CBSSports.com NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler spent part of last week watching Maryland game tape from last season.
He wanted to get a more extensive look at Stefon Diggs, the Terps’ dynamic junior wide receiver and kick returner who many pundits feel could be an early-round pick in next year’s draft.
But Brugler said the Terps do have other players besides Diggs who are already on the radar of analysts and NFL teams for the 2015 NFL draft. In particular, Brugler focused on 6-foot-3, 320-pound nose tackle Darius Kilgo.
“When you’re talking about the seniors, Kilgo, to me, is kind of the guy I could see getting drafted just because of his natural skill set,” Brugler said. “There aren’t too many guys that are built that way, so I think Kilgo might be that top senior for Maryland this year.”
Kilgo is entering his third year as a starter, although he will likely end up sharing playing time with Keith Bowers. Kilgo had 40 tackles as a sophomore in 2012 and 37 tackles last year, including 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
“His stat sheet doesn’t really tell the story, because Kilgo is a guy who bullies blockers,” Brugler said. “He also has some fluid feet where he can sidestep and get around guys. He also has aggressive hands. I think he’s still learning how to use those hands, but he loads them up and can knock guys around, so Kilgo is definitely a guy.”
Brugler also mentioned senior defensive lineman Andre Monroe, senior wide receiver Deon Long, senior center Sal Conaboy and senior outside linebacker Matt Robinson.
Monroe actually stood out to Brugler while he watched tape of Kilgo.
Brugler was watching No. 97 (Kilgo), but No. 93 (Monroe) kept showing up and making plays that jumped out on film. Brugler then looked at Monroe’s stats from last year and saw that Monroe led the Terps last year in both tackles for loss (17) and sacks (9.5).
“I wasn’t surprised to see that based on what I saw on tape,” Brugler said.
The problem for Monroe is that he lacks prototypical size for an NFL defensive tackle. NFL teams generally like defensive tackles to be at least 6-3 and around 310 pounds. Monroe is listed at 5-11, 282. But Brugler compares Monroe to former Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Eric Foster.
Foster went undrafted in 2008 largely because of that lack of size, but he signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent and started 19 games for Indianapolis over four years with the team.
“I think worst-case, you’re looking at an Eric Foster-type of guy who might be a late-round guy, might even go undrafted but a guy that’s going to get signed and could fit in a lot of different defenses,” Brugler said.
Long started his college career at West Virginia, then transferred to New Mexico. He had a productive year there (47 catches for 809 yards and four touchdowns), but he left after the season and spent 2012 at Iowa Western Junior College before signing with Maryland last year.
He was rated as a five-star recruit after his year at Iowa Western and had 32 catches for 489 yards in six-plus games for the Terps last season, but he and Diggs each broke a leg during a game against Wake Forest and missed the rest of the season.
“Coming back, we’ll have to see how he looks, but it’s not a stretch to say that Diggs and Long are the top two wide receivers in the Big Ten,” Brugler said.
Conaboy is entering his third season as Maryland’s starting center and is on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the top center in college football.
“He’s showed a little bit,” Brugler said. “He’s been reliable. I think that Maryland offensive line has kind of been in flux the last two years, but Conaboy has been one of the more reliable guys. He doesn’t stand out necessarily in one area. He’s just solid across the board. He’s consistent. You know what you’re getting with him, so he might be one of those later round, fringe draftable kind of guys but could help himself with another consistent season.”
Robinson was recruited by some teams as a wide receiver and signed with the Terps in 2010 as a safety, but he made the transition to outside linebacker last year and had 73 tackles, including 10 tackles for a loss.
“You can tell he’s a former safety just by his body type,” Brugler said. “His muscle definition is not really what you want in a linebacker. He doesn’t play with that functional strength that you want to see. He needs to get stronger so that he can shed blocks and generate more pop at the point of attack. But he’s a good athlete, and I love the pursuit angles and the closing burst.”
Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson and inside linebacker Cole Farrand are also listed by CBSSports.com as borderline draftable players heading into the season.
Diggs, meanwhile, is rated as the sixth-best wide receiver in the class of 2016. But like the five receivers rated above him, Diggs could elect to enter next year’s draft if he has a strong season.
“He’s an athlete that can do a lot of things on the football field,” Brugler said. “The athleticism stands out, just the way that when he gets the ball in his hands he has a chance to score every time, so he’s a very exciting player.”
However, Brugler does have some concerns with Diggs, who is coming off that broken leg and also has just average size at 6 feet, 190 pounds.
“He has good hands and very natural ball skills, but his catching radius is very average in terms of his size,” Brugler said. “That’s because he isn’t the biggest guy. He’s very thin-framed, lean-muscled. … And for a guy that just missed half of a season, you worry about the durability. So above all, he needs to stay healthy in 2014 to show that he can be durable and hold up in the NFL.
“I also think he’s still developing as a route-runner. Too often, he rounded off routes. I think there were some instances of inconsistent vision and feel with setting up his moves as a ball-carrier. He’s also a little straight-linish and not overly fluid. To me, I saw a lot of Ted Ginn in him.”
That said, Brugler does see the potential for Diggs to go early in next year’s draft depending on how he looks this season.
"I don’t see a first-round guy with what we’ve seen so far,” Brugler said, “but we’ll see how he progresses.”