Of Terps, Fowler viewed 1st to go


As usual, a handful of Maryland seniors are considered prospects in this weekend's NFL draft, with rounds 1-3 today and the final four rounds tomorrow.

Had linebacker E.J. Henderson been healthy and declared for the draft, he likely would have been a mid-first-round pick, if not higher. Instead, center Melvin Fowler appears to have the best chance to be drafted on the first day, and defensive tackle Charles Hill is a good bet to go on the second day.

Others, like quarterback Shaun Hill and cornerback Tony Okanlawon, could be selected late, but will probably end up accepting free-agent contract offers tomorrow evening, when the draft ends.

Fowler had two shoulder injuries and gained little notice during his first three seasons playing for Maryland, but earned first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors his senior season, when he helped lead the Terrapins to a league title and an Orange Bowl berth.

The team's success has helped Fowler -- who is 6 feet 3, weighs 295 pounds and started 45 straight games in college --- emerge as a player who could be taken late in the second round, though he has a better chance of going in the third or fourth round.

While he's not seen by NFL scouts as extremely strong, Fowler is known to be intelligent, tough, precise and quick enough to reach linebackers on blocks.

"He's smart, he has good feet and he's very agile," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "So he's a good pass protector. ... Those guys are hard to find."

Because defensive tackles are always at a premium, Hill could go as early as the fourth round, though the sixth or seventh rounds are probably more realistic.

Hill, 6-2 and 292, was his team's second-leading tackler in the 2001 season, and followed that up with strong showings at the Senior Bowl, at the combine and at the school's pro day last month.

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