The NFL Draft starts in about a week. And despite no real scouting combines for players this year, plenty of would-be draftees have had pro days to showcase their talent before this year’s event. Though past springs have led to Syracuse Orange fans sitting nervously while wondering whether any SU player would be picked, that won’t be the case this time around.
Barring something completely unforeseen, three different Orange players will hear their names called during this year’s NFL Draft, which takes place from April 29-May 1. We’ve already previewed all of those players — Ifeatu Melifonwu, Andre Cisco and Trill Williams — and now we preview the former ‘Cuse player most likely to get a shot via undrafted free agency.
Name: Nolan Cooney
Weight: 195 lbs.
Hometown: East Greenwich, R.I.
NFL Draft Projections: No experts really have Cooney being selected, but he’s on the radar among the top 10 or so punters in the draft pool. Not too shabby at all for any special teams player — but especially one with just a single college season under his belt.
2020 Stats: Cooney handled both punting and placekicking duties for Syracuse, earning All-America and All-ACC honors in the process during his only season on scholarship. He averaged 44.8 yards per punt — 15th in the nation and best in Syracuse history — and also attempted more punts than anyone else in the FBS. Cooney also had 24 punts downed inside the 20 — a rate of nearly 33%.
Career Stats: While he was a key member of the Syracuse special teams group for several seasons, this was really his only season of major involvement (aside from some kickoffs in 2019). So what you see above is what you get.
Game(s) to Watch: Check out last year’s Liberty game (if you can stomach rewatching that) to see Cooney put all six punts inside the 20. Against Duke last year, he had four of six inside the 20-yard line.
Pro Day Performance:
Not much to note. He has above average hands among punting prospects in this year’s draft, so that’s a potential advantage when it comes to keeping a handle on the ball while playing outdoors (which most teams in the NFL do).
Like Riley Dixon and Sterling Hofrichter before him, Cooney does possess a little bit of versatility on special teams, which is crucial when roster spots are at a premium. He has a big leg that’s uninhibited by volume (as we saw this past season), and can pin teams back with frequency.
Cooney’s not among the biggest punters in this year’s draft, and obviously a lot of his competition has more experience punting at the college level.
Fun Fact: It’s far from “fun,” but Cooney is a testicular cancer survivor and that’s not only earned him the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award (for for most courageous player in the league) but also encouraged his work with SU’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.
TNIAAM Draft Prediction: For as wildly entertaining as it would be to see a third Syracuse punter selected in the last decade, it’s much more likely that Cooney’s an in-demand free agent after the draft for a squad that could use an upgrade at punter — so a team like the Chargers, Vikings, Jets or Packers.