. Listed at six-foot-two, he would need to demonstrate more accuracy than he has shown this season to warrant a draftable grade. Armstrong has completed only 52.1-percent of his attempts and struggled against Syracuse, overthrowing a few consequential passes. Unfortunately, his draft stock is falling a bit.

WR Keytaon Thompson, UVA

Virginia WR Keytaon Thompson

Thompson is one of the more underrated wideouts in college football. A converted quarterback who transferred a few years ago to UVA from Mississippi State, Thompson is something of a jack of all trades for the Cavaliers. He looked good against Syracuse, making eight catches for 55 yards and adding two carries for 10 yards, including a touchdown on the ground. On that touchdown, he barreled through a few defenders after finding the hole on a pitch run play, trusting his blockers and locating the end zone. Last year, Thompson was more active out of the backfield, and we will see if UVA uses him a bit more in a rushing capacity as the season goes on. But as it stands, Thompson is versatile enough to warrant a roster spot in the NFL.

WR Dontayvion Wicks, UVA

Dontayvion Wicks

Wicks neither helped nor hurt his draft stock on Friday night against Syracuse, hauling in a respectable five passes for 42 yards. At the start of the year, Wicks looked like a mid-round pick after eclipsing 1,200 yards last season. He is not on pace to repeat that statistical performance, but may still end up getting drafted if he strings together a few big games. Part of this might be that Wicks and Armstrong need to get on the same page again—to some extent, their fortunes rise and fall together.