The Syracuse Orange football team is 5-0 for the first time since 1987. That was 16 years before our featured prospect was even born. Oronde Gadsden II has piqued my interest over the first five games of the college football season. If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because it is. His father, Oronde Gadsden, played six seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. His father averaged 14.3 yards per reception and hauled in 22 touchdowns during his career. The elder Gadsden’s claim to fame is being on the receiving end of Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino’s last touchdown pass.
Gadsden is a player not on many, if any, Devy or Campus to Canton rankings lists. At least he wasn’t to start the season. I have hopes that after reading this write-up, that will change going forward. The Devy community is so focused sometimes on the top-rated five-star recruits. We have a habit of forgetting the amount of under-the-radar players that become big-time NFL players. Let’s dive deep into one of the many reasons that Syracuse, New York, is excited about its football team this season.
Oronde Gadsden is a three-star recruit from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He ranked outside of the top 1,000 players nationally in the 2021 recruiting class. Gadsden played High School football and American Heritage High School for his dad’s former teammate Patrick Surtain. With any luck, Gadsden will play NFL football like his high school coach’s son Patrick Surtain II of the Denver Broncos. It is no surprise that Gadsden was overlooked as a prospect from Florida. That area is typically a hotbed for future college and NFL talent.
The Florida native received scholarship offers from multiple Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC schools before committing to the Orange. Gadsden is listed on the team’s official website as 6’5″ and 216 lbs. He looks every bit of that when you see him play this year. It’s still a bit early to tell, but it does look like Syracuse got a steal with the commitment of Oronde Gadsden II.
There were talks that, due to his size that Gadsden would potentially play tight end at Syracuse; however, that was not the case. Many thought he would redshirt in his freshman year with a veteran wide receiver room coming back for the Orange. Showing the competitor that he is, he fought for snaps as a true freshman. He appeared in eight games hauling in two receptions for 24 yards on the season. He would miss four games due to injury, which shifted his focus to becoming a more complete player as he began preparing for his sophomore season.
The Syracuse wide receiver would waste no time showing the work he put in; he scored his first collegiate touchdown in an upset win at home against Louisville. Over the first five games as a sophomore, he leads the Orange in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Gadsden has become one of the top receivers in the conference over the first month of the season. He ranks sixth in the ACC in receptions, second in receiving yards, and fifth in the ACC in receiving touchdowns. The young wide receiver has thoroughly impressed me so far this season. Let’s take a look at a few plays from the season so you can see for yourself.
We are going to start with this play from the Virginia game. This was Gadsden’s second consecutive game of six-plus catches and 100+ yards. One of the reasons I love this play, in particular, is that everyone is aware of Gadsden’s size and how he can win on the outside. Even as a big-bodied wide receiver, he shows that he can line up in the slot and use his technical ability as a route-runner to set up the defender to work the middle of the field. So often at the college and NFL levels, wide receivers over 6’4″ are stuck on the perimeter running a particular style of routes.
The sophomore set the corner up perfectly here with a jab step to the outside and then worked back inside, and it’s giving me an entire field to become a wide-open target for his quarterback. Once the corner opens his hips, he is beaten badly on the play. This is high-level stuff from the former three-star recruit. As you’ll see in some of the other clips, Gadsden is used in the slot more than you would expect, which shows his commitment to becoming a more complete wide receiver.
This highlight shows the first of two touchdowns Syracuse wide receiver would score in this wild game against Purdue. In the last clip, you saw shades of his father’s ability to make an excellent hands catch. One thing I don’t remember that his father did as effectively was to find holes in the defense zones to make yourself a safe option for your quarterback. I went back to watch some high school tape on Gadsden, and although it’s hard to believe, with him being that big, he did find himself open more times than not.
This play is very well drawn up by the Syracuse coaching staff. There’s no secret that Sean Tucker is the heart and soul of the Syracuse offense. The Syracuse wide receiver starts this play in motion, giving us the illusion that he will come down and block the defensive end to allow Tucker to gain the first down. He slips to the defense untouched and is wide open for his quarterback to hit him for an easy first down. Gadsden was not content with the first down as he raced up the sideline with a blocker in front of him and two defenders chasing. He gives a nice stutter move that freezes both defenders just enough to accelerate in for a touchdown. I’m not making player comparisons here, but this play, in particular, gave me serious Mike Evans when he played at Texas A&M vibes.
So far, we’ve seen an NFL-level route and catch, followed by a well-schemed up 40 + yard touchdown, so what’s next? Let’s go with a clutch game-winning touchdown to keep his team undefeated at home. I mentioned before how crazy this Purdue versus Syracuse game was. I would watch the condensed version on YouTube if you have a chance. The Syracuse wide receiver could catch six passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns in this game.
This route looks eerily similar to what we saw from The Virginia tape. He is again working out of the slot giving the defender the illusion that he is working in the middle of the field. This time he breaks out to the post and is able to haul in a game-winning clutch touchdown. His ability as a route runner so early in his career and to separate the way he does at that size is very impressive. It will be interesting to see how defenses gameplan to stop him going forward. Now that defensive coordinators know he is the key to the Syracuse passing game.
I’m the Dynasty manager who always looks for the underdog wide receiver to add to my rosters. Gadsden fits that bill perfectly. He is only rostered in 12% and started in 5% of leagues on the Fantrax platform. He’s averaging 15.6 fantasy points per game while catching 23 of his 28 targets. Syracuse is entering the most challenging part of its schedule with formidable ACC defenses and Notre Dame in the next three weeks. I will be curious to see how Syracuse’s number-one receiving option fairs in these matchups. Even if he struggles, I would not let that deter you from acquiring him in as many deep Devy leagues as possible. His production now could just be him scratching the surface of how good he can be by the time he’s draft eligible.
After breaking down Gadsden’s tape, I hope you all come away half as impressed as I was. He has the size, skills, awareness, and hands to be a very productive WR for years to come. As always, check in on all the content from the Dynasty Nerds Devy team. As we prepare you for non-stop fantasy football content all year round. We take pride in doing the work so the Nerd Herd members can reap the benefits and stay ahead of your league mates.
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